Goichi Suda talks building ‘Travis Strikes Again’ in the long shadow of Zelda

No More Heroes games are defined by bizarre, over-the-top action, focused on flamboyant, audacious protagonist Travis Touchdown. The next entry in the series, Travis Strikes Again, promises a magnificent return to form, pulling players back into the bizarre world of Santa Destroy, with a few twists to keep you on your toes.

The first of these was revealed in the launch trailer for Travis Strikes Again. Travis and his rival, Badman, get sucked into the Death Drive Mk-II, a futuristic game console made of bones. Like we said — No More Heroes is bizarre.

We sat down with the game’s director Goichi “Suda51” Suda to help guide us through the new game’s characteristic weirdness, and give us a taste of what we can expect from the forthcoming Nintendo Switch exclusive, Travis Strikes Again.

Travis Strikes Again takes place seven years after the events of No More Heroes 2. Thats an awfully long time. Are we going to find out what Travis has been up to?

As you go through the game, you’ll get all sorts of things explained about the time between the last No More Heroes game and this one — but things will be explained gradually.

Travis and Badman get sucked into the Death Drive Mk-II and have to fight their way out, through Travis video game collection. Does that mean this isnt going to be a third-person action game like previous titles?  

It’s the beginning of a new adventure for Travis, there are six games within the game that he’s going to go inside of — and you’ll get to try out a wholly different kind of gameplay for each one.

“We decided to make it a lot more compact than something like Zelda.”

No More Heroes was a sword action game, so for this title, we wanted to sort of incorporate different kinds of gameplay. On top of the swordplay from the original games we wanted to have these new games that have characteristic and unique ways of playing with the new Joy-Con controllers.

So, for the six games within Travis Strikes Again, we’re making sure that every game is going to have its own specifically unique flavor, its own vibe. Not only how the games look but how they play, is going to be different.

If each game-within-the-game is different, are the controls going to change from game-to-game?

For the really basic gameplay, the basic controls are going to be the same between each game. As far as the actual physical controls go, those aren’t going to change much between games.

The original No More Heroes incorporated the Nintendo Wiis unique “nunchuck” controller in a lot of different ways, for sword fighting and wrestling moves. Will Travis Strikes Again do something similar with the Switch’s Joy-Cons?

One sort of challenge that we’re taking on this time is, you know with the Switch, there are two controllers. We’re making [Travis Strikes Again] playable with just one controller.

Travis Strikes Again duel

One of the main reasons we decided to make it playable with just one controller is in hopes that we’ll get a call from Smash Bros saying, “Hey let’s put Travis in the game.” We’re really hoping for that. We’re really waiting for the invitation any day now.

If Travis Strikes Again is playable with just one controller, does that mean its going to be a multiplayer game, with co-op?

We can’t really talk about that yet, but that’s a sharp question.

No More Heroes was a huge game for the Nintendo Wii, but never made an appearance on the Wii U. How did you decide to make this game for the Switch?

Back before it was the Switch, when it was first just the Nintendo NX, I tried the console for myself. That’s when I decided I needed to make another Travis game for this console.

What was it like developing for the Nintendo Switch? Its a pretty unique console.

One thing I felt was a theme throughout the whole development process was — since we’re putting the game out on the Switch, the Switch has [Zelda: Breath of the Wild], which is a really great game.

“I wanted to sort of go back to a more indie style of game development.”

It’s super high-level, basically a perfectly done game. I felt like a lot of the games coming after Zelda would be an answer to Zelda. So, I had to take that into consideration.

If my game is going to be on the same platform as Zelda, what am I going to do? Am I going to make something similar to Zelda, or something completely different, how am I going to answer the Zelda question? That’s one thing that was kind of a theme throughout development, my own personal theme.

Zelda had a pretty profound impact on how you and Grasshopper Manufacture approached Travis Strikes Again?

I feel that since Zelda is a really high-level game, as a sort of answer to that, instead of building the new No More Heroes on a that scale, I wanted to sort of go back to a more indie style of game development.

Grasshopper has been making games on a large scale for many years now, and we’re seeing all these new games being made on an indie scale with teams of less than 10 people.

Travis Strikes Back green

Instead of making a really huge game with a huge team, we decided to make it a lot more compact than something like Zelda. So again, instead of going up against Zelda by making a game on the same scale, we decided to go the opposite direction, to create something complete but more compact and really personal.

Was it refreshing to take a step away from large-scale game development and work with a smaller team again?

When you make a game with a really large team, basically the larger the team, the more you have to rely on really specific specialists. You’re able to delegate a lot more work throughout the team, but that also means the work each person is able to do is limited.

The way we used to make games back in the day at Grasshopper was instead of everyone having a specialized role, everything would sort of bleed together. The smaller the team you get, like on most indie games, the more responsibilities each person has but also each person is able to contribute more, and they’re able to experience more aspects of game development.

Each person has more responsibility, but they’ve also got a lot more to contribute.

I not only wanted to go back to my roots as an indie creator, I also wanted to give younger staff members that sort of co-operative experience. That was really an important part of the development process here, making sure everyone was able to get experience with different things they might not have touched on before.

With indie games, we have much smaller teams, and each person has more responsibility, but they’ve also got a lot more to contribute. I wanted each person to be able to put in as much of themselves into the game as possible.

Travis Strikes Again is currently in development for Nintendo Switch. It will release sometime in 2018.

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