Suda51 is one of those developers that is frequently called an “auteur,” and for good reason. Suda’s games all have a distinct and inherently bizarre style, and it’s quite easy to pick out a Suda game from a crowd. Out of all the titles out there, though, No More Heroes is easily the best-known Suda game, and its protagonist Travis Touchdown a veritable mascot. Travis is a fascinating character; easily lovable but definitely not a “good” person by any definition. He’s the perfect example of how video games can build a compelling anti-hero.
The premise of No More Heroes is simple; Travis wins a beam katana in an online auction and after hitting rock bottom, he starts taking part in a deadly competition to become the top-ranked assassin. The goal is to kill the assassins ranked above you, and Travis has no qualms about committing cold-blooded murder. Even past that, Travis’ main motivation for participating in the rankings is to “score” with the mysterious girl Silvia.
By any stretch of the imagination, Travis isn’t a great person; his apartment is a dirty wreck, he’s incredibly crude, and he’s violent to a tee. The reason I point all this out, however, is that against all odds Travis manages to be a charming and incredibly endearing character. The key difference between Travis and other anti-heroes, as well, is that Travis goes through quite a bit of character development, but never moves outside the box of that anti-hero archetype.
Part of what makes Travis so relatable is that he’s incredibly down-to-earth, despite being a powerful assassin. All he really wants to do is hang out at home with his cat Jeane, and watch wrestling videos and anime. He’s an incredible badass that does incredible things, but his real dreams are just so……. normal. It’s also interesting to note that the save screen for each No More Heroes game is Travis on the toilet. Yeah, it’s crude and funny, but coincidentally also the moment that Travis would be most vulnerable, so to speak. Something the series is not afraid to play around with.
At the same time, Travis respects his opponents and revels in the fight itself. He always gives a fair fight, and No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle shows that idea developing even further as Travis continues to evolve as a person.
As Travis is forced to battle his way through the rankings again in the series’ second installment, he becomes more and more disillusioned by the whole ordeal and the United Assassins Association. One battle ends with Travis giving Sylvia a grand speech about how even though they’re all psychopaths “assassins are still people” who don’t deserve to be used as tools. Another scene sees Travis furious after Sylvia guns down his defeated opponent. These aspects of Travis’ personality help him feel even more “normal” over other anti-heroes.
Travis Touchdown is both undeniably cool and a bit lame at the same time. He dresses like an angsty teenager, has that absurd faux-hawk, and nearly every other word he says is the f-word. Yet at the same time, he has an utterly adorable relationship with his cat Jeane and helps her lose weight, vows revenge for the death of his best friend, and doesn’t stand for discrimination.
Of course, the fourth-wall-breaking nature of No More Heroes means the games are perfectly aware of Travis’ anti-hero personality, and the games constantly play around with that idea. Travis is unlike any other video game hero out there, and that’s honestly just the way it should be.