Review – No More Heroes III (PS5)
You know, for as much as I ended up not being the biggest of fans of the first two No More Heroes games (I’m not even putting the lame spinoff into consideration), I gave them a pass for being nearly fifteen years old. Gaming was different back then. Humor is something that often ages poorly, and you have to take that into account. I was actually eager to try out No More Heroes III and see if Suda51 had learned anything about properly handling tonality discrepancies, actually making funny jokes that land, and most importantly, fixing the gameplay issues that made its predecessors feel so dated in comparison. With No More Heroes III finally available on a system that does its visuals and intended performance justice, I gave it a go.
No More Heroes III starts off with an admittedly lovely cartoonish cutscene that feels like the lovechild between Steven Spielberg and Hayao Miyazaki. In it, a little 80s kid rescues an alien from an accident, and takes care of him until he’s able to build a spaceship and return home. The little adorable alien promises to return in twenty years before vanishing in the stars. Twenty years later, and the kid has grown into a successful businessman, and eagerly awaits for the alien’s return. It turns out that the alien, called Fu, is now a ruthless intergalactic dictator, arriving on Earth with the sole objectives of destroying everything, ruling everything, and getting on my nerves with one of the most annoying personalities I have ever seen in a gaming character.
I think this was Suda51’s way to make (un)loveable douchebag Travis Touchdown more, err, “relatable”. Instead of fleshing out his character or updating his sense of humor, nah, he just decided to make everyone around him even more unbearable, making this discount Johnny Knoxville holding a lightbulb feel less obnoxious out of principle. Even if No More Heroes III is admittedly a tale of revenge, giving that imbecile a somewhat acceptable reason to do the crap he does, he is still one of the most annoying video game protagonists I have ever seen. Travis Touchdown is a massive example of comedic writing done wrong. He is a foil in a world comprised of foils, never letting his self-indulgent jokes and quips land properly.
Self-indulgence is the name of the game. It’s not as egregious as the first No More Heroes, but Suda51 still cannot flesh out characters, even if his life depended on it. No More Heroes 2 felt like a step in the right direction, with an angrier Travis going berserk on the people who wronged him in a more direct approach to the source material. No More Heroes III wastes the revenge aspect of the plot with self-indulgent jokes, a borderline narcissistic and arrogant approach to Suda’s (overrated) legacy, attempts at parodying other material in a way that just sounded like the usage of references, and a ton of filler in between set pieces.
Yes, the obnoxious and empty open world seen in the first No More Heroes is back… for some unknown reason. I cannot think of a single reason why this open world aspect needed to make a comeback besides artificially extending the game’s overall duration. You still have to run around boring streets, looking for additional fights and side activities to partake in before you’re able to jump into another ranked fight. It’s dull as hell. Moving around these areas feels glitchy and unpolished. Not only are the motorcycle controls dated and unresponsive, but I managed to soft-lock my character onto a fence at least twice, as if I were playing a budget title from the PS2 era.
It’s a shame that No More Heroes III features so many irritating gameplay and narrative elements that severely hindered my overall enjoyment with it, because at its core, it’s actually excellent (or at least, it COULD have been excellent). Not being limited by the original hardware limitations of the Wii allowed the dev team at Grasshopper Manufacture to craft a punchier much more enjoyable combat system. Sure, there are issues with it, namely the boring stats system, the camera, and Travis’ inability to get up quickly after being hit once, but connecting attacks and racking up gigantic combos against hordes of low-poly enemies feels deliciously rewarding. If No More Heroes III featured the progression system from the second game in the series, while keeping this new combat system, it would have been a much cooler experience.
Not being tied to the Switch’s sinfully dated hardware makes this version of the game stand out as well. Its art style is great. Even if character models feel a bit uncanny, as if they had been taken straight from Killer7, the color palette, smooth animations, particle effects, and fantastic framerate result in a legitimate sight for sore eyes. I even started liking the utterly bizarre enemy designs. They don’t necessarily resemble anything coherent, feeling like a mishmash between a bad acid trip and letting your hyperactive labradoodle tinker with a 3D modelling software. They work for the game’s tone.
I even liked the sound design quite a lot, actually. First of all, the soundtrack is excellent. I particularly enjoyed the little jazzy drum solo played whenever I completed a battle, adding an extra layer of style to a game that sorely lacked in it, despite attempting really hard. I even liked the voice acting. Sure, I hated the game’s script, particularly everything uttered by Travis, Silvia, and Fu, but I cannot say that the voice actors themselves didn’t do a great job with the material they were given. You could have hired Daniel-Day Lewis and Morgan Freeman to voice people in this game and they would have still sounded beyond unlikeable.
No More Heroes III could have been great. Its visuals, performance, and combat system are all a massive improvement over its predecessors. This game had all the ingredients to become a hack ‘n’ slash classic, but Suda51 had to shove it, nay, drown it with arrogance, self-indulgence, and some of the unfunniest “humor” I’ve witnessed since, well, the original No More Heroes, I suppose. The return of the pointless open world is further proof that player feedback, as well as trend analysis, haven’t been taken into account. I get why people say this is a bold statement, an auteur piece in a corporate industry, but there’s nothing commendable about a game being hindered by its creator’s ego. It just makes its flaws stand out even more.
Despite the limitations caused by it originally being a Switch game, No More Heroes III‘s art style and animations are a sight for sore eyes.
A great (albeit repetitive) combat system hampered by unnecessary filler, broken mechanics, and the return of an open world nobody had asked for.
Props to the actually great soundtrack and pretty good voice acting, even though the latter is hampered by the atrocious script.
Fun Factor: 6.0
Even if the combat is actually pretty good, the return of the pointless open world and the abhorrent characters make No More Heroes III painful to deal with at times.
Final Verdict: 7.0
No More Heroes III is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of No More Heroes III was provided by the publisher.