Here’s the most important piece of information we learned about Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes during our interview with Suda51: Travis Touchdown is a Bullet Club man.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Goichi Suda is a fan of pro wrestling. Wrestling moves can be found all over the No More Heroes series, including the powerbomb and the Undertaker’s iconic Tombstone Piledriver. Suda even participated in the infamous PAX Rumble this year, as part of the Kenny Omega-adjacent Digivolution stable. Puroresu has been a part of Suda’s career from the start; the prolific game developer’s work history goes all the way back to the Japanese wrestling game series Fire Pro Wrestling, where he worked as a director on the early Super Famicom entries.
Now, 24 years after Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Final Bout—Suda’s first directing job—the auteur returns to directing with Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes; an indie crossover spin-off where series protagonist Travis Touchdown and new villain Badman are sucked into the cursed video game console Death Drive MK-II.
“I’ve actually had the idea for this game since around this time last year,” Suda told us through his translator. “[Travis Strikes Again] isn’t No More Heroes 3, this is more like a stepping stone on the path leading up to that game.”
For Suda, Travis Strikes Again is half passion project, half soft reboot. Much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this new instalment is a way to reintroduce the characters and the world to a mainstream audience. “There are a lot of gamers who are in their teens now, who probably aren’t aware of Travis, or even if they are aware of him, they didn’t really get the chance to encounter him when the games first came out,” Suda said. “So I decided this would be a good chance to reintroduce Travis and the series. Rather than going straight into a sequel, it would be good to have this sort of side thing to ease this new generation into the story.”
Although we don’t know much about how the game will play, Travis Strikes Again will take place inside existing video games like Hotline Miami and Shovel Knight. It’s part of a growing trend with independent developers, where popular indie characters will make appearances in other games.
For example, Shovel Knight is not just set to appear in Travis Strikes Again, he’s made cameos in Runbow and Yooka-Laylee, in addition to his upcoming appearances in crowdfunding success stories Bloodstained and Indivisible, to name just a few. Travis Strikes Again feels like the natural endpoint of the indie crossover fad, where cross-pollination is the raison d’etre.
“I actually wasn’t aware that was a trend until you mentioned that now,” Suda said. “For the past three years, I’ve been writing a column about [Western] indie games for Dengeki G’s Magazine, so as an extension of that, I decided to actually do something with all this indie stuff. When I came to the idea for this game, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do something with all the indie stuff I’ve been getting into. Maybe help some of these indie people get their foot in the door in a way, you know?”
“So from the very start, it was Hotline Miami that I decided I wanted to work with, after that it was Shovel Knight, and it’s sort of expanded from then on. I feel Travis would be into these kinds of games as well. Not just the games I like, but the games I feel Travis as a person would be into too.”
It’s been seven years since the last No More Heroes game and nine years since Suda last directed a game (although he’s worked as an “executive director” and a writer in the meantime, Travis Strikes Again is being touted as Suda’s return to directing). In the meantime, the games industry has only gotten weirder. Indies are more prolific than they’ve ever been, and the AAA big-budget space has become more colourful in response. Even the perennial grey and downbeat Call of Duty took to the wonders of outer space last year. Plenty of people are happy to see the return of No More Heroes, but there’s been some question as to whether or not it will draw the same level of attention in a world where oddity has become the norm.
“I do see games getting weirder and trying new things, so if they’re going to try new stuff, I want to try new stuff. I want to try and put out some weird stuff as well. I want to out-weird everyone,” Suda said.
“You want to show all these motherfuckers how it’s done?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Suda said. “That’s awesome.”
[Quotes have been slightly edited for clarity and pronoun usage]