Review: No More Heroes III
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Available On: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4|5, and PC
Review Console: Playstation 5
OH, YOU’RE CRAZY! - Introduction
As a developer, Suda51 is a controversial figure. I’ve had many conversations with a plethora of individuals wondering why he has rabid fans. For anyone that’s played titles like Lollipop Chainsaw or Shadows of the Damned, it’s abundantly evident that he has a distinct brand of insanity. There’s zero logic to his approach to development, but that’s the appeal people lust after. Of course, that won’t apply to everything he touches. In fact, Sine Mora EX is tame in comparison to his other works. Still, every opinion I’ve heard echoes the same sentiment - his creations fall into two spectrums; either you love it, or it just isn’t your cup of tea. Whatever your thoughts, join me as I review the third chapter of Travis Touchdown’s life. Grab your beam sword, and let’s dive into this penetrative analysis.
HAVE YOU PLAYED IT!? - Writing
Buckle down your knickers and bear with me because I might struggle to articulate the craziness properly. First and foremost, however, it’s worth noting the obscene number of vulgarities. I wasn’t quite expecting the number of F-bombs. That said, No More Heroes 3 also has a tendency to break the fourth wall. It does so routinely by addressing the player directly or chastising the younger generation for their lack of patience. After all, they don’t allow for stories to evolve organically. This wink, wink, nudge, nudge nature is divisive, but if a self-aware script tickles your fancy, this is your jam. What won’t be is the over-reliance on knowledge of previous entries. While not being privy to them doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy myself, I missed obvious callbacks. Hell, it assumes I’m aware of brief cameos from characters found in the prior adventures.
I should preface that closing sentence by adding the missing context only affects relationships and never the overarching story. I still comprehend the general gist of things, such as an alien invasion threatening earth's existence. It retains an air of satisfaction and helps push the plotline forward. Where it lost me was those seemingly random insertions of friendlies, like a teenage boy that’s buddy-buddy with Travis or how said assassin can dawn a mechanized suit of Gundam armour. It’s a small gripe that’s also a double-edged sword. While I was confused by the lore Suda51 had built, I’m also pretty damn motivated to get into No More Heroes 1 & 2 to fill those holes. It’s a truth predominantly driven by the humour slathered in the dialogue - just remember the hilarity largely stems from how outrageous the writing gets, and not always due to witticism.
FRIENDS FOREVER! - Writing
Something I didn’t expect when first booting up No More Heroes 3 is just how relatable it is. It’s an astounding statement to make, I know, especially considering how balls to the wall it is. The thing is, the rampant chaos is beautifully balanced by the friendship between Travis and another bloke. See, before each chapter, a cutscene consists of both on a couch discussing movies. They chat about their favourites from a specific director, and it’s the manner that they converse in that’s oddly warm. It reminds me of my youth when I’d hang out with my best friend. We’d shoot the crap about shows and get unreasonably excited if we had an identical opinion on an anime. Seeing that comradery was delightful. Sure, it adds nothing to the plot, but the flavouring it infuses into this gaming dish is honestly delectable. My appetite was satiated.
TRANQUILO, MAN! - Writing
You know, it’s a surprise I’m into my fourth paragraph of the literary aspect because No More Heroes 3 doesn’t focus on delivering a compelling exposition. Yet, here I am, doing exactly that because, for newcomers, the lunacy may be a turn-off. If you soldier through, however, then you’ll be shocked by how the narrative attempts to evoke emotion. I don’t mean sadness or grief, though. In no world does it remotely nail either. It’s the way everyone, including antagonists, is presented in an unorthodox manner. They have weird personalities interlaced with their cruelty and bloodlust. As strange as it sounds, it lends itself to humanizing them. Not to the level of garnering sympathy, but it adds an extra layer to those that would have otherwise been one-dimensional. I’m particularly smitten by how it portrays the psychotic mindset with such vigour.
MAKING SWIFT MOVEMENT! - Gameplay
No More Heroes 3 gives the player a chance to massacre enemies in a whirlwind of death mercilessly. It’s an absolute bloodbath, painting the surrounding area a crimson red. If I’m being honest, it’s a glorious sight and immensely gratifying. More importantly, I was engaged at all times. Battling never became this mindless slog of button mashing because it demands I keep a keen eye on the action. I had to pay the utmost attention to the rapid movements of my foes or suffer defeat. It won’t simply be slashing away with a beam sword, though. See, Travis has a small selection of abilities. Thanks to an intuitive control scheme, I found them extremely easy to pull off. My momentum was never interrupted, seamlessly flowing. A tiny complaint of mine is it’s not tricky to miss totally. Yes, there’s a lock-on feature, but executing right is awkward.
What is moderately bothersome is evasion itself. See, whenever I attack, I’m unable to cancel midway. I have to commit, which isn’t a big deal at surface value. The trouble begins inching closer if we consider the velocity of strikes. As I’m feverishly pressing to swing my weapon, I’d notice an incoming offensive. If I’m not cognizant of the number of times I’d tap the action command, I didn’t dodge roll away from harm. Admittedly, I did eventually wrap my head around this mechanic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a means to eliminate all the cheap shots I’d endure, although it does mitigate the frequency. If, however, I still succumbed to an assault, I never lost progress. In fact, I’m given the option to retry the battle. Not only that, but there’s an ever-so-slight chance of receiving a boost, such as increasing my damage output - it’s very forgiving.
MENIAL TASKS! - Gameplay
If ever you desire a break from the hustle and bustle of murdering alien scum, well, there are sidequests scattered throughout the open world. Their quality is questionable, at best, and the mundane nature may deter many. For anyone familiar with the No More Heroes franchise, they usually take the form of generic chores. I had an option to either pick up trash floating in the water or mow a lawn. It’s pretty uneventful, to say the least, and, much like the writing, it’s contentious. To be honest, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad, with cleaning up garbage as I maneuvered around alligators being fun but trimming grass being anything but that. Finally, the reason my session never felt bogged down was that I could finish up in no time. For my money, though, the leading attraction is the battles, and thankfully, they’re plentiful.
AN ACTION RPG!? - Gameplay
A facet I neglected to mention is the RPG elements imbued into this action romp. Apart from the abilities I’ve already mentioned, there are also passive tactics. To learn them, I regret to inform you that it requires a semblance of grinding. Fortunately, it doesn’t consist of aimlessly searching for random encounters. Instead, it’s centred on a sole location. Initiating a battle is a case of selecting an already defeated opponent from inside a time machine that’s situated in the hub motel basement. The rewards given for every victory aren’t limited to the currency used to purchase techniques, either, but materials for crafting, too. Never fret, as I wasn’t deceptive about the combat. It’s Goddamn blissful and contributes to staving off redundancy and repetition. The ability to slaughter monsters in two or so minutes, or a couple of cases, mere seconds, helps, as well.
UNUSUAL COMBAT! - Gameplay
Now, I’d love to acknowledge the creativity dripping from the boss fights. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. Not because it infuses a new twist to the action title recipe but because, as has been documented, it’s formulaic. One can expect to slice and dice with a whole heap of rolling to safety. The exciting aspect begins with the distinct themes and carries into the imaginative battle set-up. For example, the first is traditional, having you avoid projectiles before dealing death blows. During the second, however, the stakes are somewhat increased. While it’s mainly identical, Travis can also utilize the environment as a pseudo-ally to inflict extra damage. As I’d continue, the altercations got even more unconventional. I can’t not applaud the out-of-the-box thinking. It perfectly encapsulates the madness of No More Heroes. It kept things fresh. I also hope all of you love partaking in musical chairs.
WAS THAT ALWAYS THERE?! - Presentation
You’d assume gracing more powerful hardware would bring along better graphical fidelity. Sadly, that isn’t what happens. Granted, textures have gotten a minor upgrade, but pop-in persists to a moderate degree. In general, though, the visuals are crispier. The catch is it retains a bland aesthetic. The area masquerading as the open world is lifeless. It’s creepy and empty, with NPCs sprinkled about and walking the streets with zero purpose. It’s a classic case of having a massive playground but lacking density for it to work. It’s boring, which is awful considering the collectibles scattered throughout. It’s a damn chore to find them, though, but that isn’t the baffling part. See, Travis has a motorcycle that helps ease traversal, and there’s an item detector, too. The caveat is for that to function properly; I can’t be on the bike - these mechanics clash.
WHERE DID YOU COME FROM?! - Presentation
Another aspect I found annoying is that, despite No More Heroes 3 wanting to emulate a sprawling space, it doesn’t. Invisible walls are everywhere, and I’m not referencing when they act as boundaries. Doing that is fine, and from a design perspective, it’s understandable. I begin questioning matters when, while making my way through an area and seeing something in the distance, I’m stopped suddenly by a barrier. It doesn’t matter that the obstacle standing in my way can be hopped over. The game forcefully made me take a detour when I could just jump. It makes zero sense that it does this. All it succeeds in doing is frustrating me to no end and discouraging me from obtaining 100% completion. That seems like the total opposite of what’s supposedly desired from me. At least the primary path is linear, meaning I could avoid this gripe altogether.
YUP, DEFINITELY CRAZY! - Sound Design
Let’s be honest; the voice acting is far from a masterclass of emotional nuance. Heartache is out of the window, and it struggles to draw even an ounce of sympathy. With that said, it does a Goddamn superb job of channelling the lunatic mind of Suda51. Everyone has this cold and distant cadence with an underbelly of being utterly demented. I could sense the deranged nature of an individual by their tone. Yet, there are a surprising bit of layers. For example, Travis has an inkling of childish glee whenever he’s talking about movies with his boy. It’s fascinating to hear. The musical musings themselves also validate a need to play the first two. Late into No More Heroes 3, there’s a boss with a sorrowful track. When combined with their suspicious banter, it makes me wonder about their history. There’s more I don’t know, thus diminishing the confrontation.
AND THE NOT-SO-HEROIC VERDICT IS…
No More Heroes 3 is a deliciously vicious romp worth a playthrough. Point Blank; it's a bloody blast. It’s also one of the few titles that ran the synonym pool dry. At the risk of being a broken record, everything I witnessed was insane, bonkers, and incredibly daft. Thanks to intuitive controls, I was smooth stepping, doing the tango of blades and death with my beam sword. Speaking of, that relies on energy, and as it depletes, it requires a charge. It’s a simple task, but when done whilst standing, Travis crouches and then makes a masturbatory gesture. Yup, that’s the level of humour and encapsulates what to expect with Suda51. As a wrestling fan, I adore that Travis whips out Backdrops or a Belly to Belly slam. Since the cost of admission is cheaper on Nintendo Switch, wait for a sale before buying.
No more heroes 3 is highly recommended.
Special thanks to XSeed for providing the code used for this coverage.