Off of the crowded show floor, Goichi “Suda51” Suda is easy to miss. He’s seated in a nice sofa in the upper hallways of the Boston Convention Center at PAX East. He’s comfortable, almost relaxed as throngs of people wearing Fortnite or DragonBall cosplay walk by. But that’s fine. Suda51 isn’t here to force some spectacle about his studio’s upcoming game, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, he’s instead here in a grassroots way, letting fans play the game and spread the word for him. This approach speaks volumes to the sort of indie concept behind TSA: it’s all about the fans, the fun, and the culture of game development.
And it looks like it might hit all of those goals just fine.
We had a moment to catch up with Suda-san during the event, and asked him a few questions (through an interpreter) about the process and thinking behind the game and his popular character.
It’s been 10 years since the first No More Heroes, and Travis has become kind of like a cult hero. What has it been like to create a character that so many people are connecting with, who’s almost becoming a super star?
I’ve been experiencing that decade, and how there would need to be the right time to bring Travis back. So I kept watching, and thought about it on the Wii U, but the timing wasn’t right. Eventually I saw the Switch for the first time. When I saw that piece of hardware, instinct just sort of hit me, and I thought THIS is where I have to bring Travis back.
How has it felt to transform Travis from the Wii to an HD Nintendo console? What was that process like?
With TSA, it’s a whole new concept here, a whole new kind of adventure. Instead of being an assassin like in NMH 1 and 2, now he’s going into games and fighting with the game characters. So in some sense this HD Travis is a whole new kind of Travis.
So, it’s a whole new kind of Travis, but there are ties to past No More Heroes games, like the link between Bad Man and Bad Girl. What’s it been like to carry over some of those links?
So in terms of ties like that, I treat time in No More Heroes like it is in the real world. So, it’s been seven years since the last game, so seven years have passed here. So, the game is a direct continuation story-wise.
It’s a very different kind of adventure for Travis. There’s a mix of action, visual novels, jumping into different worlds. How do you balance all of these different styles together?
I developed a rhythm to the game where Travis goes into six , plus one special, worlds. But every time he has to go into a new world, first he has to go into an adventure mode, the visual novel section, to get the Death Ball. This lets him get into the game.
There’s a lot of cross over with the indie developers of the games that those inside TSA are based on, through clothing and apparel. What was it like to work with so many of these different developers, and pull their characters and brands into the game?
There are a lot of young people making these indie games, who have played my games in the past, so it makes me really happy to work with people who are familiar with my projects. It also makes me feel really old (haha)! Travis himself is a gamer, so I feel it really makes sense that Travis would use these kinds of games in his style. He doesn’t want to miss any, since they’re all meaningful to him.
The indie development scene has changed so much since No More Heroes first came out, and Travis has sort of become a champion of the scene. He’s kind of helping usher in many of these games and younger developers onto a Nintendo platform.
I’m really happy to hear that. I haven’t thought about it too much myself, but I know gamers and developers feel close to him. Originally that’s how I meant to design Travis, not too photo realistic and not too macho. Kind of like a person that could be sitting next to you in the real world, but with a great individual style.
With so much packed into TSA, what was the process of narrowing it down? How did you figure out where to end, and what game designs you chose?
Obviously, like you hinted at, schedule and budget were factors in that. But there was also several old projects that I had in mind that I made project documents about, but they never went anywhere. And so we decided to focus on those and take their essences as a way to finally bring them to light.
Yes, (haha)! There’s another purpose to this game as well. It’s like a combination of all of the souls of the other games that I didn’t get to make, all coming together into one game.
That’s a great way to put it. What was it like to go from NMH 1 and 2 to this for Travis? Because it’s quite different.
One of the big things about this game is that we have a really small team, like 12-15 people, so it’s much different from the teams we used to make the previous games.
And coordinating with so many others.
Yes, we very much felt and functioned like an indie at times, too. I can’t emphasize enough that the style of TSA is so indie influenced. We can use a large team to make a large-scale game, but it’s different with a small team. With a small team we get to choose what the members are going to do, and can’t add more. We can push them as far as we can, but they have their specific roles. We’re fans of Hotline Miami, and are close with the devs there, and we sit down and talk a lot about game development. I feel like that game is one that only those two people can make, because if the team was bigger then things would change.
That really brought me back to the core of game development and involvement. I really wanted to emphasize that.
It’s been a long time coming, but Travis is back. Are we in a revival? I know it’s far too early to really speak to that, but will we see more of Travis after this latest project?
I’m totally with you on that. If TSA is successful, my goal is to make No More Heroes 3. I hope to go even further beyond this as well. Travis is such a part of me, that I want more people to experience him. He’ll go to even more new places, new game ideas.
Thank you, Suda-san. We look forward to spending many late nights jumping into the world of Travis Strikes Again.
Thank you! I hope you don’t lose too much sleep! Haha!