As many already know, Travis Touchdown is my favorite video game character out there. It really does help that this character is created by Suda 51 a game maker that I heavily adore. Still this is not Suda’s first character so what makes Travis stick to the wall compared to other characters in general. Well the first thing for me that worked was how over the top Travis was and yet grounded in this interesting reality where he himself is not the craziest thing. There is an assassin that dresses like a superhero and he came back after being split in half as two different people. Travis just waving around his beam katana and jerking it off does not seem that crazy now does it? So, I want to look at all the instances Travis has popped up which I know many will just go “He only has three games” but just you wait I got a trump card or two.
In the beginning for Travis Touchdown, we have the original No More Heroes (shocking I know). Still it is interesting to look back at when this game was called Heroes too. When Travis first appears, we don’t know who he is as of yet. Travis hides himself under a brown cloak similar to something a Jedi Knight would wear. The battle Travis has ends up being quicker than he thought and in the first moments of the game Travis just treats the fight like “Bada Bing.” This is the first thing about the man, he seems to be getting no satisfaction from these fights. Even the one with Death Metal left him feeling like this and even with other fights he just shrugs them off. Travis loves the build up for a fight and yet he always seems so calm when it is all over. Still back to the trailer where Sylvia tells Travis there is going to be more action heading in his direction and he loves the idea of that. Now to bring out a trump card we can also look at No More Loser, a short manga that came with No More Heroes 2 in Japan. In this we get to see the bit where Travis and Helter fight it out. Travis mentions that in the end all the assassins in a way are idiots and in the end all they got left to their job and that is to kill.
Travis in the beginning always had this feeling of just wanting to get to the good part. The fight itself is great and the ending should feel like a great climax. In many ways it could be how a gamer would feel about any boss fight. We want to feel great for fighting a strong foe. Travis even has a big monologue to himself with the first boss fight of the game. He is simply eating up every moment and then he ends up acting calm when the fight is over while the cutscene starts to play. In many ways it is how we can feel after a big video game fight because we know it is safe when its over. Travis is already having these little connections to the actual player. Travis being a gamer is a huge part of his character and the road for him gets bumpy with that mentality.
Is Travis a truly bad person? Yes! He certainly is and even when sparing someone he only did it for another fight in the future. One thing that people love is a challenge in their video games (at least that was the mentality back then before everything got called Dark Souls). Shinobu even ended up being a fan favorite and she has come back in the sequel and spin-off. It was like Travis had some odd sense of future sight did it not? Travis then has one moment with another assassin named Holly where he could not kill her. Holly even says that Travis simply could not kill a woman which could say something for Shinobu as well, after that though Travis had no trouble slicing a lady in half or stabbing them in the gut. The encounter with Holly is different because Holly was a big curveball in the league of assassins. Travis ends up wanting to get to the good parts though and while fighting her got to realize she has a lot going on. Holly waxed a whole lot of poetics and she had a great mind to pick at. Travis felt like many of us at this point and wanted to know more of her, but that could not be the case since this is a video game and the game has to get to the next fight. Travis finally feels remorse for once and ever since then he had no trouble with hesitating ever again, he saw the truth that is death.
One fight to bring up would be the one Travis has with Harvey, the magician. Notice the empty audience and yet Travis still acts like he is putting on a grand show for a full crowd. Another idea to point at for the gamer persona because of how many people who play games alone still feel like they need to gloat. Now these days though we got people who stream and record their play sessions and it is still interesting to see how this mindset works. Along with that two other fights that fit with Travis’ personality would be Bad Girl and Jeane. When people see Bad Girl, she seems crazy and you are right to assume that and Travis even calls her out on it. This girl though pretty much says that her and Travis are the same, they are killing for pleasure. In reality many gamers are indeed killing virtual characters for the sake of a good time. This whole exchange is to give someone a sense of feeling like a hypocrite. Then the fight with Jeane has a funny fourth wall breaking moment that in reality shows the true nature of this. Jeane has a deep and dark backstory that was interesting to hear, but for that first time it was funny and awesome to skip a long explanation. There used to be a mentality for when games took a bit too long to get to the action and people complained so much about this. It’s funny that the gamer that is Travis points out Bad Girl’s problems, he ends up being that same problem at the next fight.
For Travis’ last fight in the first game he has more fourth wall breaking moments and Henry exposing the truth. The use of Henry here is a fun one since he straight up says that he thought both Travis and the gamer would notice a twist of fate. This final fight for the first game has Travis and Henry going down on a long road talking about finding paradise. The scene ends with the two having both weapons at their necks and maybe this was the true paradise. Many fans of this game loved Henry’s fight and say it’s still one of the best of the series. In a way the paradise Travis was looking for and a satisfying end was with his one true rival. So, Travis in the first game is an arrogant gamer. He gets cocky and takes challenges by the horns. The connection he shares with the gamer is truly important and how that stays true for his overall process of a character.
In the sequel for a game many was not even expecting, the grand return of Travis Touchdown was surely something to witness. The original director took a seat for the most part, but he still made sure things felt right with the overall presentation. The number one thing to feel with Travis in this game is that he has become a legend. In a short called No More Heroes 1.5 we see that Santa Destroy sees Travis as this legend. Travis even had a statue of himself! This is not only by the people in his world though. The first No More Heroes did become a cult hit and so to engage in this sequel many things got upscaled. So how would any gamer feel with going back into the previous world they already defeated? High chance they would feel like they are invincible and live up to the glory of a sequel. That is how Travis feels, he has now become the legend he wanted to fight for so long.
While people have issues with how Travis ended up being portrayed I for one personally like the idea that this sequel did not repeat the same thing twice. Again, it would be silly for Travis to be fooled into the ranking fights again, this time they are real because of his previous battles. Sylvia does use her usual tricks to get him, but there was another driving force in action. The idea of revenge was used for this game so that the player can just be blindly killing foes without remorse again. This fits with Travis since he is now seeing some foes as being in the way and he needs to progress just like a gamer would. How bad would it have been if after defeat Charlie Macdonald it did only count as one kill and not jumping up to rank twenty-five? Even if this game has more bosses than the original, still going through more could have been a punishment or bore to some. There are gamers out there who aim for shorter pleasures.
With Travis advancing the ranks for revenge he still does hit a moment of realization and unlike the use of one assassin like in the first game it takes more of them to get what he feels by the end of this game. It begins with Ryuji and this duel to Travis was once in a lifetime. I can even admit after the horrible bike fight; his actual fight is a great one. The sunset in the background and facing another modern samurai is just a great thematic to use against Travis. So, when things are over the gamer would normally expect the finisher to be the usual quick prompt to make you feel good. Well this time it only ends the duel with Ryuji alive the real finishing touch is done by Sylvia in a scene and not by the player. Travis feels grief for how his foe was taken down and the player would feel the same way since we did not do it ourselves.
Travis then meets up with rank four and while I have talked about this just recently it is important to establish that she sings with blunt honesty. The whole idea that Travis fights for revenge in these ranking fights is dumb. There is no honor anymore to be had here which is funny because Travis still held onto his honor for Ryuji. Travis even ends up remembering the song being sung to him about his hypocritical ways as he whistles it in the night sky. This is an important factor since Travis already established that he does not fully remember every fight he had or at least his first one. As said before, Travis got full of himself and started to forget what made him a fighter in the first place. Travis was fed by the media to be the hero he wanted to be, but that was simply impossible for the disturbing world he lives in. No fantasy or fiction, this is his real life. Even if Travis was fed a code of honor from the violent media he watched and he actually lost it in the beginning of this sequel. He only started to gain it back in Travis Strikes Again.
The fight that makes Travis break down the most though was Alice. It is funny to mention that many assassins here are afraid they cannot simply just leave the fights and yet the main character simply says to quit. For the main character it must be easy until that sequel comes around and another sequel and a spin off even! At this point while Travis was gaining his honor back, he gets to well talk again with these assassins and Alice and one other assassin have the longest moments to actually talk with him. That other assassin was Dr. Letz Shake, a fighter Travis missed out on from the first game. Of course, Travis would eat up every second with a fight he could not have before, the player would too. With Alice is really screams tones of Holly because we want to know more of her and yet that is not the purpose of a video game, these two are here to fight and kill.
When Alice is killed, Travis just loses it. Travis has broken the fourth wall before and even at the beginning of this game. Here though it feels like he breaks a bond with his gamer personality for a moment. Travis shouts out saying that while he and other characters here are fictional, they are still alive. They have been given life by a creator and that hand also brings death. The creation came from the excitement of another story for Travis and the death comes from wanting to see that story in its full glory. This became more about Travis hating the fact he took someone’s life just for this meaningless pleasure and of course this had to be right before number one.
Knowing what comes next which ends up being a disappointing last fight does really make that moment bigger in comparison. Travis came to fight number one just to end all of this madness, not only his revenge, but also for the ranking fights. Travis did have some ideas in this head of who this number one assassin would be, but it was never about how strong they were. Travis just kept thinking of how he will look and how that look will change when he dies. A bit funny that this was Travis’ last fight for many years to come, at least for the players. The game even ends with Travis just meeting back up with Sylvia and not wanting to return for fights or some glory of that kind, he just wanted to see her safe. I bet many players did not really worry about that and just saw that as a teaser for a third game (like I did in the past). So, did Travis end up losing his gamer personality at this point and what did that end up resulting into?
Before getting to Travis Strikes Again, the otaku had one appearance before the new game. This was in a manga written by Suda 51 called Kurayami Dance. In this manga, the main character was given lessons from a professional assassin as a reward. Two masked figures then find this legendary assassin and all he is doing is playing video games in a trailer. It was obviously Travis Touchdown. Everything is on point with the hair, glasses, and when the two pop into his trailer he says the same line to anyone else looking for a fight. “Take one more step and you’re dead.” The two masked figures just stop in their tracks, Travis only sent out one threat while looking at his television screen and that causes the two to shutter. Travis even says some words about the main character saying that he became a monster because of his passion for revenge. Travis can actually relate to this and it might have been a moment of reflection for him. On top of that, Travis is just alone. He has his cat with him, but that is it, what happened with Sylvia? This was only a small taste of what comes later, but it is interesting that Travis was already in this trailer before any announcement of a new No More Heroes title.
Now we get to Travis’ most recent debut back into the video game scene. Why does Travis pop up now of all times? Well as the title suggests, Travis has become a forgotten legend. People do know of his battles and his love for video games, but Travis has been gone for a long time in both our world and his own world. One thing to notice is that Travis’ outbursts go back to how he was in the original game. They are small outbursts and have a bit more random nature to them. One thing on top of it all is that Travis gets pissed off differently than usual. When he complains about one of the games he is in and even getting mad with other people in the visual novel scenes. He just seems bored for the most part, it feels like he would easily do something else. Travis has mentioned that he got tired of risking his life in the ranking fights. It seems Travis was still at a high point in his life with the ranking fights. He was probably number one for quite some time. Travis even had a wife and kid which we know who that wife is, but what about that kid? Is that nonsense ending in No More Heroes actually a canon thing now?
Travis had to leave and seeing how he looked and acted when the two killers in Kurayami Dance and Badman approached him, he did seem tired. Sure, Travis was having some fun with Badman, but that fun was being pointed to us, the audience. This man got too absorbed into his video games and why is that? Well it all comes back to a big theme from the original game, paradise. Travis’ real life with the fights was not for him anymore. There was too much and was happening too many times from what he says. He got fed up with it and wanted to find his paradise which he has talked about in the beginning with Death Metal and at the end with Henry, it was even brought up when he was saved by Sylvia at the end of the second game. His real life just ended up having too much baggage for him, to be honest Travis’ and Sylvia’s relationship would end up being chaotic and who knows what people Travis has been forced to kill or just had to deal with. Badman was just another pain in his ass, especially when he was playing Hotline Miami!
The use of Hotline Miami is a big showcase here because if you know anything about Suda 51 recently, he loves that game. This is an easy way to see what Suda was planning to do with Travis, the forgotten legend who has been gone from the scene for too long. It sounds a bit too familiar right? Suda came back to direct this title personally and the last time this happened was with Travis’ introduction. Not only is this the return of these two, Travis got his head to be the logo of the company and Suda is back in game development. Both have gotten a bit in their age, Suda literally being fifty-one years old right now. Travis is even nearing his forties! So, a big showcase is that Travis ends up getting his passion back, but how?
Well through video games of course! Travis and Badman fight video game characters and while their adventures in the Death Drive had flaws and filled with bugs, there was tons of creative input put into them. Something that Travis as an avid gamer saw. Travis even had to fight a hero that he looked up to and hasn’t seen a new adventure for this character in years. He had to kill someone that Travis molded his life around. Travis even had to kill the glorious game creator that he also got to look up to. There are even other bosses that Travis had many interesting lines with. With Doppelganger, Travis pointed out that this killer had no real motivation, he just became insane. Travis got to see how one has to man up and live till their life has no real purpose anymore with Brian Buster Jr. Smoking King got a lot of respect from Travis and he tells the king to race again and see how that feels, similarly with how Travis is fighting again in a video game. Travis got to feel like a fan boy again when fighting Johnson… I mean Eight Hearts. Along with the Shadows of the Damned section, Travis really saw how Dr. Juvenile was forced into these situations when all she wanted to do was create lovely works of fiction. Then with Juvenile herself, Travis tells her that while life was hard on her, she can get through it and in the end, she can achieve what she wanted in the end. Travis got to see how it feels to be away because he left a lot behind.
The final moment for Travis is when he gets to Mars, yes this actually happens. There Travis sees another person of interest in his life. The father of the doctor and the creator of the original Death Drive console, John Winters. This scene was big for Travis as this was it, paradise! Travis found himself in a world where pleasures are no real worries and he can satisfy his basic needs while not worrying about his life on the line. Winters tells Travis all of this and even asks him to stay. Travis ends up denying it though. While life has its baggage, some of it is fully part of his life and he has to own up to them. Travis cannot be gone forever, people need him, like a wife and kid. Travis has affected the world around him more than he thought and now he needs to get back into the scene. At this moment too, Travis even got to experience the one pleasure he never gotten before, death. The only way out of paradise was by getting murdered. Travis finally dies once in his life and feels the cold embrace. It was a wakeup call to Travis and now he knows this feeling that will push him forward to living a grand life.
The last thing to bring up then is how Travis is at the end of Travis Strikes Again. At the beginning when Badman first approaches him he gives him a warning because Travis just wants to play video games. Sure, he fought Badman when the warning was ignored, but Travis did not give Badman much notice in a strange way. Travis was still trying to steal the spotlight and when the Death Drive mk2 booted up, he responded with being annoyed. Then at the credit scene for this game when Badman goes and tries to beat Travis for calling his daughter a “fucking mutt” we can hear Travis laughing. Before that too, Travis even says that bloodshed sounds nice right about now. He found his inner desire to let loose again and that could have been done with that experience of death he had.
Travis Touchdown really goes through a huge roller coaster in the span of three games and some side stories. He started out as a young assassin just wanting sex and finds himself killing his past later on. Later on, he has to deal with his past again with someone wanting revenge on him which caused him to want revenge as well. Then to where Travis got tired of the whole ordeal and tried to escape from it all. Through self-reflection and seeing how others tried to leave their pasts behind them just ended up ruining them. Dr. Juvenile felt too strong with her ambitions and tried to kill the world that gotten rid of her father. That father in question escaped life itself and lives in paradise. So how will Travis appear in his third game? We will only know when it happens. From this point onward though, Travis is no longer afraid and is going to live life to how he wants to. He will be back to experience the bloodshed one more time even if there will be hurdles on that road. Travis I just got one thing to tell you. Just press that “A” button and let the bloodshed begin, its game time!