I’m just coming down off the insanity that is the end of No More Heroes 3. Suda 51 has an incredible mind, with his past work producing a bevy of wild games that dared to go beyond the normal realms of gaming. It’s fair to say though that with this one Mr Suda has dialled it up to eleven: No More Heroes 3 is bonkers.
When I started NMH3 up, I almost immediately felt like I was playing an episode of One Punch Man, with Travis, the Passing Assassin, fighting a bunch of nasty alien invaders to save the planet. The story even unfolds as such, with chapters being split into episodes, having a title play with rocking theme music, and finishing with a credits roll. You even get a Netflix style ‘next episode’ play button as you move on to the next chapter, complete with a G which I can only assume is Grasshopperflix?
The game starts two decades ago where a young lad called Damon discovered a tiny cute alien called FU. It’s your classic E.T. bit where a small boy helps an alien return home. The difference here is that FU promises to come back in twenty years time to visit, leaving Damon with a parting gift – alien tech. Fast-forward to present day, Damon has used said tech to become an extremely wealthy businessman and establish Utopia. FU makes good on his promise and returns to Earth, but not alone. Turns out that while he was away, he became a bit of a dick, blew up a nearby planet and is now hellbent on subjugating Earth. Enter Travis who has something to say about all of this.
From here, it’s pretty balls to the wall from start to finish. Fans of the series will be immediately comfortable with what’s on offer, with crass dialogue and extreme gore taking precedence. It’s loaded with references to other media and previous entries, as well NMH’s usual offering of wild characters.
Smashing the gameplay loop
Because video games, Travis has to climb the Galactic Super Hero Rankings to take on FU and grind his ass into dust. This involves earning cash and paying your entry fee for each boss fight. It, in essence, is a very simple gameplay loop. Designated matches need to be completed before you qualify, also earning you currency in the process. Once again, this will feel very familiar for those who’ve played the previous entries.
I was slightly concerned that the continued process of doing three designated matches and then a boss would get stale, but NMH3 does enough to make sure that doesn’t happen, making most boss fights unique enough to warrant the continued progress. Even the fights in between have a ramping difficulty that in some cases really makes you work for the victory. Or, sometimes you get lucky with the Slash Reel.
During combat, finishing an opponent or dealing enough damage triggers the Slash Reel, an on-screen slot machine with varying results. More interestingly, getting 777 grants you access to Full Armour Mode where Travis basically becomes a Gundam and capable of dealing massive damage. I had this a few times during encounters where I got lucky and activated it two or three times in a row. It can make quick work of the bosses.
Combat is king
The base combat feels fantastic, giving you access to an abundance of moves to master. Of course, you have the Perfect Dodge, which slows time briefly after executing. I can see this being vital for Death difficulty runs where you die in one hit. As per the previous games, attacks are managed with the energy bar, where attacking too many times without recharging means you won’t be able to attack anymore, forcing you to recharge. Recharging is done by holding the right trigger and wiggling the stick up and down, or, if you’re feeling fruity, you can gesture the Joy-Con vigorously in a way that is unsavoury for younger gamers. It’s all so slick and you can have some fights where you don’t get hit at all, making you feel like a badass.
Making a return from Travis Strikes Again is the Death Glove which serves two purposes. Firstly, it can be equipped with up to three chips, chips that are created in the lab and give you varying bonuses – things like taking 5% more damage to deal and extra 10%, or giving you more time slow on a successful dodge. Secondly, you have four moves at your disposal, Death Kick, Death Force, Death Rain and Death Slow, each recharging over time and having a great effect on fights. Death Kick is the first you get and extremely useful, teleporting you to an opponent and drop-kicking them.
The boss fights all have a gimmick that can be explored. Gold Joe, for instance, uses magnets to push you into an electrical barrier. By charging yourself with the same polarity, you can push him into the barrier instead. This is simple stuff compared to what comes later. They are great overall, the only letdown being the final boss which really killed the pace of the game, for me. It just felt too drawn out for the climax of the experience.
Try, try, and try again
Dying is also very forgiving with the retry option. When you elect to retry, a wheel is spun which gives you a random buff or if you’re unlucky, a complete battery drain. The more retries you do, the slower the wheel is until eventually, you’re probably just selecting the complete health replenish whenever you want. There’s no drawbacks from doing this either so it’s very abusable. I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing but at the same time, thankful it exists, especially during fights where I came really close on my first go.
Side jobs exist as a palate cleanser in between fighting as another way to generate funds. Your No More Heroes staples such as Lawn Mowing and Garbage collecting are back as well as some new missions such as Coast Guard defence missions which has you using cannons to fight off encroaching crocodiles… it’s a sight to behold.
This, along with your standard collectible type requests give you more than enough to do in between the fighting, without feeling like filler. The main benefit is earning the World End Super Nova (WESN) currency which is used to upgrade Travis’ abilities and stats. The map isn’t terrifyingly large either, being the Santa Destroy you all know and love, just a little ruined by aliens. On each island, you of course get to ride the Demzamtiger which is very fast for getting from A to B. Then there’s fast travel once each island is unlocked/traveled to for the first time.
NHM3 can be over fairly quickly if you blast through it. I took my time, doing some side stuff and managed to complete the game in just under twenty hours. I put that down to my level of skill as it’s been completed in half that time by other writers. I find this length to be optimum as so many titles have a bloated runtime and it’s nice to see a more relaxed approach here.
The game does suffer from a little slowdown in places and the frame rate can be choppy at times. This is expected for a Switch title but having being spoiled by current-gen 60fps goodness, it was noticeable. The loading times are also a touch on the long side. There’s no real difference in performance between handheld and docked, but I much preferred playing with a controller, despite the Joy-Con motion inputs. It’s a fun gimmick but I got bored of it pretty quickly and preferred the accuracy of a regular controller.