For the past decade, the webcomic, manga and anime series One Punch Man has been a satirical look at the over-powered nature of superheroes. Instead of having a plucky up-and-comer as its main star, it has a character called Saitama, who is so strong that he went bald and can defeat any enemy with a single blow. The thing is, he hates this fact and is in a perpetual existential depression as a result. He finds no pleasure in anything other than getting food for cheap in a sale, and his catchphrase is “ok”. Honestly, it’s one of the best anime of the last few years, and it manages to be incredibly funny despite what should be a very boring premise.
Building a game around this anime should be more or less impossible. While the option could be there to show how he got to be so strong, that would defeat the whole point of the thing. You could also just power all the enemies up, but again, that would be pointless. So, instead of ruining the soul of the show, you don’t play as Saitama, you play as a rookie hero that you create. This allows you to follow along with Saitama’s story, see everything he sees and live through the events of the first season of the anime, but not get incredibly bored as you steamroll every opponent with nary a button-mash in sight.
This is, in my humble weeaboo opinion, the best idea for an anime game in existence. It deals with all of the potential issues by allowing the main character to still be a villain destroying monstrosity, and the concepts and mechanics it introduces to allow for a game that feels like the world One Punch Man is set in are sublime.
In addition to your custom creation, the game has characters of varying ability and hero rank from the show, but if you happen to have a higher powered character on your team, they’ll take longer to get to the battle. So, for example, Saitama takes around two minutes to arrive at a battle. You can reduce this timer by landing full combos and perfectly dodging attacks, and once he arrives, you basically win automatically by hitting the attack button at the right time.
On top of that, there are also a variety of events that can occur while you’re fighting. Some of these are silly, like the kid with balls for a chin turning up and kicking a football. The others are cataclysmic, like meteorites falling from the sky and dealing massive damage to whoever gets caught up in the explosions they cause. This makes each of the battles more dynamic than you would expect from an arena brawler, and that can only be a good thing.
If this were a review of the ideas of the game, it would be flawless, honestly. I love the attention to detail and the way they’ve made the concepts of the show transfer across so well. If only this were a review of just the ideas, eh?
In terms of how the game actually plays, it’s split into two parts: the adventuring and the fighting. The fighting, as I said, is an arena brawler, which means it has fairly simple controls, you’re waiting for special attacks to charge up, and (in this case) the feeling that everything is slightly off.
The building blocks of a good fighter are all there, but it never runs as smoothly as it should. Taking the brunt of a full combo knocks you down, which is fine, but you then spend a good two-seconds or so on the floor trying to recover and there’s nothing you can do to speed that up. It’s really annoying, and it turns each battle into one where you just end up standing around every so often.
The ideas to spice up the battle are really cool, but most of the time, you can just hammer light attack and be done with the fight before anything interesting happens. There’s still fun to be had, and it could well be that the less intense fighting system appeals to you, but I would have killed for this to have had a deeper combat system. Alas, I guess there’s no need when you can eventually just take everything out in one punch.
Then you’ve got the adventuring side of the game with your custom character. This has you running around the city, doing quests, buying items, rearranging furniture, and playing dress-up. This is all kind of fine? The quests end up being pretty repetitive, though there’s not a huge amount you can do with the tools here. The city itself is also bland, and the performance on PS4 regularly dips as you run around. You shouldn’t expect frame rate drops as you go down an alleyway, but here we are. Maybe Saitama is so strong that video games simply can’t contain him?