It’s been hinted at for a long time, but yesterday we finally got our first look at No More Heroes III. The trailer was exciting, but it’s definitely more of a taste than a rundown; we saw some snippets of gameplay, but there’s a lot more to the No More Heroes series than that.
To get a better idea of what to expect, I sat down with Grasshopper head honcho Goichi Suda to learn more about the return of part-time work, the films that inspired it, and seeing his game as part of a Nintendo Direct.
How would you describe your role on No More Heroes III?
This time, I’m basically sort of a combination of director as well as co-director, game designer, other stuff. So the first and second game were co-directed by myself and by a guy named [Ren] Yamazaki and another guy called [Nobutaka] Ichiki, and this time, they both came back to work together with me. I’m not only director/co-director, I’m also sort of, there’s not really the exact word for it in English, but it’s kind of like “general director,” sort of overseeing like everything all at once. I’m also doing that so I’m kind of playing multiple roles. But my main official role, I guess, would basically be executive director.
With it having been as long as it has been since No More Heroes 2, why did you guys see this as the time to bring back No More Heroes?
I mean, it’s been something that I’ve been wanting to work on for a long time. There’s been stuff that we’ve been working on over the years, and then it’s kind of gotten away. We didn’t really have the right inspiration for it. But a few years ago, I decided, “Okay, I want to make this game, Travis Strikes Again. And part of it was because I wanted to sort of explore a different facet of the whole like Travis and No More Heroes lore. And another reason we made the game was sort of a commemorative thing, for Grasshopper’s 20th anniversary.
So first, you know, I decided do Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes (TSA) for a commemorative-type thing, see how that works out. So we decided to put together a completely new team for that game. The core team was sort of a real mix of old veterans and newly-hired staff, people who are new in the industry altogether. And once we put that team together and started working on the game, and realized pretty early on, “Okay, this team’s actually working out pretty well. I think we can maybe make something cool,” I really got to focus as much of my energy on that as possible.
And then once TSA was released, and we saw the reactions from the fans and got lots of different opinions and feedback on it, I thought “Okay, now that we not only have, you know, the fan base is still wanting No More Heroes III, we’ve also got a lot more kind of scale of our abilities a lot more skills under our belts now.
And we’ve learned about working on Unreal, for the different new mechanics and stuff we put into TSA, there’s lots of new things that, as a team, we had learned and experienced that I felt finally sort of pushed us over the edge. We’re now ready to go back to No More Heroes III with the same core team again, and be able to create and provide the kind of game that the fans deserve and the fans of want to play.
So again, yeah, to kind of put it simply It was something I’d been wanting to work on for a long time, but with all the experience we now had, I also figured “Okay, we’re finally ready.”
You mentioned you used TSA as a way to gauge interest in No More Heroes III. Did TSA do pretty well for you guys? Did it meet or exceed expectations in terms of sales?
The results we got from TSA were pretty much just in line with what we were expecting, or more like what we were hoping for.
So moving on to the game itself, what can you tell us about the story of No More Heroes III? It seems like it’s set sometime after TSA.
It basically takes place almost exactly two years after the ending of TSA. Travis has moved back from the little trailer that he was living in in TSA, back to the old-school, more children living in previous games. That also sort of shows there’s been a lot of stuff that’s gone on the past two years, he’s had a lot of life changes.
Is the idea that he’s climbing the ranks of the United Assassin’s Association again?
This time it’s not exactly about the whole assassin rankings thing. The sort of battles Travis gets involved in in this game, it’s like a whole different dimension, it’s a whole ‘nother level of fighting and stuff. As you can see in the trailer, he’s kind of like in this Independence Day situation, where Travis is kind of like Will Smith where he’s just some dude who sees all these aliens or whatever coming down from the sky and messing s*** up and everything, and he’s got to kind of somehow take them on, on his own.
So instead of just having Travis against another assassin, it’s like Travis versus this whole army of like, Thanos-level dudes, some really hardcore enemies. The kind that he’s never had a come up against before. It’s a completely different level of action, compared to the other games. It’s gonna be, for lack of a better word, it’s basically going to be on an epic scale compared to the first three games.
So with that premise, there’s obviously a lot of ancillary characters… We saw Sylvia in the trailer. Why is she helping him? She used to work for the Association, so she wouldn’t necessarily have a reason to help him. What are the roles of past characters? Will be see cameos from other assassins?
There’s not a lot that I can really comment on just yet about the characters and Sylvia in particular, but one thing I can say about Sylvia is that her relationship to Travis and her general role in the game is going to be really directly tied to the main story and all the events of the game. She’s going to basically play a really big role in the game’s story. This time unlike the previous games, she doesn’t actually have anything to do with the whole assassins thing, she’s in a completely different position, has a completely different role. But again, she’s going to be a really integral part of the story.
In some of the DLC for TSA, it actually touches on it a bit, on Sylvia, what she’s beein doing in the time since the events of No More Heroes 2. Some of the stuff that kind of clears up in TSA is that she’s sort of gotten away from the whole like world of assassins and everything, and has become a world-famous YouTube influencer. That doesn’t have necessarily a whole lot to do with what’s coming up in the next game, but it’s just kind of a taste of how she as a character has kind of changed since then, and is going to be changing for the next game.
A lot of the gameplay in No More Heroes is tied to that ranking loop, of “Do part-time jobs, work your way through the bad guys, and then fight the assassin.” Can you tell us anything about how the structure of the game is different? Is it still focused around these boss characters? Or is it something different?
There’s not a whole lot that I can say as far as details of content and stuff at this point. But again, one thing I can say is that one thing we definitely want to put in the game is a lot of the core elements to make it feel, to the fans, like it did in most of the previous games, which is not necessarily the ranking stuff and the boss fights which obviously were a big part of the games earlier, but some of the more like mundane stuff that Travis does. Not just completing the killer the assassinations and stuff like that, but doing stuff like the part-time jobs, or like the side stuff that he did. I definitely want to put more of that in the game, and make it even more interesting and engaging than it has been until now.
There definitely will be the same sort of killing and battle-type missions and stuff like before, but what we want to do is flesh it out a lot more, and give it a lot more, not necessarily “reality,” but a lot more, like, everyday life-feel to it on top of the whole like, you know, freaky unrealistic fighting aliens and stuff. So I can’t really comment on exact details, but basically it’s going to be a lot of the stuff from the previous games that people seem to like the most will be sort of brought back and enhanced.
We saw some examples of gameplay. We had some grappling moves, and then we also had Travis donning a new robotic suit. Can you tell us anything about how combat is different? You’ve made a lot of action games between No More Heroes and now. Have you learned anything from that, that you’ve incorporated into III?
The biggest example I can provide for stuff that I’ve picked up from other games to bring over to No More Heores III would be the thing you mentioned from the trailer, the henshin [a Japanese term for “transformation,” à la Power Rangers – Ed.], he does the thing with his left hand and changes into the powered-up suit version of Travis. That’s something that I brought directly from TSA, which is the Death Glove, which is part of the Death Drive Mk. II, the legendary console from that game. The glove that you see on Travis’ hand is, again, the Death Glove from TSA that he’s brought into the real world, and now he uses as kind of like a as a key part of his arsenal.
The death glove is going to become a really key part of gameplay and the game itself, not only because it’s going to be what’s going to provide the kind of power and kind of abilities that Travis is going to need to take on these like super hardcore enemies he’s facing off with this time, but also just straight up gameplay-wise it’s going to play a really big part in the mechanics of the game. The way the balance and all that stuff like that works out, a lot of different stuff that you’re going to be doing with the controllers is specific to the way this game is played, and specific to these controllers and stuff. A lot of that is going to be directly connected to that Death Glove and the different things it can do.
In previous No More Heroes games a lot of the combat is based on the Wii remote controller. You were shaking it to recharge it, and you have these high and low stances based on what position the controller is in. Can you tell us anything about how the sword-based combat will work in this one?
The first thing I want to say is that, the JoyCons and the Switch, I, definitely want to use these in the same way we used the Wii controllers back in the day. One reason for that is if you don’t have this [shakes hand] the charging motion, then it’s not a No More Heroes game. On top of that, there’s also a lot of cool stuff that you can do with the controllers now. Some of it, to be honest, I haven’t even thought of yet, I haven’t even like really realized [uses for] yet. As we’re developing the game, there’s probably going to be all kinds of stuff that pops up that I or the development team is going to realize, “Oh s***, you can totally put this in because of all that these controllers can do!” So there’s a lot of stuff that is not yet decided on, but I definitely want to take full advantage of the different stuff you can do with the JoyCons and just the way the Switch itself is kind of dope.
It’ll definitely be 100-percent playable just regularly, just have them attached to the main console thing. You’ll definitely be able to play it that way. But I feel that the truest and most pure way to play the game will be sort of like back in the day with the Wii, where you detach both controllers and are holding them in your hands like that, so you can do like the charging movement. There’s all different kinds of stuff that, again, some stuff that’s already been decided on, and some stuff that we haven’t even invented yet, but yeah, the best way to play the game you know is already, I can say this with confidence already, is going to be detaching the things and playing the old-school Wii style. But on top of that and pro-wrestling stuff? Yeah, there’s definitely gonna’ be a lot of mechanics that are based on the Switch JoyCon construction.
You put a lot of outside influences into your work. Can you talk the influences that are going into No More Heroes III? Is there a recent movie you’re really inspired by, or something you’re digging back into?
It might sound like I’m joking, but I’m totally serious, actually. Rocky III has been a real big influence on this game. It’s just kind of coincidence that they both have the number three in them, but I watched the Rocky series and saw Creed and Creed II, and really got kind of inspired by the story of Rocky Balboa and the way he kind of like developed not only as a character, but how they sort of film the movies. I guess you can say, in accordance with Sylvester Stallone’s actual like, you know, real-life aging process as well.
So the Rocky series plus Creed and Creed II; all those movies have been a big influence on this one, but especially Rocky III. And as I was watching those movies and at the same time kind of coming up with ideas with the latest game I realized, well, I kind of feel that Travis Touchdown, while he might not exactly be like a full on Rocky-type character the way he is now, I can kind of see him developing into like an older Rocky character, like a little older version of Travis. When he’s older, I could see him be more like Rocky, and he’s like…
Mentoring another assassin?
Yeah, so I did take a lot of inspiration from the Rocky and Creed series in general, III in particular. I was just really impressed by the way Stallone handled the role, and I’d like to sort of put a lot of that into Travis in this upcoming game, also.
You saw the Nintendo Direct. What do you think was the most exciting thing, outside of your own game? Have you played a Banjo-Kazooie game? When when you saw him were you like, “I’m excited to play this character?”
I’m definitely aware of it. I’m trying to remember if I’ve actually played Banjo-Kazooie or not, but yeah, it was released in Japan, and I’m definitely aware of the game. But once No More Heores III was shown in the Direct we all got kind of excited about that and started checking Twitter and all kinds of stuff. So I didn’t really get to see most of the rest of the presentation after that. I totally missed the Banjo-Kazooie part.
But after No More Heroes III, which was clearly the best one there, definitely Zelda. The sequel to Breath of the Wild. I was really surprised by that announcement, I had no idea. I’m really looking forward to that. I was really into the original one.
Obviously I knew that Travis wasn’t going to be able to be in Smash Bros. this time, but I feel just like a lot of the fans. Even though I knew it wasn’t going to happen, I was still really disappointed to actually see, “Okay, so it’s actually not happening.” So there’s a bit of disappointment.