The No More Heroes games, along with their creator Goichi Suda (AKA Suda 51) are no strangers to running with crazy, off-the-wall ideas. In the Switch exclusive Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, the titular character and his rival BadMan are teleported into living videogames and are forced to battle through bizarre challenges and bosses. Going for a more arcade-style brawler gameplay, fans were left a bit confused by the sudden change in scenery and aesthetic. But for Suda 51 and the developers at Grasshopper Manufacture, the new game--which they state is more of a side-story--is still the same quirky and ludicrously stylized No More Heroes game that they're used to.
With that said, Suda still has ideas for where the series could go after the Travis Strikes Again which launches later in 2018, and how the Switch will be instrumental in that. During a chat with Suda at PAX East, he spoke about the fan reactions for the game, and that the upcoming Switch brawler is not No More Heroes 3. Evidently, Suda has much bigger plans for that.
Travis Strikes Again is a bit different compared to the other games on a structural level. Can you talk about how you wanted to approach this game in particular, and how you wanted to make it feel compared to the first two games?
Suda 51: One of the big differences about this game is that it's made with a very small team, only 12 people. Because of that, I decided to go with a new style and make it a completely new adventure for Travis. With [No More Heroes] one and two, the formula for the series sort of got set in stone. I wanted to break away from that and do something totally different and pretty much just make a whole new IP with Travis Strikes Again.
It feels much more arcadey this time around, which is in keeping with the video game-y aspects of the narrative. Was this idea something that you've long held, or was it something that came as a result of the circumstances of making this game.
When I was talking with the staff, we decided that we wanted to go for a really arcade feel for the game, similar to stuff like Gauntlet--or rather like Smash TV. That sort of helped define how the game would play. The theme this time with the game is that Travis is going into these different game worlds and finding his way through them. I also want it to be sort of a journey through game history itself, and all the games I played as a kid really influenced me in forming that.
Given the small staff working on the game, it's very much similar to indie development. Do you feel that Travis Strikes Again has that sort of vibe to an indie game?
Well, we started [development] last year in May with only four or five people. We've grown to 12 since then. I do feel closer to the indie style, which is actually how I started making games. So it's kind of like a return to old form for me. Everyone is just an individual, they each have their own roles. It's really us doing whatever we can when we can, rather than like some big team with people all working together on the same thing. Because it's a small team, I get to talk directly face-to-face with them. We don't have any big meetings to decide stuff.
Last year was the 10th anniversary of the original No More Heroes. When you started work on Travis Strikes Again, were you still keeping in mind fans' expectations and passion for the series while trying to come up with this new game?
Of course that's always on my mind and I really feel that it's the voice of the fans that brought back Travis. I love Travis, and I always wanted to bring him back, but this is really something special for the fans. The 10th anniversary and now this year with the 20th anniversary of Grasshopper, I'm hoping that this game will be like a really fun present that he can give back to all his fans.
What's it been like developing the game on the Nintendo Switch. In the last year it's been out it's been incredibly popular. It must be exciting to actually be a part of that line up of games.
It's really fun, really exciting. Coming here to PAX and seeing all the excitement around the Nintendo booth and being able to be a part of that--it's really great. The people at Nintendo are really great. They're not very private. It's like you're part of a big family.
No More Heroes always comes up with some unique ways to handle motion controls. We were using the Pro Controller for our demo of Travis Strikes Again, though. Are you still keeping in mind that the Switch has sort of this unique set up and are you thinking of ways to try and utilize that for the game?
Yeah, so the core of the game design this time around is around the two Joy-Cons and being able to pull those off and being able to play two-player just with them and still being able to do a bunch of different moves. That's one of the core concepts that they're really focusing on. I really want to really utilize the vibration as well. I do like the Pro Controller, but in terms of the charging mechanic (shaking the controller in a crude gesture to charge your weapon), it's definitely better to do it with the Joy-Con.
Last year at PAX West, you said that you were looking at including some references to other indie games in Travis Strikes Again. I noticed there was a Hyper Light Drifter shirt that Travis was wearing. Has any other games stuck else out to you over the course of making this game?I was playing Dead Cells this morning.
I was really impressed. It was so much fun and I was surprised that it's an indie game. It's so well made, and I was thinking I would build that into the game. Also, Party Hard 2 is really fun. I like that game a lot.
Looking back on the last 10 years working on the series, is there a particular moment within the game or even from its creation that sticks out to you?
There's stuff like the saving on the toilet, and charging the beam-katana. That's really symbolic of the No More Heroes series. One thing that really sticks out to me: the team and I came up with the beam-katana's slash mechanic, where you use the buttons to attack and then you only shake the controller at the end to finish them off. I really felt that would be something that maybe would make it feel better playing. When I had the programmer put it in the game and actually tried it out for myself, I immediately knew in that moment, "Alright, this game's going to be good."
Lastly, with the new game coming out this year is there anything you'd like to say for fans that have been keeping the passion alive for the series for ten years?
I just want to say thank you for loving Travis. I'm so happy that I could revive the series on Nintendo console, and that I could bring a part of the Nintendo Switch library. I just want to get it out and let as many people play it as possible. I'm just happy that I can prove now that Travis is really back, and if this is successful, I'm planning to go straight ahead and make No More Heroes 3 as well.