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No More Heroes 3 on Nintendo
The No More Heroes games have always been a bit of a black sheep among the typically happy-go-lucky titles in the Wii library. The blood, violence, and profanity never quite aligned with the typical Nintendo look. However, it would be a shame to think that shock value is all this franchise has to offer. And No More Heroes 3 yet again proves that Suda51 and the development team at Grasshopper Manufacture are artful masters of the action game genre.
An action game is nothing without interesting characters and No More Heroes 3 has incredibly memorable characters in spades. Anyone who has been paying even the smallest amount of attention to the trailers for this game is likely familiar with Prince FU (aka Jess Baptiste VI). But besides the big bad guy of this title, there’s an entire organization of galactic “superheroes” with wild designs in their own right.
Even with the bizarre, nonsensical names that sound as if they were created by a random name generator like Black Night Direction, Sonic Juice, and Paradox Bandit, they’re clearly not an afterthought by any means. Each member of the Galactic Superhero Corps has their own distinct personality and an equally unique design to match.
And then there’s Damon, FU’s unfortunate long-time friend who took in the alien prince when his ship crashed 20 years prior. His presence is fairly inconsequential throughout most of the story, but the fact that he’s still alive after FU’s return shows that the alien has at least a sense of loyalty.
Comparatively, the sheer number of characters that could be considered the good guys is much lower. The crew of Shinobu, Gregory Bishop, Bad Girl, Bad Man, the cat Jeane, are all there, but only one character is playable throughout the game. That one playable character is none other than the pro-wrestling-obsessed passing assassin known as Travis Touchdown.
Despite the general peace in Santa Destroy, CA, everything turns around quickly for Travis and his friends when FU along with his band of alien superheroes decide to wreak havoc and attempt to take over the planet. But of course, Travis mounts a resistance and decides to take on the Galactic Superhero ranks with the goal of reaching the top and taking out Jess Baptiste VI.
The whole idea of climbing the ranks is somewhat of a reused idea from the original game, but it’s the way that the story is told that makes it fantastic. The whole experience of No More Heroes 3 is told through a series of episodic segments bookended by catchy intro and outro themes. There’s even a next episode timer that appears in the lower right that’s reminiscent of many video streaming services.
In a longer game, this cycle of intro theme, battling enemies, battling a boss, credits theme, then jumping to the next section might get too repetitive. Fortunately, No More Heroes 3 wraps up before it outstays its welcome.
On top of that, the game helps players avoid burnout by giving clear stopping points for gaming sessions between episodes and short scenes where Travis and his friend, Gregory Bishop, go on and on about their love for Japanese filmmaker, Takashi Miike. These scenes with Bishop help build Travis’ character and give off a relaxed attitude following an intense boss battle.
What’s more, the writing in the Bishop scenes shows off the humanity that Travis so badly needs. Sure, he’s a bloodthirsty assassin, but these conversations serve to show that Travis truly just wants to sink into his couch and shoot the breeze about his favorite movies and anime all while drinking beer with his best friend.
Although the rest of the game doesn’t try to make you relate to Travis, the writing is still fantastic. Each member of the Galactic Superhero Corp stays true to their voice throughout the game. There are lines that are a bit corny like an antagonistic character who starts dropping “oh snaps” and “snippity snaps.” But considering the overall quirky nature of the writing in the game as a whole, a line like that doesn’t feel out of place.
Additionally, with so many different characters, the writing also manages to help players differentiate between them. Of course, their varied designs help as well, but the vastly different voices and speaking styles of the Galactic Super Hero Corps aliens add another layer to make each individual a memorable villain.
Unfortunately, the visual side of the game isn’t as redeeming as the characters, story, or writing. There’s nothing wrong with having a vision for an art style that isn’t hyper-realistic and then executing that vision. If anything the art direction in No More Heroes 3 is fantastic. The problem is that if this game was a tool, it would be a saw because of all of the rough edges.
At almost every camera change in a cutscene, there are multiple background and foreground textures that take too long to load. To be clear, the textures usually load in within less than two seconds, but that’s too slow for a completed game considering the fact that it happens consistently throughout No More Heroes 3 and sometimes even multiple times in a single scene.
There are also pop-ins which is forgivable since even the best gaming hardware available can’t eliminate this issue. But what’s not forgivable is that I counted about two or three scenes that have atrociously bad audio and video desync. The only positive that can be had from that is that it at least only happened in a few short scenes.
Although there are some glaring technical issues that need to be polished, the game’s character designs are a wildly bright sight to behold. Vanishing Point’s vector graphics-looking body, Velvet Chair Girl’s bioweapon called Oma, and Midori Midorikawa’s sentient hands are all perfect examples of the
But as the main villain should, FU exemplifies everything that is great about the characters in No More Heroes 3. His bold red and blue coloring stick out in any scene and his giant head of white lion’s mane-like hair make this alien prince instantly memorable and recognizable. And if that’s not enough, then there’s a giant v-shaped gold crown of sorts that works as a marker of royalty.
FU’s personality is also solidly consistent throughout the story of No More Heroes 3. He’s an evil, bloodthirsty villain that doesn’t think twice about mass murder, but he’s not a static character with a one-dimensional personality. That murderous switch can definitely be flipped in an instant. However, at other times it’s clear that FU still has a little bit of decency left behind by the kindness Damon showed him when he crashed on Earth.
Even though there are moments of calm for even the most vicious characters in No More Heroes 3, do not be fooled. The latest game in this franchise is still plenty bloody and violent when you get into combat.
Besides Travis’ Beam Katana, he also can also throw out some pretty nasty pro-wrestling moves. If you need some space, just use a jumping dropkick. Time will slow down if you perform a perfect dodge which allows you to quickly get behind an enemy for a german suplex. Or if you stun an enemy you can grab them to perform an even stronger grapple like a brainbuster, fisherman suplex, belly-to-belly slam, or backbreaker.
And just to add a bit of tension, your Beam Katana can run out of energy. But it’s easy enough to charge it back up by holding a shoulder button and moving the right stick up and down.
Typically, charging and throws require you to use the sticks, but playing with separated Joy-Con lets you use motion controls. The motion controls work effortlessly in battle, but to no fault of the game, they’re not my ideal control method. The sticks on the Joy-Con are a bit too small for a fast-paced action game like No More Heroes 3. Still, Focusing on managing your power level while dealing out damage makes battles wonderfully intense and challenging.
Likewise, Travis’ moves that are tied to the Death Glove give him the ability to hit enemies constantly in a circular area, slow them down, dropkick them, or throw them across a room with a psychic ability. These powerful moves give you even more combat options and are put on a cooldown timer, so you can’t constantly use them.
If you want to shorten the cooldown time, then you can craft chips from enemy drops that shorten your wait time. These chips can also be used to boost attacks, throws, and much more. But even the chips are expertly balanced since some will give you a considerable boost while simultaneously decreasing your abilities in another category.
But Travis’ deadly arsenal doesn’t stop there. Any time you defeat an enemy, slots appear on the screen that can give Travis more money or power-ups. These bonuses let Travis become invincible, do an infinite stream of attacks for a limited time, or even throw enemies without having to stun or run behind them first. But the most powerful boosts are the Armor Modes.
From the reveal trailer, Full Armor Mode looks impressive, but it’s a bit short-lived. This suit of armor only lasts for a single massive homing attack, and it’s absolutely worth it for the amount of damage that it deals to enemies and bosses.
Better yet is Green Armor Mode, which looks very much like the standard armor but with green accents. Plus, you can actually stay in this mode for more than a single attack. Travis hovers just above the ground and can dash around using the jets on the suit of armor. But since it’s so powerful, Green Armor Mode runs out after a short time or following the use of the super powerful homing or physical attacks tied to the trigger buttons.
But most of all, Bougainvillea Mode is the supreme form of Travis’ armor. However, it’s only used against bosses that are floating in open space and it only has two attacks. One of the moves uses homing projectiles aimed by a lock-on system and another is just a giant laser that deals massive damage.
Some of these bosses that you fight while in Bougainvillea Mode are found in Designated Battles. These general areas of these fights are marked on the map with a yellow circle until you get close enough to the actual spot and the map marker turns into a star.
The Designated Battles act as a right of passage to the main boss battles in No More Heroes 3. These fights consist of standard enemy battles, wave battles, or mini-boss fights. After you’ve completed enough Designated Battles to reach the next boss, then you must also obtain enough UtopiCoin (the in-game currency) and deposit the necessary amount into an atm.
The process can be a little bit of a cyclical grind, but it never takes too long to obtain enough UtopiCoin to battle bosses. You will usually earn the amount of currency you need as long as you complete every Designated Battle in the area of the world where you are.
If you’re still running slightly short on UtopiCoins, then there are always mini-games, which are abundant across all five of the six different locations around the game world. Saving the coast from a giant alligator attack, mowing lawns, and unclogging public toilets are just a few of the odd jobs Travis can pick up to get a little more cash. And best of all, unclogging toilets unlocks the public bathrooms as save points.
Besides UtopiCoin, there’s also the WESN currency which is used to power up Travis’ stats and unlock new moves. And for the collectors out there, UtopiCoin or WESN can be used in the surprisingly addictive gacha machines at the No More Heroes Motel to obtain detailed assassin and alien figurines.
In addition to the fantastic gameplay, the game’s soundtrack is just one stunning piece after another. The frantic nature of the battle music gets you in the mood to relentlessly slash aliens and toss them around like rag dolls. The killer beat at the sushi shop gets you hyped up when you’re preparing to take on a boss despite the fact that the lyrics are literally just about sushi.
Most of all, the anime-style intro helps put the player in the right mindset to first get amped up for battle. And then the credits song is much more relaxed and the somber vocals make you feel a sense of calm and reflection on the surely difficult battles that you just persevered through. The music in this game is sure to be an underrated way that No More Heroes 3 makes players feel intense emotion.
No More Heroes 3 absolutely lives up to the hype and delivers one of the best action game experiences to come out this year. It’s even arguably one of the best Switch games in general so far this year.
The gameplay cycle of defeating enemies, paying for entry to a boss, then beating the boss can certainly start to feel like a grind in a bad way. However, there’s enough of an interlude in between and plenty of mini-games to enjoy to help break up the feeling of monotony.
The biggest issue at hand is the frequent textures that are slow to load in cutscenes. This unsightly problem certainly breaks up the tension in some of the game’s most intense scenes.
Fortunately, the fantastic gameplay, music, story, writing, and character design are all ways that No More Heroes 3 more than makes up for the game’s shortcomings. It has been well worth the wait for diehard fans and is easily recommendable to anyone who enjoys action games.
Reviewer: Omar Banat | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- WIld character design
- Quirky and hilarious writing
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Skillful combat
- Engrossing storytelling
- Clearly noticeable pop-ins
- Textures are slow to load in some cutscenes
- Occasional audio desync
- Repetitious gameplay cycle
Aug. 8, 2021