No More Heroes III, the third game in the series, finally arrives on the Nintendo Switch, eleven years after No More Heroes II. Travis Touchdown might have been the world’s top assassin, but in this game, the enemies are literally out of this world. Ten super-powerful aliens, and an army of soldiers, have arrived on Earth, ready to conquer it.
- Engaging and challenging combat;
- Self-aware and entertaining story;
- Over-the-top tone and style.
- Can be too much story for some players;
- Tutorials can sometimes be disruptive;
- Parts of the overworld seem bland.
Much like the previous games, you must climb the rankings, defeating the #10 alien first, and working your way up the ladder. While there are some minions to fight, most of these battles culminate in an epic boss fight. No More Heroes 3 also allows the player to drive around the fictional city of Santa Destroy at times, knocking other vehicles off the road as you speed around.
Aside from the action and the exploration, No More Heroes 3 also places major importance on the story. The game itself is even broken into episodes, complete with closing credits after each boss battle. Sometimes it can actually feel like a TV show, with long stretches of cut scenes bookending the gameplay.
Slashing to the Top
For those players seeking an action fighting game, you’ve come to the right place. No More Heroes III is all about swinging that beam katana, racking up hit combos, and unleashing power moves on your opponents. The combat is very satisfying, especially when everything comes together, like a nice dodge into a powerful killing strike.
Travis has his iconic Beam Katana, but that’s not the only tool at his disposal. Get lucky and you might be able to activate Mustang Mode, a suit of armor that allows you to deal massive burst damage. No More Heroes 3 also features a Death Glove, that allows Travis to perform unique moves like a teleporting dropkick.
The combat in No More Heroes III shines the brightest in the boss battles. Many of these fights are multi-staged combats that not only involve hitting your opponent at the right moments but also figuring out puzzles and movement strategies to give yourself those openings. Boss battles can end up being a challenge, learning and adapting to the enemy strategies in real-time.
There are also a plethora of enemies to fight. Just within the first two episodes, it seems like every battle features a new enemy. Thankfully there are usually only a few minions between boss battles, but it’s good that they don’t feel too repetitive. The enemies are also different enough that they do require different tactics from the player too, which helps keep the combat fresh.
Slashing Through Tutorials
No More Heroes III does not have too many issues, but perhaps the closest to a problem is how often tutorials pop up on the screen. Thankfully they are quick to read and easy to skip, but even the shortest ones still put a momentary pause on gameplay. When it comes to learning the controls though, it does get the job done in a quick and efficient way.
These quick tutorials can be a great balance between teaching new players and throwing them right back into the action. The game is paused, but only for as long as you want, so if you choose to take your time to understand the new mechanic, that’s up to you. But if you decide instead to just go for it, you’ll often be right in the thick of battle, with the game waiting expectantly for the execution of your new move. Thankfully, if you miss something, there is a way to access all of the tutorials through the in-game menus.
No More Heroes III does take advantage of the Switch’s motion controls in one respect. Travis must regularly recharge his beam katana, which forces the player to either shake the Joy-Con, or wiggle the right joystick. It probably goes without saying, but the motion controls feel a lot more natural here. Wiggling the joystick is never going to feel quite right.
Visuals to Match the Tone
No More Heroes III has a lot to talk about, so much that it is difficult to fit everything into just one review. But something the truly deserves attention is the intense visuals. Between each episode, the opening credits fly across the screen with the name of the voice actor and the silhouette of their character. Different moments have very distinct styles, from the actual gameplay to anime-like story moments, to the retry roulette that looks like it’s made of paper.
In a game that is all over the place in many respects, it is fitting that the visual style follows that theme. Many of the enemies seem practically over-designed, but this is just another addition to the wacky, over-the-top style of No More Heroes III.
This game also loves covering the screen in text or other visuals. When Travis walks up to something he can interact with, most games would just have a small “A” to indicate that the player can press the “A” button to interact. But in No More Heroes III, half of the screen is dominated by moving “A’s” and other text just to add to complete the over-the-top aesthetic. It’s a small detail but a telling one.
An Episodic Video Game
No More Heroes III is like an anime that lets you fight the battles yourself. Each section of the game functions like another episode in the season. The amount of story between the battles might turn off some players, but the story is very well done. No More Heroes III is excellently self-aware, with some scenes taking place in the reflection of a TV screen, and Travis even taking time to point out instructions to a boss on how to make the fight more appealing to gamers.
Aside from the inherent magnitude of Travis Touchdown, the story also spends a lot of time on the primary alien antagonist, FU, and his human friend Damon. These characters balance the game by adding some more consistent drama to the ridiculousness of other parts of the story.
No More Heroes III is quite entertaining, but it is understandable if some players think it’s too much. Either in the sense that it’s too over-the-top or that it takes up too much time. But thankfully this is largely up to personal preference.
No More Heroes III is an excellent example of the stories that can be told in the medium of video games. It just so happens that the actual game is a lot of fun as well. This game also holds up if you haven’t played the first two games in the No More Heroes series. Some of the characters might not be recognizable, but the story and the gameplay are still very entertaining.
While excessive violence and suggestiveness are not something usually expected from a major Nintendo Switch title, it is exciting to have a game that is truly designed for an older audience. No More Heroes III is not ashamed to be what it wants to be, and it does it well. It even manages to squeeze some truly dramatic moments into the chaos.
No More Heroes III is a strange game, but absolutely worth your time. If you’ve ever watched an anime and wished you could play out the battles yourself, you will love this game. But if you haven’t had that specific experience and just enjoy a story-driven, chaotic hack-and-slash, you’ll have a great time as well.
Matt Buckley | Gamepressure.com