With so many popular anime and manga series receiving their own video games, One Punch Man found itself in a bit of an odd predicament. While it has quite a large following of fans eager to see what type of video game would be made for the property, it also featured a main character that is completely invincible and can eliminate any threat with one strike which leads to quite a challenge as to how he would be handled in a game. Spike Chunsoft and Bandai Namco have taken it upon themselves to answer this challenge with One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows.
Rather than place players in the shoes of Saitama, the game instead places players into the boots of their very own female or male hero that can be created from scratch. Years prior to the events of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, a monster tears through the city and the player finds themselves at the mercy of the creature. Despite their best efforts they are no match for such a powerful being but when a bald lackadaisical man steps forward claiming to be a “hero for fun” the player finds a new hope for the future. With one strike the day is saved and now years later inspired by the events that unfolded that day, the player has joined the Hero Association as a fledgling C Rank Hero.
In a rather interesting fashion One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows chooses to follow the same storyline as told through the first season of the anime and a bit further in the original storyline by placing the player’s hero side by side all of the action. This means that while Saitama, Genos, and various other heroes are fighting, the player’s hero will be right there beside them. When considering the limitations of sticking true to Saitama’s strength this is perhaps the best way to handle things as players will still get to see the original story they love but from a slightly different perspective and with an extra dose of added humor on top of things.
The writers for the game clearly knew how to make the most of the characters’ unique personalities as they all continue to shine through here in the story, especially in regards to a few of the more eccentric heroes and villains. Alongside the same storyline fans are likely familiar with there are plenty of side-events and smaller scale story beats that explore a bit of what life is like in the world as well as give fans an extra chance to see what other heroes are doing at times of crisis. This makes for a fairly solid bit of extra storytelling that fans will enjoy and helps flesh out a few of the more underrepresented characters.
As mentioned before, players will find themselves creating a character of their very own and partaking in the game’s story mode as it features the bulk of the content and serves as the main hub for online events as well as versus fights with other players. It is also worth noting that many fighters, both heroes and villains, are locked until the player progresses far enough in the story so this is the primary focus of the game. Now it is worth noting immediately that, outside of his appearances in combat, players do not control Saitama in any form in the campaign and are instead seated firmly in their created heroes’ shoes.
This works as a balance to the game especially considering it is designed as more of a 3 vs 3 tag team arena fighter/RPG more than anything else. The player’s hero will receive numerous missions from people around town as well as the hero association and eventually rank up from their starting C Rank status to the powerful ranks of S Rank heroes. These missions can occasionally involve tracking down items scattered around the town or talking to certain people but generally most missions involve a battle against a monster, villain, or even a rogue hero. Fighting allows the player to level up and assign various points into their health, striking power, and other stats as well as equip a variety of different fighting styles that match with those found in the original series including mechanical styles similar to Genos.
These battles take place in a 3D arena where the player is given free movement and a collection of fairly simplistic combat mechanics. Players have access to a standard attack, heavy attack, block, jump, and “killer moves” that serve as the game’s special attack system with various killer moves being obtained through interacting with professional heroes and having a variety of uses. Standard combo attacks are strung together with standard and heavy input strings while killer moves require the use of a constantly refilling gauge that can also be charged though this leaves the player open to attack. Players that can properly time their block can also perform a special teleporting dodge that instantly places the user behind the attacker, allowing the player to gain an advantage. There are also some special events that can occur during a fight such as meteors raining down from the sky, a random hero running in to strike at a random combatant, and more to help spice things up.
Generally players enter a battle alone in story mode and instead must make use of the game’s “Hero Arrival System” in the hope for backup, though the enemy team can also receive backup the same way. This takes the form of a timer showing a hero, or villain, running to the battlefield with a timer and performing combo attacks and perfect blocks can reduce this timer, allowing them to appear and provide assistance faster. This also allows for Saitama to play a bit of a more balanced role in the game as anytime he shows up as a hero that can come to the player’s aid, his timer is incredibly long.
This makes some battles against far stronger opponents, such as the massively powerful monsters and aliens from the source material, merely a survival battle that sees the player and their team trying to survive the fight while doing minimal damage to the enemy while Saitama is on the way. When Saitama finally does show up to a battle he is completely invincible with the enemy dealing no damage to him and the fight finishing in a single strike, regardless of whether it is one of Saitama’s killer moves or a normal punch.
Outside of simply taking on missions players can spend time outside of the fight by exploring the town and talking with various heroes and raising their friendship level as well as decorating the player’s apartment, and playing a bit of dress-up using purchased and unlocked costumes. Unfortunately outside of a couple of interesting interactions, nearly every aspect outside of the game’s story mode and combat is a bit on the shallow side. Even then, combat can often feel incredibly clunky depending on the fighting style the player is using and the opponent AI in side-missions can easily be exploited even when taking on harder missions so some battles that aren’t story based often feel unrewarding.
Now the online component for One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a bit of a mixed bag as players can explore the town and see other created heroes running around and interact with them in various ways here. There are a number of online events that players can work towards but for the most part players will be spending their online time battling against one another in a bit of a messy system. Players have access to all characters that they have managed to unlock through the story mode but it is worth noting that Saitama himself is also a character that can either be enabled or disabled when looking for a fight.
If Saitama is able to come to a battle, the game does try to balance things a bit by forcing the player with Saitama on their team to fight a 2 on 3 battle until he arrives, but once he does the match is over. Should both players manage to get Saitama to the fight, they will actually be able to damage one another but even then he doesn’t actually lose and instead finds an excuse to leave the fight. This lets Saitama remain as true to his roots as possible but also something of a one-sided victory if not disabled, something that nearly everyone online isn’t keen on doing.
Visuals & Audio
It is clear that Spike Chunsoft wanted to let players have plenty of customization options open to them as there are tons of costume pieces to unlock and purchase throughout the game and a lot of attention has been paid to make sure the character models of all of the named heroes and villains remains as true to their source material as possible. Unfortunately this level of care has left nearly every other aspect of the game’s graphics in a very poor state. Environments are incredibly bland and lack any kind of signature appeal to them both inside combat and while exploring the world and players should be ready for the game to suffer from incredible amounts of slowdown at times. These slowdowns can occur anywhere; be it exploring the town or during a fight the game can start to lag horribly for no apparent reason and this issue occurs far too frequently to be ignored.
It comes as something of a surprise to say that Bandai Namco has provided One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows with both an English voice track as well as the original Japanese voice track. Fans will appreciate both options and even the created character can be given a variety of different voice actors in both languages, though their dialogue is limited to battle. The voice work for all of the characters is rather strong, though some of the random mobs players fight can start to blend together quickly. The soundtrack features a great opening theme when starting the game but unfortunately most of the background tunes while fighting and exploring the town are as generic as they come.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows knows exactly what it wants by letting players have access to Saitama’s world without giving them complete access to his unstoppable power. With a witty storyline that places players in a different position to the story they may already be familiar with fans of the series and maybe even some newcomers will enjoy the game’s solid, if occasionally clunky, combat system. That being said, be prepared for some very underwhelming mechanics outside of combat and some strange performance issues that pop up incredibly often.
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