No More Heroes is easily one of the more memorable Wii series. Instead of focusing on the motion aspects, it used childish humor and implemented motion as a somewhat comical way of swinging your sword around. Long term, the franchise reached more players, made it to new platforms, and the series now continues with No More Heroes 3. Last year it delighted Switch players, though the platform offered some shortcomings that more powerful systems hope to overcome. With unique ideas and a lot more power, is it finally time to play No More Heroes 3, or was the franchise better left dead?
No More Heroes 3 starts with a rather unusual introduction to the plot. The adventure begins with an excellent animation showing a human meeting a peaceful alien named Fu. Their experience ends with a heartfelt goodbye, only for the alien to come back to play a game with Earth. Fu and nine other aliens challenge Earthlings to defeat them and stop their plans. Naturally, our favorite assassin steps out of his humble life to fight these villains again with his silly references and sassy attitude.
Having finished No More Heroes 3, it’s less of a game and closer to an experience or art. Initially, villains are a bit more fleshed out and introduce players to what kind of creature Fu is and their feelings on various matters. For example, Mr. Blackhole explains that he is more of a pawn and ultimately has no choice regarding fighting Travis or helping him.
As the story progresses, Fu goes from a madman looking to hold the ever-popular ranking tournament that No More Heroes is infamous for and becomes frustrated with the situation. Many scenes involve Fu showing a legitimate desire to stop Travis, even if Travis is far from the only human that defeats his buddies, leading to more significant and over-the-top battles.
Around halfway through No More Heroes 3, the adventure is less about Travis versus Fu and more about introducing the current threat or explaining the situation. And, over time, the bosses devolve from being a threat to more of an introduction to various references. Many of these are fun, such as a classic JRPG battle reminiscent of Final Fantasy; another invokes experiences like Fatal Frame; one has Travis outright explain what it is a reference to, and even some rather unexpected ones beyond this.
Part of what makes all of this work is a willingness to double down on style at every turn. How many other games would feature characters in like four different art styles for a boss that ultimately just wants to play musical chairs to the death? It’s crazy to see and can seem insane to explain, yet it’s absurdly engaging.
That being said, No More Heroes 3 makes some choices that can feel underwhelming. In terms of narrative, it’s never clear what the end goal is. Sometimes it’s a straight fight, and other times you’re doing some random task for no particular reason. These make the experience unique, but that manic approach won’t appeal to everyone and does not redeem the sections between story segments or boss fights.
In many ways, No More Heroes 3 feels like it’s shacked to the idea of what No More Heroes is. Between the exciting stuff, Travis must complete several stages where he fights against weaker foes for money and resources. If these stages aren’t enough or you want some extra cash, there are also various random mini-games. Travis can clean the ocean of bottles, mow the lawn, get in his mech and fight a monster in space, you know, boring odd jobs that award some amount of money that can be used for supplies or to progress in his adventure.
An Idea of How Empty and Bland it Looks
While none of the stages are objectively wrong, it brings about the negatives of this being a Switch exclusive. Despite looking much nicer than the original version, it’s still essentially an open world filled with time sinks.
Based on my previous review, I was averaging 20 to 50 seconds to do various tasks in No More Heroes 3. With this version, I would say things are about 5 to 15 seconds faster, a noted improvement, though it doesn’t make things feel any less tedious. This is mainly due to the empty feeling that makes the open world feel needless. More often than not, you’ll spend a fair amount of your time exiting buildings, driving to another section, loading said section, and then finally going to your objective. It would probably seem like a novel concept back in the day, but it just feels like padding here.
Similar things apply to a lot of the gameplay sections as well. Since so many of the boss’s battles rely heavily on references and jokes, most aren’t particularly difficult. This gets even easier when you start upgrading your power, collecting more super moves, and obtaining potent modifiers, making things feel somewhat underwhelming. Getting to the boss is often more complex than the actual boss itself.
Where bosses rely on a small number of attacks, many peons will either overwhelm you or have a cheap mechanic that guarantees some damage. This makes the journey enjoyable, as you’ll need to dodge, block and use your skills creatively, though it’s a shame it isn’t more well-rounded.
No More Heroes 3 (PS5) Review Verdict
No More Heroes 3 is in a rather unusual place. It’s undoubtedly an exciting experience that motivates you to see what craziness lies in wait, but dating ideas also hold it back. Modern consoles help mitigate some of the negatives, though they simply can’t make up for the core structure. That said, it is an exciting game if you can look past the faults. One that fans of Suda51 or just weird games, in general, will likely really enjoy.
[Editor’s Note: No More Heroes 3 was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided for review purposes. This review is also based on our previously published Switch version, with a couple of changes made to reflect what was changed or enhanced in this version.]