No More Heroes 3 – Game Review


No More Heroes 3

(Nintendo Switch)

My experience with No More Heroes 3 is that I have beaten the game and unlocked New Game+. I played the majority of the game in Handheld Mode on the original model of Nintendo Switch from 2017, before the release of the Nintendo Switch OLED Model, and have not played on the revision of the Nintendo Switch that came out in 2019.

No More Heroes is a gaming series that started back in 2007 on the Nintendo Wii, it was directed, designed and written by Goichi Suda (Better known as his nickname of Suda 51).

The series is an action-adventure game with hack and slash gameplay, that was unique for being one of the few Wii games that was rated M by the ESRB and rated 16 by PEGI in Europe due to its excess of strong language, sexual themes and an abundance of blood & gore. These would all become hallmarks of the series and be part of its defining style that has persisted up to the most recent entry in the series.


<No More Heroes series recap>
No More Heroes sees the player take on the role of protagonist Travis Touchdown. He is a 27-year-old American assassin and stereotypical Otaku (a person who spends most of their time, money and energy into a particular hobby). He is an Otaku who has a particular interest in Japanese culture and media, with his obsession of anime and manga being at the forefront.

Each numbered entry in the series (being No More Heroes 1 and 2) focus on Travis having to climb the top 10 rankings to become the number 1 ranked assassin and along the way, there are a lot of revelations.

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle takes place 3 years after the first game and in contrast to the other games, this was only produced by Suda51, not directed, written and produced like usual. This was evident as the game was very different, but there were some positives to the game that were not replicated in other entries.
With the focus of the story being on personal vengeance for Travis due to a death of a person next to him, this led to a game that was a lot more serious in tone compared to the original which divided fans.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes takes place 7 years after No More Heroes 2 and features Travis in self-imposed exile due to assassins coming to kill him for the first assassin place ranking, resulting in him leaving his wife and two children to protect them. It was the first in the series to be released on Nintendo Switch as the series skipped the Nintendo Wii U. 
While this game is not a numbered entry (Like 1 and 2) it is still very important to the storyline as a whole, and No More Heroes 3 makes a lot less sense if you skipped Travis Strikes Again, so I would highly recommend playing Travis Strikes Again
<End of recap>



No More Heroes 3 is the 2nd Nintendo Switch entry for the franchise and sees the player as Travis Touchdown return to Santa Destroy for the first time since No More Heroes 2 back in 2010, and Travis now 39 years of age has to save the world from a group of 10 super powered Aliens from Outer Space.

Pro:

Style. Somehow Suda51 has elevated the series to beyond just the slick action hack and slash of the series to now incorporate other game genres beyond that for the first time, so if players were put off by the thought of the new game being a normal hack and slash again, don’t worry as new styles break up the game.

The most obvious ones are now space combat where Travis now has his own mech suit where he can battle massive space Aliens in his Bougainvillea mode. In this mode the controls completely change as now instead of focusing on melee combat, you now use ranged weaponry straight out of a mecha Anime like Mobile Suit Gundam.

The game also features more genre switching, like later in the game it goes into a first-person horror game style where players who have experience with that genre Amnesia: The Dark Descent or the recent Resident Evil games. The other boss-fight changes into an RPG battle (I will explain later), but it breaks the Fourth Wall for the player and had me laughing as it feels so in-character for the universe that Suda51 has created over these past games. 

I just wish these sections lasted longer as they were only a couple of minutes long, but they are a very welcome change of pace that add to the atmosphere of the bosses they are attached to.

Creative Boss Battles. Boss battles have always been the main highlight of the No More Heroes series, and No More Heroes 3 is no exception.

Whereas now the player instead of fighting bosses that use a Beam Katana or guns, find themselves fighting Aliens from Outer Space. This brings with it new and interesting fights as the bosses now bend physics and space.

These require the player to stay focused during the fight and pay attention to the environment. For example, Mr. Black Hole can generate miniature black holes on the floor, that it if the player falls into will do massive damage. 

There is also a genre bending boss fight later, that incorporates RPG features (Role Playing Games, like original Final Fantasy). It’s this level of creativity for the bosses that makes this my favourite game in the series for boss’s battles as it asks more of the player than to just dodge sword swipes or bullets.

Roulette Wheel. A new feature for this game is the inclusion of the Roulette Wheel where upon dying in-game, you will be given the choice to either retry (Refight the boss) or return to the motel (Where you are taken back to motel and can grind for money to either level up or buy more sushi). 

If you click retry, you will be redirected to the Roulette Wheel. You will randomly get buffs or de-buffs upon respawning depending on what reward you will receive from the roulette and the more you die in a fight then the slower the wheel goes so you can essentially pick what you want from the Wheel.

The option from the Wheel I normally aim for is Jeane as he allows you to respawn in the fight with full health while the boss keeps the damage done to them. This is very useful if the boss only has a little bit of health left and you ran out of sushi.

You want to avoid both options that feature FU. As Young FU gives no buff and Adult FU gives you 0 energy in your power gauge for Bloodberry, so you have to run away while charging which leaves you wide open to attacks.

Sushi. One of the most player friendly new changes is the addition of sushi. It allows the players to buy sushi which can then be eaten during battle for a variety of effects, ranging from healing a decent amount to charging up the power gauge for Bloodberry.

This is a great feature for new players of the franchise because in previous games you had no way to heal in boss fights, so this gives a good option for players who make mistakes in battles. Players are allowed up 5 pieces of sushi in their inventory at once.

The other option for sushi is to eat in at a restaurant, these are a lot more expensive but give much better benefits like; When you die, you can Replenish your health or Enter into battle with greatly increased Health/Attack Power/Tension.

All these options help the player get through boss fights if they are having trouble and they do not cost much, so the player can play a few minigames and have enough money to afford one.

Death Glove skills. With the return of the Death Glove from Travis Strikes Back, brings new combat options with the 4 Death Glove skills. Then when the player makes story progress, they unlock the other 3 Death Glove Skills. These skills are great as they are all on a cooldown so they can be used multiple times in a battle.

Death Kick is the 1st Death Glove skill that you start off the game which allows the player to perform a flying drop kick. This was invaluable to me in my playthrough, as it teleports you next to the enemy no matter how far away you are. So it’s great for closing the distance on enemies who are spamming projectiles.

Death Slow allows the player to create a field that when an enemy enters, will slow them down to point of when the player performs a Perfect Dodge. When the enemies are slowed down so much, the player can perform many combos on them to inflict big damage.

Death Force is basically using Force Push from Star Wars, where Travis performs telekinesis picking up the enemy before throwing them backwards or into other enemies if they are close enough. I normally used Death Kick straight after, so it teleports the player next to the thrown enemy and in doing so, inflicts massive damage. It is a great skill for creating distance from enemies if you find yourself getting overwhelmed by their numbers.

Death Rain is the last skill and creates a ring in the sky that any enemy who walks under it or near it is bombarded with small projectiles that inflict small amounts of damage. This skill works great with Death Slow as then the enemies can’t move and get pelted a lot with projectiles, so it increases the damage substantially.

Power Up Machine. One of the new features to the game, is that the player can use some of the currency they receive from fights and minigames, to then spend on an arcade machine in the new basement lab of Travis’ motel (which is the new location of Naomi’s Lab).

Using the currency, players can increase their health, damage and power gage for Bloodberry, and even some special feature optional moves like a better dodge roll or a charge attack.

This is a great feature for the game, but the further you get into the story the more that it feels required since if you do not level up your damage then the enemies just become health sponges where they take way too long to kill.

Perfect Dodge. A new and improved version of the “Darkstep” technique from previous games, and now if you time the dodge correctly, then you will avoid damage while being able to counterattack with multiple slashes, as time slows down or get behind the enemy and then perform a throw, to put the enemy on the floor so you can get more free attacks in on them.

This rewards fast reflexes and good spatial awareness in the distance between you and the enemies. It feels a lot like Witch Time from Bayonetta from Platinum Games as that features a similar mechanic as the new Perfect Dodge from No More Heroes 3.

Continuity. Unlike other game series that ignore the newly added characters and Lore from previous games.

No More Heroes celebrate all previous characters even the minor ones and will go to length to bring them back, no matter how absurd in some cases.

The biggest carryover being from Travis Strikes Back: No More Heroes. Which was mostly referred to as a spinoff due to not being a numbered entry in the series, but if you only played up to No More Heroes 2, there is a lot of the characters that appear and don’t make sense.

Yet if you play all the prequels you will be greatly rewarded and enjoy the game so much more, as you see more progression especially with the beginning of the game where we see a lot of characters from previous games come together to fight off the alien invasion.

Pop culture references. As is tradition in the No More Heroes series, there are always pop culture references for fans of media to laugh and enjoy.

The biggest reference throughout the whole game was to Takashi Miike, who is a real-life Japanese filmmaker. He is the in-universe favourite director of Travis, and each episode of the story begins with Travis and his best friend Bishop talking about their favourite films of his and even turn the segment into a mini podcast, where they bring on guests to talk with (very similar to what we do on the Anime Amigos, which everyone should check out on Axia’s website or on the YouTube channel; Calvin Atkinson).

Takashi Miike has made appearances in previous games but he shows up as an actual character in this game, so anyone who is a fan of his work will be greatly pleased and it is clear that Suda51 greatly enjoys his works.

There were a lot of references to American films in this game with the most hilarious ones to me being Rocky III, Alien and Independence Day. The last two being references of famous sci-fi films to tie into the alien invasion plot line for the game.

What I appreciated the most were all the reference to Tokusatsu and Anime. This is a personal bias as I am a very big fan of Kamen Rider which is a popular Tokusatsu series since 1971 in Japan, with Travis calling out that one of the boss arena is based on the famous stone quarries that they use for the battle scenes in many of Toku shows. 

When Shinobu makes reference to Mobile Suit Gundam in her interview section, it was great as she makes reference to Iron-Blood Orphans which is my favourite standalone Gundam series and even talks about the main Mobile Suit of the series being the Barbatos and its swordplay.

So if you are a fan of Otaku culture of American films from the 80s you will get a lot of enjoyment from all the references in the game as there are plenty both subtly referenced in dialogue, and just outright spoken by the characters in cutscenes.

Voice cast. The Voice cast has always been stellar in No More Heroes, with the actors giving great performances despite the campy script that sounds more like an Anime from the 80s and 90s with Travis being based on late 90s and early 2000s culture in America.

Robert Atkin Downes is fantastic with the new dialogue he is given, I loved his recent role as Emperor Nefarious in Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart (which every PS5 owner should play). So he has range from being a traditional cocky American action hero, to an intergalactic tyrannical ruler.

Paula Tiso deserves more praise in this game, for her portrayal of Sylvia as she has more screen time in this game and always brings a great air of mystery to the character, especially in the tutorial where she gets an entire live stream in the corner of the screen that only ends when you finish the tutorial. Then she ends up voicing another character, which will hopefully pay off in a sequel.

Then finally Noshir Dalal makes his series debut in this game, as the alien Prince Jess Baptiste VI or normally known as FU in the story. He plays the main villain and does a great job of portraying FU, who alternates from a terrifying intergalactic ruler who orders mass genocide on other planets as revealed in the back stories of other characters, to then being a petulant child when his plans start to unravel as the player progresses through the story. It shows a lot of range when Noshir Dalal can switch between the two sides of FU within one scene.

Music. One of the strongest strengths of the No More Heroes series is its soundtrack.

This game also doesn’t disappoint, as there are a lot of great tracks that offer a lot of variety across a lot of genres. Some of my personal highlights being the remix of the No More Heroes theme song (Called N.M.H) we hear a lot when there are screen transitions in the story mode and HENSHIN! (Full Armour Mode) which plays when Travis dons his Full Armour mode suit for a super attack when he gets the bonus or for some boss fights.

The songs for the OST (Original Sound Track) take more of a focus on the Sci-fi aspect of the story with a lot of synth instruments to coincide with the alien invasion storyline. This is contrasted with the more traditional Japanese folk music we hear in the DonMai Sushi shops scattered throughout the world and other Earth based minigames. 

These 2 distinct types of music really blend to tie the game together as it’s Earth vs Aliens from Space, with the 2 styles being evident and reminds the player when they are fighting on Earth doing battles or minigames, compared to when Travis fights the bosses on their spaceships.

Con:

Poor graphics. I’m not sure how but the graphics for No More Heroes 3, look barely above the original Wii titles and worse than Travis Strikes Back.

The glaring problem is the poor textures of the models and assets, even comparing the interior of the save point to the original Wii games shows there’s a downgrade as the wallpaper for the room looks muddy and blurry.

Then when the player is in the overworld, there is horrendous pop-in (this is when objects are suddenly rendered in, when the player approaches them), The pop-in became so severe that the tree, which was only 10 meters away, went from being invisible to suddenly appearing. You have to hit the brakes on the bike so you don’t crash into them.

Then the character models looks like they need a lot of anti-aliasing, this is because all models look very jagged in appearance with no smooth lines for the textures or shadows. This would put more strain on the processor but if the developer team scaled down the open world (I will talk about that later), then anti-aliasing could be applied without dropping the FPS too much or increasing load time.

Unstable game engine. Like I said before, the game engine for No More Heroes 3 is the Unreal Engine 4 which is not normally used for the Nintendo Switch. In my opinion, this could be why it’s not fully optimised, as in my playthrough alone I had 3 game crashes, more than any previous No More Heroes game.
This was mostly evident in the Call of Duty area where I crashed twice and was forced back to the Switch home screen. The other time was in the Thunder Dome area, which is weird as the desert area is almost completely barren, so it’s not like the Switch’s CPU was being taxed too heavily by rendering too much at once.

Unlike other Nintendo Switch games that use the Unreal Engine 4 like Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Daemon X Machine and the fantastic Dragon Quest XI (11 in non-Roman Numerals) all run on the same engine but don’t have the same issues that No More Heroes 3 suffers from, despite being on the same game engine and the same console. 

These games especially Dragon Quest XI feature large open areas, but the textures look a lot better and the game engine doesn’t chug leading to bad framerate drops like in No More Heroes 3, as when exploring the open world of Santa Destroy, the FPS drops from 60 in the combat to below 30 and most of the time was about 20 FPS that after a while actually hurts the eyes to look at. Unlike Dragon Quest XI which was almost fully locked at 30 FPS and rarely dropped below that in the open world.
This leads me to believe that the engine wasn’t properly optimised for the Switch and that the game was rushed, as other games using the same engine have much better performance, whilst still having large open worlds.

Weirdly I had less frame rate drops when in Handheld Mode rather than Docked, this may be due to the lowering of the screen resolution in Handheld Mode as it lowers from 720p down to 480p. This lowering of the resolution may alleviate the burden on the CPU, as it doesn’t need to process the full resolution, so the frame rate is more stable in Handheld Mode.

Limited weapons and wrestling moves. Unlike No More Heroes 2 which allowed the Player to purchase new Beam Sabres and upgrade them, players are forced to only use the 1 Beam Katana which they start with and cannot upgrade it. This makes gameplay not as fun as its limits the variety of combos you can use with just the 1 Beam Katana as in No More Heroes 2 you could use up to 4 different Beam Katanas at once each with their own unique move sets.

Whereas in No More Heroes 3 players are forced to only use Travis’ trademark Beam Katana being Blood Berry which he has used since the original game, and are locked to now just using a light attack combo with the Y button and a heavy attack combo with X which don’t combo mid-attack so if you want to use mix up your attack strings, then you’ll have to use the Death Glove Skills to bring the variety that is lacking due to only one weapon.

In previous games, players could also get new wrestling moves to perform on enemies to spice up the combat experience as otherwise players are stuck using the same motions with the Joycons for the wrestling moves, making them more tedious, as you never have to change up the input compared to previous games where you used different inputs on the thumb sticks to use different wrestling moves.

It was also an incentive to explore the world to find Naomi’s Lab to purchase new weapons or to go to the gym to unlock new wrestling moves, that allowed the Player to interact more with the npc’s in the Lore, compared to now, where Beam Katana upgrades are only locked to the Power Up Machine to upgrade the Blood Berry’s attack power and battery meter. 

In previous games the Beam Katanas were also customisable with Players able to swap out parts on each Beam Katana so that each felt more personal to the Player, as most different Players Beam Katana would be set up differently making them more unique and the game feel more personal.

Easy bosses. Outside of the help that the sushi and Power Up Machine give you, I think No More Heroes 3 has some of the easiest bosses in the series, as before you could spend hours on one fight due to how difficult the bosses were to the point of unfairness causing you to essentially play at the best you can to win.

Yet now the bosses are more about their given gimmicks for the fight rather than their attack patterns and attack speed, so once you’ve figured that bosses gimmick out, then the bosses fall pretty quickly while not really challenging the player.

The only redeeming feature is that you can now refight bosses at higher levels in the Lab using the Time Machine to grind for materials for new Death Chips. 

These new higher levels of difficulty should have been the default for the main story, as once you get to the fourth or even fifth difficulty level, that’s when the bosses get fun as you can’t afford to make many mistakes.

No levels. In previous games there were lead-up levels for all the bosses that tied into the bosses aesthetic, but in No More Heroes 3 instead you have a few “Designated Fights” in the overworld then save up enough money to just buy into the boss fight.

This is a shame as now it’s just a hallway, a sushi shop and a save point then the boss at the end of the hallway that you immediately fight with little to no build up. It’s a downside as it lessens the anticipation, as instead of facing waves and waves of enemies trying to drain your health before the boss, now you can just have a full heal at the sushi shop then go straight to the boss. 

Open world. The open world returns from No More Heroes 1 which should have been cause for celebration as it hasn’t been featured as an explorative aspect of the game since the original.

In the original game it was fairly empty with mostly just mini games to do to earn cash for the next ranked fight as otherwise you would just go to Naomi’s Lab to expand your arsenal of Beam Katanas or the Gym for new wrestling moves.

Now in No More Heroes 3, it returns after being split into several sections that Travis can reach by using underground roads since the overworld has mostly been levelled in the opening of the game. Then once you have been to a new area, the option to fast travel to it instantly appears on the map so you don’t need to drive to a gate.

The major problem I have is that when you look at the map, over 50% of it is locked off as it is “forbidden”, so I assumed that it would open up as I got through the game as I progressed or even when I finished the game.

This didn’t happen and feels more of a tease because there is no reason to have the areas locked off as most of the town was destroyed in the opening and they could have just expanded the destruction to these locked off areas. Doing this would of made more sense because otherwise there is no point for them being on the map and taking up map-space. It could free up some of the CPU so the game could run better, as these areas are still in the game taking up space in the background so it could have been removed to give some more processing power back to the CPU due to the poor performance of the open world.

Another major problem I had with the open world is the prevalence of Invisible Walls (a player term for an invisible barrier that the player cannot pass through that the developer placed there) especially in the area called “Thunder Dome” which is the 3rd area you access in the story. It is a desert filled with invisible walls that block Travis from climbing over the smallest sand dune, even when they are only ankle high and that you could drive over them in the Demzamtiger (Travis’ new motorbike in No More Heroes 3).

Then in Call of Battle, 80% of the city area is filled with rubble and invisible walls that a person in reality could step over, this lead to the area being a big maze that felt tedious especially when the framerate dropped massively in the area and the textures drop to the levels of a PS1 game to the point where the developers had to put a fake CRT TV screen up when you are in the area over the screen just to try and alleviate how awful it looks.

In my opinion the open world should of been scaled down as some places like “Neo Brazil” are just open areas with a few statues. If this was done and it was condensed down, then it would of helped a smaller area feel more alive and fleshed out instead of the missions being scattered across the random cities that mostly involves slowly running round to get to them.

There is also very limited models for the npc’s (Non-player characters for example random pedestrians walking round) in the over world, in that the same body type is repeated for most of the pedestrians with only the colours being swapped. This leads to a lot of repetition in the npc designs and there are very little other vehicles when you are driving around.

Repetitive dialogue. Travis is known for his own brand of comical “edgy” humour through the use of curse words that you would hear people using in the 90s and early 00s from teenagers.

He has had this type of dialogue where he uses curse words against his enemies in battle and cutscenes since the very first game which is part of what endeared him to players, but that first game came out in 2007 yet Travis’ dialogue has never been updated as he is using the same insults since the original game.

What makes this issue worse is that for some reason a particular insult plays a lot during every battle you do and sometimes I would hear it 5 times per fight, I won’t repeat it but Players will know after a few battles.

This issue would have been lessened if Robin Atkinson Down (the voice actor for Travis) was able to record multiple voice takes of the one line, as otherwise it’s the same voice clip being repeated as it is spoken the same way with the same inflections.

Side lined characters. One of the best points of the No More Heroes franchise is its stellar side cast that you meet throughout the series and that they come back in the sequels.

Yet in No More Heroes 3 most of them are taken out of the story for most of the game or killed off (I won’t spoil who gets killed). 

This is a disappointment, as in previous games it had one of my favourite videogame characters being the PoC Shinobu, she had a great character arc between all the games; starting as a child who wanted to avenge the death of her father who she believed was Travis in the first No More Heroes.

It lead to her personal journey through the next entries before ending in the final dlc for Travis Strikes Back where she had opened her own dojo in a rundown town where she welcomes in the poor and impoverished children of the area, whilst teaching them martial arts and keeping them from going into a life of crime, like the adults of the area.

This series of character development arcs is what led a lot of people (like myself) hoping that Shinobu would have more development in No More Heroes 3, but unfortunately she is removed from the story at the beginning and only comes back near the end of the game. 

This is a big mistake in my opinion, as it limits us to only the story of Travis and his arc doesn’t expand much compared to previous games until you get to the final ending, as even in previous games where you could play as the side cast for various levels and bosses but in No More Heroes 3 you solely play as Travis.

Load times. For some reason the load times to get into Designated Fights (Which you are required to complete before you are allowed into the next boss battle) are quite long lasting 10 seconds in some cases, even the mini games that you partake in to earn money take at least 5 seconds.

These are puzzling as the mini arenas you are put into for the fights are only populated with 1 – 4 enemies with some minor assets populating the arena and yet the game still chugs. This issue persists whether in Handheld Mode or Docked Mode with the Switch so it’s not an issue with the Dock.

Game crashes. As stated earlier in my game engine section, I had 3 hard crashes in my playthrough. Whereas I have never had a crash on any previous game as even with Travis Returns (which was the previous game in the series that was also on Switch).

As mentioned before this happened once in Thunder Dome and Twice in Call of Battle, so I would suggest players save often in those areas.

Conclusion:

While I love the series and think this game was above average, No More Heroes 3 was definitely a step down in quality from No More Heroes 2 and Travis Strikes Back in my opinion. It feels like the game was definitely rushed out of development early, due to the game feeling incomplete with a lot of features being cut that were in previous games and feels poorly optimised for the Nintendo Switch.

I would not recommend this as the jumping on point for the series for new players and would instead advise them to pick up the No More Heroes 1 and 2 collection now on sale for the Switch before playing No More Heroes 3. 

Then if you want to play No More Heroes 3 then absolutely play Travis Strikes Back first, otherwise if you are invested in the story and characters of the first 2 games you need the context of Travis Strikes Back to make sense of No More Heroes 3.

Score: 6.1

Reece Imiolek
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant

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