No More Heroes 3 – Unbacked Style

    Title: No More Heroes 3
    Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
    Release Date: August 27, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Grasshopper Manufacture
    Genre: Action

An often requested sequel is No More Heroes 3, a series that you either really love or really hate, with very little room in between. This is also found in the spinoff Travis Strikes Again, a fantastic game that ended with a “No More Heroes 3 is in development” sequence. So, if you want to stoke a fire, that’s one way to do it. And now, it’s here, 11 years after its predecessor, No More Heroes 3.

No More Heroes 3 stars everyone’s favorite loser, Travis Touchdown, who is having a good old time doing nothing, when suddenly aliens show up and poke a giant hole in Santa Destroy. Known as Jess Baptiste VI or simply FU, this blue dude has taken a liking to the game of conquest and made himself the “top galactic ranking superhero.”

He’s made a call for heroes to show up and fight his friends in 1v1 matches as they make their way to the head honcho himself with hopes to save the planet. And with no more heroes left to save the day, it’s up to Travis to do the honors and take them down.

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FU has left Sylvia and the united assassin’s association in charge, so they request an entry fee similar to the original game, leaving Travis to make his way around Santa Destroy and a few other areas to make the cash. This time around, though, there’s a twist, you’ll need to do requirement battles before you can even pay the entry fee, which will also make you enough money to participate in the ranking battle.

Besides the cash, UtopiCoins, you can also make small amounts of World End Super Nova, some sort of other currency. This is achieved by taking part in silly mini-games like mowing the lawn or trash collection. But I found them largely unnecessary due to the stakes and the fact you get enough doing the requirement fights. So instead, you can spend this other weirdly named currency on upgrading your stats. Boosting health, attack power, energy, etc., you get the drill.

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Armed with that trusty not-lightsaber of his, Travis can slice foes with normal or heavy attacks. Normal attacks make for quick rapid combos, while heavy attack combos take a bit longer to perform and leave you open but also deal more damage. If you want to immerse yourself in the stabbing a little more, you can use a Joy-Con in each hand to match Travis’ Death Glove and use motion controls to recharge the beam katana and get in the killer slashes.

What does this Death Glove do? It adds four extra skills to your repertoire. A warp kick straight out of Kamen Rider, a force choke that sends an enemy flying, the ability to create a zone that slows down time for enemies and projectiles within, or a zone that damages them over time. They’re color-coded, so you’ll know at a glance which ones are ready to go.

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Once you’re prepared, it’s time to take on the ranking battles. These major fights against FU and his friends are the best parts of the game, where you’ll need to use every tool you have to unleash the slaughter. It’s easily the best combat the series has had to offer, with some absolutely incredible fights only helped by the sound design and light show attacks put on.

Each boss fight is entertaining and challenging, pushing your action skills to their limits. The controls aren’t as tight as No More Heroes I, but they also let you play on the offensive much more often, leading to a cacophony of slash and dashes.

When playing on Spicy difficulty, it’s important to bring up that bosses have additional moves in their arsenal, leading to a much more fulfilling experience. I played my first run on ‘Normal’ difficulty, called bitter, but the second I fought a boss on Spicy, I regretted I’d ever played on anything lower. They’re just that much more fun. But if you aren’t confident in your action skills, you can rechallenge previously defeated bosses on greater difficulties later, so come back when you’ve perfected your skills.

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In terms of its story, No More Heroes 3 is probably the worst in the series. Which really sucks coming right off the back of Travis Strikes Again, whose existential themes lead to some great narrative scenes. While many opponents in the previous entries had commonality between them, at least on a thematic level that set up a story, No More Heroes 3 doesn’t have anything in the department besides wacky hijinks. Further, removing the dungeon-esque areas before the boss fights makes them feel even more shallow by comparison. It also means that a couple of fights that do have that extra build-up stand out.

The comedy and tone of No More Heroes 3 is enjoyable, but unless there’s a hidden connection in the Miike films brought up, there’s absolutely no substance behind this excuse plot of a story. It likes its misdirection, which is amusing the first few times, but the one joke where expectations are interrupted stops being funny the fifth time it happens.

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It constantly feels like the game is setting up something interesting and then never delivers, slamming a door on its own setup, rebuking all payoff. Badgirl, Badman, and Shinobu were also set up to be important in this game, and they have less than 60 seconds of combined screen-time; if you removed them from the game, you wouldn’t notice, and that sucks.

Ultimately, the tone doesn’t sustain this story till the end and left many big sequences and the end of the game feeling tired and empty, and not in that good way. What was the point? There’s no catharsis. On a minor note, it also does annoy me that the “press A to power on the katana” doesn’t line up correctly. It should extend out, and then you press the A button before it powers on; that was such a cool detail in the first game that had lots of weight for a single press.

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No More Heroes 3 is composed of a fantastic combat system with stylish visual flair but, on a narrative level, falls flat in every way compared to its predecessors. However, you weren’t really coming into No More Heroes 3 for the story, were you? This is why after completing the adventure, I simply booted it up to play again. I guess the fights are just that good.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Pyre Kavanagh

Senior Editor - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so they can buy more murder mysteries. @PyreLoop on twitter