Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is a game of two opposites – you’ve got the meat of the story, which is strikingly profound; then you have gameplay, which can be astoundingly meh. Despite running around various environments, the cracks begin to show when you realize you’re just facing the same enemies, except in different environments.
I was fortunate to be able to play co-op with my friend, who played as Badman. Together, we trounced the six games on the Death Drive Mk-II with relative ease, save for the marathon that was ‘CIA’ (and ironically not ‘Killer Marathon’). It alleviates the boredom when you pass by the areas in half the time thanks to having another source of damage, as you might imagine. Not to mention, it’s always fun just waving your death sticks around with the Light Attack button at each other.
I mean, this was the design of the game after all – Suda51 was inspired to make Travis Strikes Again after seeing the ‘punkness’ of the Nintendo Switch, and the detachable Joy-Cons. One thing to note however is that the story does get in the way if you’re playing co-op, especially the ‘Travis Strikes Back’ visual novel segments, where my friend spent the time waiting for me to complete it.
However, the thing that makes the gameplay feel worth it is truly the Skill Set system, where you earn new abilities to equip on characters via exploration and defeating bosses. These are all named after Gundams, and can range from stun shots, to slowing down enemy movements in a certain area, and the godsend that is the healing circle chip.
With this in mind, and doubly so in co-op, it’s easy to pick out sets of skills that compliment each other, and it’s always satisfying to see skill combos go off successfully. There are also character-specific skills that give a point to using specific characters aside from stat differences. My personal favorite was the Blueberry Chocolate Brownie –> V2 Chip combo, which would deal a large amount of consecutive damage in a very short time.
The one downside to this is that there is friendly fire, even if no damage is taken. This means my friend would get stunned and electrocuted to the point it would get annoying, and I was forced to equip other chips. There’s no lock-on system in this game, and it can feel arbitrary where the skills are aimed – I’ve even had skills fire 90 degrees away from where I was aiming with the stick.
With skills and optional level ups in mind, as well as the big help that is two player co-op, the game doesn’t pose too much of a challenge. This all changes when you get to the optional content, which was DLC on the Switch version, but is in the base game for Complete Edition. This has you playing through a completed version of ‘Killer Marathon’, a brutal bonus level filled with health-draining pinball-themed traps, and the toughest enemies in the game.
This section puts all your skills to the test, and that includes making sure that your skill combos are effective. Fortunately, it has been balanced so that you don’t need to grind in order to take on this content, and you get face bonus boss Silver Face (a reference to Silver Case), who fortunately gets a happier ending as “final boss” in this game. All of this feels like a natural extension of the main game.
Not as natural are Shinobu and Bad Girl as playable characters. They have to be leveled up from the beginning, meaning that they are really only meant for those looking to replay the game with a different experience. They also don’t feel like they fit in the game, with Shinobu not giving a crap about video games in general being the egregious example. Fortunately, they do have some pretty awesome unique skills that make them worth trying out.
In the end, the story is still what makes the game shine, in my opinion. Gameplay is a distant second, and thankfully the Skill Chip system makes the game feel more dynamic despite the reused enemies, and made it so it wasn’t a slog to search around for hidden coins and money to unlock new T-shirts and ramen blog posts. And of course, co-op helps a lot.
Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Complete Edition is available on PlayStation 4 and PC. The original Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is available on Nintendo Switch.