Initial release date: August 27, 2021
Designer: Goichi Suda
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Composer: Nobuaki Kaneko
Series: No More Heroes
Publishers: Grasshopper Manufacture, Marvelous Inc.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
"Review Copy Provided By Grasshopper Manufacture"
No More Heroes is such a cult classic franchise that it’s almost impossible to talk to any gamer and they not know the series or who Travis Touchdown is. Originally debuting on the Nintendo Wii in the late 00’s, No More Heroes was made by the legendary Suda51 and the team at Grasshopper Studios and is essentially a social commentary. At the time there was no other game on the Wii like it in style or substance and it went on to garner a sequel in 2010 and a spin-off title in 2018 of which left breadcrumbs of a potential third outing. And here we are in 2021 with one of the most anticipated games of 2021 in No More Heroes III. Does NMH3 live up to the franchises’ legacy and cap off the series that made SUDA51 a household name? Let’s find out!
NMH3 starts off with a 8-bit retro gaming intro that leads into a flashback of Damon Ricitiello (previously seen in Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes) wondering around in some woods and finding an E.T. like alien named FU (pronounced as “foo”) whom he goes on to establish a bond and friendship with. Over time, Damon and FU build a spaceship so that FU can return to his home planet of which the two say they’re goodbyes to one another. Fast forward 20 years later; Damon is one of the most wealthy and powerful people on planet Earth and is often reminiscing about his time with FU when suddenly spaceships appear, and FU descends along with his rag tag group and asks (more like demands) Damon to help him conquer Earth. A group of aliens destroy part of Travis’s neighborhood and wake him up from his nap and he goes outside to take the fight to them and stop the megalomaniac known as FU.
So….explaining the gameplay of No More Heroes III is a bit complicated because it isn’t just one particular genre but is many crammed into one game.
The core combat of NMH3 is the most enjoyable that it’s ever been in the franchise with some of the smoothest hack and slash action I’ve seen on the platform with his beam katana combos that just flow so fluidly and not to mention the finishing blows which look oh so devastating. This is as visceral as it gets with you hacking away at your enemies until they sputter up blood all over the place.
Boss fights are still as insane and creative as they’ve ever been and get increasingly more varied so that no two fights ever feel the same. They require you to have a level of competency with Travis and his moveset to stand a chance at winning as the series always has done. The bosses are all fun to fight and get you into trying to figure out creative ways to beat them, however, they lack the charm of the earlier entries UAA bosses and the generally grounded tone of the earlier NMH games. That’s not to say that they aren’t endearing as each boss has loveable aspects about them especially FU, it’s just that for me I feel the UAA characters were better overall.
Carrying over from Travis Strikes Again is the Death Glove which allows for bullet-time like time manipulation, an incredibly powerful dropkick, and more. As in previous games, you can do some crafting at the Santa Destroy apartment which is a much more streamlined process in comparison to the older titles where it was time consuming.
One of the coolest aspects of gameplay added was the space combat which happens when Travis utilizes his “Full Armor” form and takes off to battle the galactic threat using controls that feel like a merger of Zone of The Enders and Daemon X Machina and is insanely addicting.
One gameplay element that was brought back from the first game that was heavily lambasted was the open-world traversal that would have you roaming around in an almost empty sandbox style environment except here you get that along with the ability to travel to multiple islands. Thankfully in all that traversal you now have access to fast travel that makes the monotonous romp not so monotounousy? Is that even a word? You get what I mean.
As you move about the map, you’ll start to take part in some arena fights known as “Designated Matches” where you’ll fight through a gauntlet of enemies so that you can get cash and notoriety allowing you to enter Ranking Battles to fight one of the Galactic Superheroes
Minigames return and are much more streamlined and modernized in comparison to the first NMH with things a bit more relevant to the times we’re in now such as mining crypto and shooting down alligators in a tank and yet older mini games such as lawn mowing return as well. Now are these minigames fun to play? Well they are certainly more fun than the older titles but they aren’t necessarily “fun” by my definition and honestly serve to pull me out of the NMH3 experience as they feel so far removed from what that game as a whole is.
The game looks and runs for the most part amazingly in both docked and handheld modes. The game has a very high level of polish that is often seen from 3rd party games on the Switch and runs at 60fps in both modes. Character models look a lot better than they did in NMH2 with a lot more detail added to the character models.
Environments, however, pale substantially in comparison to the characters with very little detail and often have texture pop-in. When driving about you’ll really feel like you’re moving about an empty sandbox with buildings and structures that look incredibly bland. I honestly feel like this is not only done because of both the limitations of the hardware and because of the visual style Suda51 was going for.
Docked, NMH3 is the optimal way to play the game as you won’t really run into any performance issues and will be able to enjoy the games’ beautiful graphics and presentation. It’s when you play it in handheld mode that you lose a lot of that shine and things are either striped down or run pretty roughly. In handheld mode the game’s performance is all over the place as the frame rate will drop noticeably from 60fps down to the 20’s when there’s too much going on and graphically the game’s vibrant and colorful graphics get dialed down to look duller. When the game isn’t having these issues in handheld mode it fires on all cylinders for some of the best white-knuckle action you can find on the system.
This area of the game is just glorious as Robin Atkin Downes really delivers one of the absolute best performances I’ve ever heard him do as Travis and having a character like FU who is basically a counter to Travis go back and forth with him is incredible. The voice acting is incredible and is probably the best I’ve heard in a game all year.
The games soundtrack is a banger especially during missions and boss fights and keeps your adrenaline going as you hack into and mow down baddies.
The biggest issue here is the fact that you can feel that there is nowhere left for Suda51 to take Travis after this adventure without the game having the sense of “been there done that” lingering over it as even this game most definitely has that feeling too with it feeling like the “joke” has run its course and is a bit long in the tooth.
The other downside is the performance dips in portable mode that I mentioned earlier as that really brings a hamper on the fun you can have with this game on the go.
I could bring up the minigames, but I feel like that’s always been an annoyance in this franchise, so I don’t need to speak on it here.
NMH3 is from a gameplay and visual standpoint one of the best games in the series and holds nothing back. From a narrative standpoint (can’t believe I’m saying that in a NMH game) the series feels like its run it’s course even with some of the massively surprising reveals that happen over the course of the game. All that aside, NMH3 is most definitely a game that shows that Suda51 truly put himself into his own game and isn’t as held back from a creative standpoint in his expression due to the hardware in the way that he was before on the Wii and that’s something we as gamers should truly appreciate; the art and creativity that is on display here. With incredibly fun and fluid controls, an over-the-top zany adventure with characters you wont forget, a soundtrack that gets you pumped up and never lets you down, and most of all being able to step back into the shoes of Travis Touchdown makes No More Heroes III one of the best games of 2021 and one of the absolute best games on the Nintendo Switch.