CEO, Grasshopper Manufacture
Did the game turn out as planned?
I think we managed to achieve almost everything we wanted to with No More Heroes, including having a stab at an openworld game. With a small team, we managed to put together all sorts of ideas and make a great game. I think we all felt that way.
What would you do differently if you had the chance to go back?
There were a lot of bugs in the UI. And the challenge of making an open world… It was supposed to be a small town, but I wanted it to be more of a mix [of activities], and on the current generation we can do that. But it’s actually more of a closed world, a small town where people live their lives, so I would like to have made more of that concept.
Why did you let Shinobu live after her defeat?
I wanted to have one character who was a bit like Travis’ apprentice, or a level below him, and Shinobu seemed like the right one. She became a very interesting character, I think.
Defeated enemies explode into a shower of coins, an effect that was also used in the Scott Pilgrim Vs The World movie.
We were first! We tried it out and it felt good to have those coins go kerching, kerching, kerching. It was very effective. I met [Scott Pilgrim director] Edgar Wright and he told me himself it wasn’t plagiarism!
Despite starring in a Nintendo exclusive, Travis had a fondness for rival hardware.
Yes, he has a Mega Drive and a Mega CD. Travis is a hardcore gamer, so he’d be into Sega hardware rather than Nintendo [laughs].
Still, the open-world section does serve a purpose, which is to act as a palate cleanser. To earn entry into the boss fights, players have to undertake deliberately monotonous part-time jobs, such as collecting coconuts from trees or mowing the lawn – tasks based on numbing repetition.
“During the fight sections, you tense up and have to be alert, so in the open-world section you can take it easy,” Suda says. “Travis doesn’t just fight; he also has to live his life… If you have to work a job, it makes you look forward to the fights even more.”
Ultimately, the combat proved so addictive and the presentation so charming that many critics and players found it easy to forgive the game’s shortcomings. “It reviewed better than we’d expected, which made us very happy,” Suda says. “We thought the game was fun to play with the Wii Remote, but we weren’t sure how the public would take to it. It’s such a strange game, and Travis is an idiot, so I wondered how it would fare overseas. But in the end the reaction was even better in the US and Europe than in Japan.”
Indeed, the original Wii version of the game sold some 290,000 copies in North America and 160,000 in Europe, plus a less-than-thrilling 40,000 in Japan. A sequel,
was quickly confirmed, again exclusive to Wii, and the original game was ported to PS3 and Xbox 360 as
(handled by Japanese publisher Marvelous Entertainment and Feelplus).
Grasshopper rarely makes sequels, preferring to focus on new IP where possible, but although he had been so close to killing off his hero for good, Suda says he was eager to return to Touchdown’s weird little world for
“was a smash hit as far as we were concerned, and I wanted to return to it and to make it a series over which we would take great care,” he says. “I often get asked to make a third game. Right now we’re busy with Let but Travis is a character we could even return to in ten years’ time. When the timing is right, I’d like to do so.” In addition to spawning a sequel,
expanded on what Grasshopper had begun with framing it as a top-rate actiongame studio with a subculture streak and setting in motion a loosely linked ‘series’ of thematically similar titles, including 2012’s giddily gaudy zombie slasher and 2013’s dark but grandiose
Suda knows he owes it all to Touchdown – and he feels that in the assassin lies not only a bit of himself and Johnny Knoxville, but also a bit of all of us. “Travis is a loser who eventually finds purpose,” Suda says. “OK, it’s as a killer, but in his chosen field he grows stronger and finds success. And as his fighting skills increase, so does his spirit. It’s a story about growing up. We all have to fight in our daily lives and to try hard, and by doing so our horizons become broader.
“Travis is a fighter, and he always looks forward to the next challenge. I wanted to make a game that would inspire players to feel excited about life.”