If I could dig my Wii out from wherever it’s hiding to replay No More Heroes and its sequel, I would. Since that’s impossible, I’ll instead ask: What better way to celebrate the return of Travis Touchdown than by listening to some killer tracks from this gem of a series?
Last week’s announcement of a new game, Travis Strikes Again, in Suda51’s action-fuelled No More Heroes franchise made me giddy. I would have been immensely content with that knowledge alone. But when the slick trailer (featuring artwork by the talented UK artist boneface) also revealed that Travis was playing Hotline Miami and a collaboration was in the works with that series’ developers Dennaton, I think I damned near lost my mind.
While I wait for 2018, I get to reminisce on Travis’ murderous, assassin past — filled with all the rotten, adolescent, potty jokes — by listening to a handful of my favourite tracks from the No More Heroes series’ stellar soundtracks. Join me, won’t you?
Let’s start with a bad girl. The Bad Girl.
According to the Nindie Summer 2017 presentation, it has been seven years since Travis killed the United Assassins Association’s 2nd Ranked Assassin, Bad Girl. And hey, wouldn’t you know it? Bad Girl’s Daddy is out to exact revenge by smashing Travis’ head in with a baseball bat. Ah, good times. For those who played the first game in the series, you’ll know there’s a very explicit “Like Father, Like Daughter” connection going on. Bad Girl was also great with a bat, and she loved bashing the heads in of S&M mask-wearing men.
Her father’s wearing some sort of mask in the announcement trailer… wait.
Ahem, family issues which we may get to work out in 2018 aside, Bad Girl’s theme song is that sultry sounding club piece that fits her persona perfectly.
From Rank 2 in the first No More Heroes game to the Rank 4 assassin and battle in its sequel, Desperate Struggle.
Margaret Moonlight’s theme song “Philistine” is fourth-wall breaking, and a pointed statement to Travis the otaku and the rest of us video game playing nerds. The games are full of these self-aware references, which make the series a glorious mess. I hate that I love this track so much but I can’t help myself. It’s a prime example of it being a “so-bad-it’s-good” situation. But whatever. Like Travis, I wear my nerd badge with pride. No regrets.
Being an otaku means loving all the magical girl anime and games. Travis’ apartment in his fictional city of Santa Destroy is covered with wrestling paraphernalia and Bizarre Jelly 5. You know, posters of his favourite fighting anime girls. Bizarre Jelly 5, being a popular franchise, also has a video game which Travis get to play.
The music’s so great because it’s sugary J-pop at its finest mixed with the No More Heroes theme. Take a listen: Don’t you just feel your teeth rotting and head-bopping along at the same time? It fits perfectly into No More Heroes‘ over-the-top violent, pulpy world that’s a mash-up and tribute to Japanese culture. From Travis’ otaku view of Japanese culture, anyway.
No More Heroes is defined by its copious amounts of blood, its off-kilter humour, its ridiculous premise, and its stylistic execution. It’s as video game as video games get. There’s one other thing to add to that list, and that’s just how inventive and cool its boss fights are. There are cowboy, mecha and ninja showdowns, just to name a few. From a gameplay perspective, a lot of them are just downright fun. The same can be said of the final boss in the first game.
But the “final” fight had something that stood out: It was a massive plot point that was weighed down by drama. It was so much drama that all the depraved detailed bits were glossed over, via a built-in fast forward button sequence Travis implements. Because who has time for all the serious business in a game like No More Heroes? Not when mature dialogue would delay our precious video games thanks to age ratings approval boards.
There are other boss battle tracks in the game that I prefer to Rank 1’s, but for its fitting, brilliant “screw you” story moment at the end, this track deserves recognition.
Finally, why wouldn’t I include some version of the No More Heroes theme?
There are various mixes on the theme. I’m really loving the announcement trailer’s mix that plays around the 51-second mark, after Moon’s Hotline Miami track “Hydrogen”. There’s nothing more to say other than it has done its job. No matter the version, No More Heroes‘ instantly recognisable, upbeat sound is all I need to get me excited all over again that Travis is coming back. And I can’t wait to play and hear what’s next for everyone’s favourite otaku assassin when Travis strikes again.
If you have some of your favourite tracks to share from the games, or just wanted to talk about the series, please do!