Good, But Not A Touchdown

HIGH Suplexing alligators, hell yeah!

LOW Defensive options in combat often feel inaccurate and clunky.

WTF Did I miss the reasoning behind Doctor Naomi being turned into a tree?

No More Heroes 3 is a game aimed at established fans, with storyline threads continuing from every entry in the series including the Travis Strikes Again spinoff. As such, any potential newcomers using NMH3 as a jumping-on point may be wondering just what the hell’s going on as the curtain rises.

Long story short? Protagonist Travis Touchdown talks about an 8-bit game he never completed, aliens invade the earth and blow up various cities, then Travis embarks on a quest to become the number one intergalactic assassin so that he can challenge their leader to a one-on-one duel with the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance. All in a day’s work, right?

Unfortunately, despite having a strong cast of potential characters from past games in the form of Travis Touchdown, Shinobu Jacobs, Bad Girl and Badman, No More Heroes 3 wastes absolutely no time in establishing that Travis is completely on his own as the only playable hero. It’s a shame to immediately sideline these fan favorites, but at least Travis himself remains as deadly as ever.

Once again returning primarily as a third-person combat melee-focused game, the general beats of play will be familiar to returning players. Having signed up for an intergalactic death match where Travis has to work up through the rankings and take out each ‘boss’ along the way, he now has to earn an entry fee prior to each deathmatch by killing various low-level benchwarmer flunkies and doing odd jobs in the open world. Mowing grass, chasing down delinquents on his bike and picking up trash from polluted waters is all par for the course — as is suplexing the occasional giant alligator.

Massive fights against trash mob enemies as seen in past iterations are largely gone now, replaced by smaller-scale skirmishes against harder foes. Combat feels different, with Travis dishing out heavier sweeping hits smashing into enemies, and an improved variety of animations. Travis is still able to perform wrestling moves on stunned opponents and must recharge his beam katana mid-fight as its power dwindles, but he also has a shiny new Death Glove which gives him new options on a cooldown timer. At first it’s just a basic dropkick, but he soon learns to force throw enemies, slow them down or pepper them with digital bullets.

It’s not all good news though. While offensive actions typically feel solid and rewarding, Travis’ defensive options are massively underwhelming. The only aspect which feels satisfying is pulling off a perfect dodge to slow down time and counterattack. Everything else is rough as hell — blocking is inconsistent and drains battery power from the beam katana. The standard dodge seemingly has no invincibility frames and doesn’t pass through attacks that players might expect it to, and it often rolls in weird directions whilst locked on to an enemy. These might might not sound like huge sins but it’s clunky as a whole, and having to mash Travis back onto his feet with repeated button presses after being knocked down is incredibly outdated design.

On the plus side, the boss battles remain freshly interesting, some of which have extremely unexpected twists. From musical chairs and giant operatic robot space battles to quirky takes on various genres of videogame, there’s a lot of imagination on show here. Some of them don’t quite work, though. The showdown against Jesse Baptiste VI  is the most obvious offender due to periods of invulnerability, and one artistically-censored conversation (which amusingly, presumably, takes the piss out of Final Fantasy 7) is followed by an approach that’s downright dull to play through. That said, most are more interesting and going from a horror scene with deadly musical chairs to an impromptu rap battle, many of the massive tonal and gameplay shifts are a delight to see unfold.

No More Heroes 3 winds up being something of a mixed bag in the end.

The combat’s solid aside from certain encounters where the lack of defensive tools causes frustration. The variety in boss battles and unique encounters runs the gamut between being thoroughly inspired and soul crushingly insipid, and even the overworld where odd jobs happen is cute in a retro way… while ultimately feeling more pointless and lifeless than it did in the original. In short, No More Heroes 3 often falls short of its true potential, but that’s not to say that it never shines.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Marvellous Inc. It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S/PS4/PS5/Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language and Suggestive Themes. The official description reads as follows: This is an action game in which players assume the role of Travis Touchdown, an assassin battling aliens while trying to reach the top of the Galactic Superhero Rankings. From a third-person perspective, players use a beam katana to engage in frenetic melee combat against alien and human enemies. Combat is highlighted by large blood-splatter effects, dismemberments/decapitations, and screams of pain. Finishing moves can trigger a zoomed-in perspective and slow-motion effects. Cutscenes depict further instances of intense violence: an alien ripping the arms off a fallen foe; an character crushing the skull of an enemy; a bound man repeatedly slashed, then decapitated. Camera angles sometimes focus on female characters’ revealing outfits and anatomy (e.g., low-cut tops, short skirts); some areas allow players to zoom in on female figures with upskirt detailing. During the course of the game, players’ character uses a masturbatory gesture to charge their beam katana. The words “f**k” and “sh*t” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The game is essentially completely playable without sound. Several optional chips make finding hidden items easier with a beeping noise becoming more frequent as you approach them in the open world, but it won’t hinder general gameplay. In my view, this is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but most of the time movement is on the left stick. Camera is the right stick. Jumping is A. Dodging is B. Attacks are X and Y, Locking on and blocking is left trigger, using Death Chip attacks is L1 and a face button.

Darren Forman
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11 months ago

I think I only played the first one. I probably completed it? I remember almost nothing about it. It just struck me as prioritizing style over substance, in story or gameplay. Some games can get away with that. This one (the first one) didn’t.