There are a few names in the video game industry that, when attached to a game, will give fans some idea of what to expect from it. One such name happens to be Suda51 as his long history of working on stylized and unique games have made his titles almost instantly recognizable. While many of Suda’s titles have been quite interesting, the one that really stood out among the rest happened to be No More Heroes and its iconic psycho otaku turned assassin, Travis Touchdown. Now ten years after the last numbered entry but only two years after its story relevant spin-off, Travis has returned to strike yet again in No More Heroes III.
Twenty years prior to the start of the game, a young boy named Damon Ricitello managed to find a wounded alien that had crash landed on Earth. After nursing the little thing back to health, FU provides him with knowledge of their technology and eventually returns to space, promising to come back twenty years later. Now FU has returned and revealed that he happens to be the now exiled crown prince named Jess Baptiste VI and is looking for a little fun with the rest of his alien buddies that joined him when he busted out of jail. With Damon’s empire serving as their landing point, what better way than to become “goddamn superheroes” with plenty of violence.
With the alien invasion happening right at his doorstep, Travis and his growing group of friends aren’t about to let their city be destroyed without a fight. As such Travis, dilapidated looking as he might appear, quickly snaps out of it and enters the fray against a few grunts before facing off against one of FU’s friends. Needless to say, Travis manages to come out victorious and lands himself a place as #10 in the Galactic Superhero Rankings, a hastily organized list with the UAA hoping to reign in the alien invasion by creating a game for FU around it.
Although Travis’ motivations for climbing to the top of the leaderboard may have been sketchy in the first game, this time around with the fate of the world at stake and the aliens striking close to him on a personal level, this time around his motivations lie closer to that of the second entry in the series. Of course that doesn’t mean that there still isn’t plenty of time for crass humor, random podcast-like entries talking about the qualities of Takashi Miike’s films, or running around gathering scorpions for ramen and Jeane’s kittens to fill up Travis’ apartment with.
In fact, No More Heroes III may be, fittingly enough, the most out of this world style of game when it comes to storytelling, and that comes as a good thing… mostly. Not only are there a few retro visual novel style mini-stories to explore outside of the core story but the core storyline itself will constantly have players wondering just what could happen next, and even when the game ends up settling into a pace of having a surprise or twist at every turn, it still manages to pull them off with ease. This doesn’t even touch upon the countless references and solid fourth wall breaking jokes that are made to not only Suda’s other works but a number of other famous pieces of media and games as well.
That being said, there are some downsides to the fact that the game constantly is throwing curveballs at the player as there are some instances where boss characters feel underdeveloped, especially compared to past entries, and some events can feel rather shallow. It is also worth noting that, as one may expect, this is not an entry that one can jump into without having experienced at least some of the past games, especially if they happen to have skipped Travis Strikes Again as a large number of events that happened in that entry come to play here, including story elements, characters, and even various abilities that Travis is now capable of.
With No More Heroes III the series makes a return to a semi-open world design that sees the city turned into multiple distinct areas that players will unlock as they progress through the game, traveling between these smaller areas with either fast-travel or simply using the highway. This return of an open area allows for more exploration and driving around on Travis’ Akira themed motorcycle. As with the first entry to the series, players will need to earn a certain amount of money before every boss battle and they will do this by either completing a number of mini-games, taking on wave battles against enemies, and fighting in “Designated Matches” that appear before every Ranking Battle.
A certain number of designated matches must always be completed before a fight and often players can earn enough money just from fighting in them, though the mini-games are solid enough that makes mowing lawns to save the world a decent experience. Other mini-games can include a lackluster mining event, picking up trash, protecting a beachfront from giant alligators using a tank, and more. Gathering various collectibles also rewards the player with money, including planting trees and climbing them like Mario, gathering trading cards, and more with there even being a “D-Chip” that makes finding collectibles easier. While the quality of the aforementioned minigames does vary, they also only serve as a small distraction and delay to the real meat of No More Heroes III, the combat and boss battles.
Designated Matches initially serve as a way to introduce enemy types to players as there are a rather large number of aliens, all of which have different attack patterns and strengths, to battle against. Players will make use of Travis’ signature beam katana to lay waste to aliens all while making sure to do so with plenty of style, and hopefully enough battery power. Combat is straightforward with players having light and heavy attacks, guards, dodges, and perfect dodges that temporarily slow time. Dealing damage without taking any increases Travis’ tension gauge and offers longer combo strings and the ability to stun enemies who can then be thrown with a devastating wrestling move. Of course, any time the player hits an enemy with their katana the battery gauge will deplete meaning players will need to either hit an aforementioned wrestling move for an immediate charge or retreat to charge their battery in signature “jerking” fashion. This results in a fast-paced style of combat that feels as stylish and meaty as ever and while we preferred playing with standard controls, motion controls do remain an option.
New to Travis’ arsenal is the D-Glove that returns from Travis Strikes Again and players can utilize skills, initially limited to a teleporting dropkick, on a cooldown. Later abilities include a telekinetic throw, a field that slows any enemy in range, and a damage over time skill that once again attacks enemies within its range, pairing well with the slow field. The D-Glove can be equipped with a limited number of D-Chips that have various buffs and debuffs and must be crafted back at the No More Heroes Motel alongside other machines that boost Travis’ stats.
Players will also find that a slot machine that spins every time a foe is defeated, or during long combo strings on a boss, can often be quite useful as various rewards include temporary invincibility, quick attacks, money, and even “Full Armor” mode that transforms Travis into his mech suit to deal massive damage to any foe within range. The other time players enter Travis’ mech suit are limited to a few battles against massive foes in space. These space battles are neat in concept but are unfortunately a bit too simplistic for their own good as the lock on mechanics make things quite easy, especially given the lack of enemy variety in these space battles.
Now, as for the Ranking Battles, these boss battles truly bring the best parts of the game to life. Nearly every single boss in No More Heroes III has some type of gimmick that players can exploit in combat or even outside of combat as not every encounter is handled the same way. These fights are flashy and really can be quite challenging at times, though Bitter (Normal) difficulty is balanced well enough that players won’t feel overwhelmed. That being said, players should select their difficulty carefully as it is locked in at the start of the game, though a New Game+ mode is available after beating the title.
It is worth mentioning that, with the return of the open world mechanics, the game world itself does still feel a bit too empty for its own good, making collectibles the only real reason to actually explore. As mentioned before, all upgrade systems are based in one room at the motel, but it is nice to note that all side-activities are clearly labeled either through question marks or symbols once player’s either view them or unclog the local toilet.
Visuals & Audio
Once again Suda51 continues to impress on a presentation front as No More Heroes III manages to make the most of what the Switch is capable of with great looking character models all while utilizing a vast array of art styles throughout the entire game. Various cutscenes can swap art styles mid-conversation and they all happen to look absolutely gorgeous. Combat is shown as being as bloody and meaty feeling as ever with fluid gameplay, though the open world segments of the game do suffer from some slowdown and, in one certain area, extreme pop-in.
Most of the voice actors have returned to reprise their roles here in No More Heroes III and the English dub is handled incredibly well here. The same can be said in regards to the game’s soundtrack as it once again features a number of great tracks, including some amazing victory music that plays after the completion of every boss battle.
Few other games would have players take the time to mow some grass before laying into an alien capable of destroying an entire city, but that just so happens to be No More Heroes’ style. With plenty of amazing combat that has once again been fine-tuned to excellence, some repetitive minigames, and plenty of unique boss fights spread throughout an interesting, albeit shallow, twist-filled tale, No More Heroes III is as stylish and unique as one would expect from a Suda51 game.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.