Review – One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows
One Punch Man is one of the best animes released over the past few years mostly because it’s aimed at those who were fed up with the vast amount of clichés and tropes present in shonen anime. It narrates the life of Saitama, a guy so powerful he can kill anyone with a punch. This means there is absolutely no challenge in his life, which leads to constant boredom and apathy. There are also tons of ridiculous side characters and a hero association in the background, presented here mostly to make fun of said bureaucratic tropes in anime. They tend to take half an episode to describe their origin, association ranking or power, only for Saitama to show up not caring about anything and defeating the enemy giving them trouble.
Somehow, Bandai Namco and Spike Chunsoft, the same combination besides the not-so-spectacular Jump Force, decided to make a game out of it. Did it end up being a heroic achievement?
Initial impressions were positive, and by that, I mean even before I pressed the Start button. I was greeted with a high-octane intro video sang by the same team behind the phenomenal “The Hero!!“, One Punch Man‘s theme song, and also arguably one of the best anime theme songs of all time. Once the title screen appeared, my ears were ravaged by the game’s poor sound mixing, with the voice acting remaining sky high even after doodling on the sound options menu.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is one of those games without an actual main menu. The moment I pressed Start, I went straight into a character creator where I was supposed to make my own hero and begin climbing the ladder through the Hero’s Association ranks. The character creator only had half a dozen options of faces, hairstyles, and outfits. None of them resembling the ridiculousness of what a hero in the One Punch Man universe would wear, so things weren’t off to a good start. Furthermore, why was I creating a new hero? Why wasn’t I playing as Saitama or, hell, Genos? Why was I being forced to essentially do what the game made fun of, but without any of the satire?
After a few boring tutorial sessions that introduced me to the game’s really underwhelming combat (more on that later), I could finally walk around the open world of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows and realize what a freaking mess this was. This really tries to emulate Dragon Ball Xenoverse in every shape and form, but unsuccessfully.
Every single gaming option, be it main quests, sidequests, stores, or even the one battle mode that actually allows you to play as the One Punch Man heroes themselves, are all scattered throughout the map. You have to painfully go from one place to another in order to get quests or even buy a new shirt, all while enduring the terrible overworld framerate. The game itself isn’t that much of a looker, but its unlocked framerate still manages to drop really low when you’re on a slightly more detailed area. Character pop-ins are also frequent.
The main gameplay loop in the story mode is to create your hero, partake in missions given to you by citizens and the Hero’s Association, level up your stats, increase your rank within the Association, dive into an overwhelming amount of menus and submenus regarding in order to customize your abilities and skills, befriend lesser heroes from the show, and loosely follow the plot of the anime. You know, the one intentionally made for you not to bother because you knew Saitama would eventually show up and save the day with a punch. The fact that you’re basically playing as a young hero in the making makes this game feel more like a more comedic My Hero Academia game than a One Punch Man game at times.
If there’s one thing that could have saved One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows from being a snorefest, that would have been the combat. Sadly, that’s not the case.
This is a standard 3D fighter in which you can create teams comprised of up to three heroes in order to fight your enemy in an enclosed arena. You have a light attack button, a strong attack, some special moves, a grab, block, dodge, you know the drill. Not only is this combat system very unoriginal, but it’s also unresponsive and imprecise. There’s a slight input delay whenever you press a button. With the exception of when you pull off a special move, everything just feels sluggish and underpowered, so I just ended up spamming my hero’s “consecutive normal punches” special attack in order to progress as quickly as possible. Of course, the combat bored the hell out of me pretty quickly.
Saitama himself is in the game, but he’s not fully available at all times. He sometimes shows up as an ally, but in order to actually use him, you need to endure three minutes into a battle, as he’s running on foot to the place you’re fighting. If you lose before he arrives, it’s game over. Granted, he’s overpowered and kills anyone with one hit once he arrives, but after the first time that this happens onscreen, this gimmick just outstays its welcome. Just like Saitama says in the anime, being overpowered is boring.
The main problem with One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is that it just isn’t fun to play. It doesn’t retain the show’s charm because it completely misses the mark when it comes to its tone and setting. One Punch Man is all about how dumb the Hero Association’s bureaucracy is and you’re basically forced to climb the same ladder the show constantly made fun of. It is also a show about how boring Saitama’s life is due to the fact he’s so overpowered and that is visible whenever you’re actually able to play as him for the mere seconds he’s onscreen. One Punch Man will never work as a videogame and A Hero Nobody Knows is proof.
While the overall visuals are serviceable enough for an anime game like this one, the framerate is completely bonkers, ranging from ultra-high to painfully glitchy.
A very by-the-books 3D fighter with mediocre combat mechanics and a bit of input lag. The overworld controls are passable, but there’s the issue regarding the framerate. There are tons of menus for you to fool around when customizing your hero, to the point it becomes borderline overwhelming.
The soundtrack is passable and the overall voice acting is pretty good, with the anime cast reprising their respective roles both in English and Japanese. Unfortunately, the game’s sound has been terribly mixed.
Fun Factor: 5.0
After a slow and obnoxious tutorial, the game shows hints that it will be a somewhat fun ride. However, its pacing, dull combat and erroneous focus make it become the very thing that the anime makes fun of. It’s also somewhat glitchy.
Final Verdict: 5.5
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Reviewed on PS4.