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  1. #1

    [NSW] Travis Strikes Again

    I'm three stages in and it's not bad. I wouldn't say it's great either, though. One thing for sure: if you don't like jokes that break the 4th wall, you'll hate Travis Strikes Again right from the very start. Not only both Travis and Bad Man (the other playable character, who starts off as Travis' antagonist) mention the player directly, but Travis also mentions his Unreal Engine t-shirt and how cutting edge the engine is. And then secret tokens are in shape of Unreal's logo and are called "UE".
    I wonder why there hasn't been a joke on how the Unreal Engine is at loading things despite its "cutting-edgness": loading times are somewhat long for the various environments and at almost every junction both geometry and textures aren't loaded in as you get back into the game.
    Travis Strikes Again runs decently enough though, maybe it's not 60 fps but it's surely above 30 throughout. Music is pretty cool and the art direction is on spot no matter what kind of style is thrown at you.

    Story goes that Bad Man wants to kill Travis because he killed his daughter (and my No More Heroes lore fails as I can't really recognize who she was), but they are sucked into a game world by the Death Drive Mk.II, a console controlled by the Death Gauntlet and its games are store on Death Balls. After completing the first stage Travis and Bad Man are thrown back into the real world and Travis' quest to recover the Balls begin.
    In between stages you need to follow not-so-brief text interludes where Travis, his cat Jeane, and some other characters banter for a bit before Travis acquires the next Death Ball, and so you can continue. You can customize both playable characters' t-shirts and so far this has been the best part of the game, as the shirts features a large collection of indie games: Fallen Legion, Blazing Chrome, Hyperlight Drifter, Hollow Knight...there's a lot and new shirts can be purchased by either money or special tokens (called Atzeca) found in stages.

    Travis and Bad Man control the same way, with a light and heavy attack, jump, dash, special attack, and skills. The difference between the two is that Travis does more damage, while Bad Man consumes less power when attacking.
    You need to recharge your weapon like in previous NMHs, and here is done by pushing the left stick and waggling the right (or shaking the controller). Controls are good enough, with the heavy blow feeling particularly good, though the jump is a bit wooden and I've been through a couple of platforming sections.
    There's a good number of enemies, from cannon fodder to more unique monsters, minibosses, and end-stage bosses.
    The combat isn't particularly bad, in fact I was expecting less: there are foundations for a good action game, and you can also equip up to four skill chips for special actions...and those chips are named after Gundams (like Turn A, Wing, Psycho, Shining, etc.).
    Boss fights are fun, although stages tend to go on for a bit too much and every one is based around a gimmick.

    So far Travis Strikes Again feels like an average game, nothing more nothing less.

  2. #2
    Just completed the game. A bit of cool-down time and I'll post more impressions.

  3. #3
    So, here are some more impressions.

    My initial impression about Travis Strikes Again have changed, and rather than being average, I'd say it's below average. Still not a bad game, and I'd describe it as "unfocused".

    The main mechanic of the game is combat, and at first it's a third-person hack'n'slash with slightly more enemies than "normal" No More Heroes games. Mobs are dispatched by the light attack, and if you keep the light attack button down, Travis (or Bad Man) will swing his beam saber endlessly. Soon however the light attack loses most of its use as more resilient enemies are thrown into the mix and almost replace mobs. In later levels this becomes very annoying as the heavy attack has a large wind-up window and only the second heavy strike in a combo is able to knock enemies back, while most enemies will knock you down with a single hit. It's like NMH2, when around halfway through the game the only enemies are fat guys and every encounter becomes tediously long due to the opposition's health.
    In this TSA this not as aggravating, but several levels are seen top-down, Gauntlet-style, and combat mechanics and enemies don't change: it's frustrating not being able to easily discern attacks or lose completely your location and/or status due to how far the camera is and how many enemies are on screen. During these leves TSA also use more labirintine levels, so the style is quite different from what you're led to believe from the first stages.

    I still believe that the combat isn't that bad, at least as long you are dealing with one or two strong enemies at a time with a proper third-person view. Dodges, jumps, and attack timing are all satisfying, and the enemies are different enough to keep battles interesting. As it stands the combat is inferior to the two NMHs, and a with a bit more polish it could have been on par with them.
    And the two point of views for the "normal" combat aren't enough, TSA also likes to throw in other genres. One level is more similar to a platformer, with more elaborate level structure and less focus on combat. In this level the jumping isn't as good as you'd wish, but it's serviceable for what you're asked to do.
    Another level is centered around a...well, driving is a bit too much, as all you need to do is to shift gears when your RPMs reach the sweet spot. These "racing" segments are interludes to the usual hack'n'slash, so I'm not particularly bothered by how shallow they are, although I think

    you can't win the last racing segment and you have to keep trying until the games decides to bring you to the boss.

    It took me less than 10 hours to complete Travis Strikes Again. I left behind a good number of secrets, but I don't really feel like going back and playing it again to uncover everything: I can't really point out to anything in this game that I've really enjoyed, and this goes beyond game mechanics. I must also report a bug in the last level, the game wouldn't register the death of a midboss, forcing me to quit to the main hub and restart the level from the latest checkpoint; this happened only once in my playthrough. Completing the game unlocks a fourth difficulty level.

    The art style in TSA is divided between the "real world" (where Travis can change shirts, search for new Death Balls, and select levels to play), the "story segments" (which play out as read-only sections with DOS graphics), and the various games that represent the levels you have to complete.
    The art style in the real world is very cool, similar to the two NMHs with a touch of Killer Is Dead, and I wouldn't a proper NMH in venue. Every level has its own very distinct aestetichs, and just like the real world style, they are well done. However due to the lenght of each stage you don't really have the time to bask in them or to fully develop them, which is a pity. I've also found all these different styles a bit too much for a single game.
    Music is cool, and even if I dislike dance tracks, I recognize they are well done and with catchy tunes. There's only a modicum of voice acting, but Travis never fails, and Bad Man is very convincing in his role. The only unconvinging lines come from a character in the credits.

    The humor is hit or miss, depending on your tastes. I like some references, like how Travis gets into a level, but most of the times I've found the 4th-wall-breaking a bit too much. The many callouts to anime, videogames, and movies are probably the best part of this, but after a while you'd wish they were more subtle and less numerous. But again, this is a very personal opinion.

    Travis Strikes Again is not a bad game, but I wouldn't recommend to anyone either. It sits that fold of games that don't do anything completely wrong or right, and its most prominent aspect is that it's a Suda51 game.

  4. #4
    To be honest, I'm loving it so far. I'm only on the second stage (zoomed out stage where you have to hit the cards to be able to enter the buildings). I'm really enjoying the story and the general style, but I'll admit that if you can't get into the style then none of the other aspects will save it. Better than the sum of its parts and all that.

    I'm kinda glad it only got a digital release in Japan or I probably would have bought a physical copy. I think this game is better played in short-ish bursts, and (I think) each Death Drive Mk II game has a self-contained story, though there is an overarching story as well.

    My only real complaint so far is that you can just hold Y to attack like a madman. Much prefer button mashing though the effect is the same.

    Lastly, I could never really get into the Wii games - only played an hour of NMH - so this is basically my first NMH game
    Last edited by Nico87; 25-01-2019 at 11:53 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Nico87 View Post
    To be honest, I'm loving it so far. I'm only on the second stage (zoomed out stage where you have to hit the cards to be able to enter the buildings). I'm really enjoying the story and the general style, but I'll admit that if you can't get into the style then none of the other aspects will save it. Better than the sum of its parts and all that.
    Up t the second stage it's enjoyable, yes, and I think what kills it is the later stages, especially the last, where ideas seem to have dried up, along original and good level design (I hope you lkik enemy spawners)

    Quote Originally Posted by Nico87 View Post
    My only real complaint so far is that you can just hold Y to attack like a madman. Much prefer button mashing though the effect is the same.
    Yeah, holding down the button drains battery in an instant. It's also why I mostly used the heavy attack and its jump-stomp.

  6. #6
    Finished this over the weekend, and surprising nobody, I enjoyed it.

    I can see why it would absolutely rub some people up the wrong way - it's a total mishmash of ideas, literred with references and constant 4th wall breaking, and the core gameplay is pretty simplistic in nature. Even as someone who was into it, there were parts towards the end that I thought went on longer than they should have.

    But I also think some of its experimentation is really fun. Though they felt entirely tongue-in-cheek, I actually enjoyed the visual novel sections quite a lot. The overall game-inside-a-game structure reminded me a little of the GCCX game, particularly with reading up on them to help uncover secrets within. As a fan of Grasshopper games, there's a lot of fun insider commentary and deep cuts to appreciate.

    It's been a long time since I last played NMH, but I'd agree that this is probably a step backward with respect to the underlying gameplay. I'm not sure how much of an issue this actually is though - the combat is simple but fun enough, and although it's only testing by means of crowd control, the bosses are a bit more interesting.

    Definitely not for everyone, and even for superfans, not the return of Suda quite as I'd like it - but still something that I'm quite fond of.


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