The recent launch of No More Heroes III completed the journey of series protagonist Travis Touchdown, capping off a trilogy of games (plus a spin-off) that began back on the Wii. Fans of iconic game director SUDA51 had waited a while for this one, and apparently this game will be his final outing with Travis.
With the entire Travis 'saga' now available on Switch, we recently sat down with the director to discuss the future of Mr Touchdown, saying goodbye to the series, and the Nintendo IP he'd enjoy remaking given the chance. We recommend you watch the video of our interview with SUDA above, but if you prefer the written word, we can accommodate you there, too. We're generous like that. Enjoy!
Nintendo Life: For anyone who’s never played the No More Heroes series, could you describe the series in three words?
SUDA51: Is No More Heroes okay for three words?
Sure! Why not!
Actually, I’d say Modern Day Jedi.
It’s been over a decade since both No More Heroes I & II released, and with the story of No More Heroes III taking place about 10 years after the second game, did you always have this plan in your head to revisit Travis’ story 10 years on?
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of interviews where people say “I read in an old interview that you said this or this” and to be honest, I don’t remember a lot of this stuff, but apparently I said it! One thing that I kind of do remember actually is even back when the series I would sort of compare the series to the Rocky series. There are obviously a lot of things in the games that I sort of took from the Rocky movies as sort of an homage or sort of based on the them, but there are also some elements that just occurred naturally.
We wanted to present the third game sort of like the third movie in the Rocky series as well, give it a bit more flash and a bit more pizazz.
For example, when you look at the Rocky movies, there’s Rocky I and II where he starts out as a complete underdog. He's not really well known or anything and he’s gotta fight his way up to the top, just scrappin’ by. Then by the time the third movie came out he was pretty much a superstar within the world of the movie. The third movie was a lot more Hollywood like, if you get what I mean.
So while it wasn’t completely on purpose that we had this timeline of the first few years of Travis then all of a sudden jump to ten years later and he’s older. I didn’t plan on doing that from the beginning, but once I realized that’s how the timeline is working out around the time we started making No More Heroes III, I realized it made a lot of sense. We wanted to present the third game sort of like the third movie in the Rocky series as well, give it a bit more flash and a bit more pizazz.
Was there ever a point where the story of No More Heroes III wasn’t going to follow the tale of Damon, Fu and the rest of the Galactic Superheroes?
When I first decided to start working on No More Heroes III, before any of the actual work started, there were probably a lot of ideas bouncing around in my head. One of the first things that I thought of was that up till now when Travis fights the United Assassin's Association fights, they are mostly supposed to be based on the United States. So I decided maybe let’s bump the level up a bit and make it a worldwide assassin’s ranking fight. I kind of thought about that for a while and thought about what other directions could I possibly take it in and this idea was way before we started work on No More Heroes III.
One of the first things that popped into my mind was like a scene in the movie Independence Day. Will Smith opens up a door and sees aliens in front of him attacking the earth and he's just kind of like “Okay, well I guess this is what I’m doing now.”
One idea I had was to take the series in a completely different direction from the previous games, which basically turned out to be Travis Strikes Again. Travis goes inside this world of video games and has all of these different types of experiences and has to fight these completely different types of enemies. It was a way to take not just the story but the game itself into a different direction.
So when it finally came time to sit down and think “Okay, No More Heroes III. What are we gonna do?” I thought, well, Travis has gone into this video game world and done all of this crazy stuff, I want to really do something special for the next one! So instead of making it a worldwide assassins ranking battle, how about I bump it up even further and we take it out into space? One of the first things that popped into my mind was like a scene in the movie Independence Day. Will Smith opens up a door and sees aliens in front of him attacking the earth and he's just kind of like “Okay, well I guess this is what I’m doing now.” I had this image that sort of popped into my head like a first scene in a video game, Travis opening up a door and seeing aliens and the world getting attacked and thinking “This is my battle now.”
The rest of the game kind of sprung up from there. Apart from the Travis Strikes Again stuff I mentioned earlier, ever since I sat down and really started thinking about, it’s pretty much generally always been about Travis fighting not just these earthly assassins but also these much larger scale assassins from other planets and way out in the cosmos.
Recently on Twitter you sort of said goodbye to Travis Touchdown, and said this would be his final battle. What does that mean for the series and for you as basically Travis’ Dad?
The thing about No More Heroes the series and the thing I posted the other day is that the IP is mostly owned by Marvelous, it doesn’t actually belong to Grasshopper. We’re partial owners of it, but we only own a very small percentage so realistically it’s Marvelous’ IP. I always knew that one day, the day would come when we’d basically have to give this back to Marvelous. To be fair, I was able to make Travis Strikes Again and No More Heroes III with an amazing amount of freedom to do whatever I wanted. They really are games that I made, but one thing that I really felt while making those games is that it’s really time for Grasshopper to move on and create our own IP, our own stories and games that nobody owns but us that we’re fully in control of.
I don’t want to split up with [Travis], but we kind of have no choice as the time has come.
As I said in the tweet, it’s time to say goodbye to Travis, this is his final battle, and I meant it sort of literally, it’s time to say goodbye. I don’t want to split up with him, but we kind of have no choice as the time has come. Not that Marvelous forced us, it’s just that I felt that it’s really time for us to go on and do our own thing. So what I’m planning on doing is to make the next ten years the Grasshopper decade. We’re gonna create our own IP and our own games and characters that we can own and really be proud of.
That’s not at all to say that I’m never going to deal with Travis or No More Heroes again. While I can’t say anything concrete at all, it’s definitely not un-feasible that Travis would come back again sometime in one of our future games. That’s definitely not off the table. But maybe as you said I’m basically Travis’s father, and unfortunately I’m a father who doesn’t have rights to keep living with him anymore so I kind of had to give up my own kid. It’s a sad and lonely feeling to have to split up with this character and this series I’ve been working with for so long and put so much into, but I’m looking forward to the future seeing what we’re gonna do and hopefully someday being able to see Travis again.
It’s just like Travis is going away to college! He’ll visit every so often!
Ahh I think that’s a really good example actually! It’s kind of like summer vacation or something. The kid gets out of school, goes to spend vacation with his Dad, has a bunch of fun then has to go back. It’s like “Yea, that was a great vacation! Okay, see ya again some other time!” We had a lot of fun but unfortunately it was time to split, so here we are.
At one point in No More Heroes III, while the cleaners are taking care of business after a battle, Sylvia breaks the fourth wall and says ”The series is going to keep going right, we had to give the cleaners names!” Does this statement hold any weight for the future of the series and or was this a wink to fans who remember the end credit scene of the original No More Heroes, where Sylvia talks about it being too bad that there won’t be a sequel, but then we got No More Heroes II anyways?
I do remember those specific lines! It’s sort of hard to give a satisfactory answer on this. The thing is, you can’t really trust Sylvia because she’s just that kind of character. For example in the first game she said there wouldn’t be a sequel and we totally did multiple sequels. So what she was implying in No More Heroes III about giving the cleaners names is that even though this is the final battle, the numbered series will continue.
Again, that’s not to say that’s definitely never going to happen, but one thing that’s important to remember is that basically Sylvia is a liar. She’s just like that so you can’t really put a whole lot of stock in anything she says. I guess on one hand there you could say there wasn’t a special, deeper meaning to it, but on the other hand at the same time there may have been, you can never tell with Sylvia.
In your eyes, could Travis Touchdown ever realistically come to Smash or is he too much of a punk? Are you worried he’d lose his “charm” in the process if he had to be potentially censored?
That’s a pretty good question! See, the guy who makes Super Smash Brothers, Masahiro Sakurai, is actually a friend of mine. I feel this is a guy who really loves and understands video games. I feel he understands the nuances of No More Heroes and Travis Touchdown as a character. He’s already cleared No More Heroes III and laughed his ass of at the last boss. I really feel like he gets it.
it’s definitely not un-feasible that Travis would come back again sometime in one of our future games. That’s definitely not off the table.
So put simply, I feel it would be possible for Travis to appear in Smash Bros. If he does I’m assuming it would be probably the next iteration of it, but it’s definitely a possibility as Sakurai really loves video games and the character. I’m really not too worried about dumbing down or censoring the character because I feel he’d be able to work around that somehow without losing what makes Travis, well, Travis.
For example, maybe adding in a beep when Travis swears or some way to play around the words to make it all a bit more family friendly. So not only do I feel it could be possible, I really feel it wouldn’t take away anything from Travis because of the kind of guy Sakurai is.
If you had the full reigns to take any Nintendo IP and make a game with your own spin, does anything come to mind?
To be honest, I really want to say Zelda but I know that’s not okay. I know deep down inside me it’s not okay for me to make a Zelda game, ya know? That’s not alright.
There’s actually a game I’ve thought about before that if I could make any Nintendo IP in the way I wanted, it’s called Nazo no Murasame Jō (The Mysterious Murasame Castle). This was a game was from Human, the company I first started out at before Grasshopper. I’ve always kind of had a soft spot for this game and always felt like I’d love to go back and revisit it.
It’d be great to see this series return!
Yeah, I really think I could do something cool with that game if given the chance.
Our thanks to SUDA for taking the time to chat with us. No More Heroes III is out now on Switch (along with the first two games).