If you’re a fan of No More Heroes or creator Goichi Suda’s off-kilter, eccentric works, then all you need to know is that No More Heroes 3 is more of the same recipe that makes these games have such an enduring fan following. As a matter of fact, No More Heroes 3 is easily the best realization of the series’ formula yet, and fans are probably going to enjoy this title and largely agree upon it being the best one in the series. It’s also one of the first full fledged releases in a while to bear the unmistakeable stamp that Suda impresses upon his best works, something that the series hasn’t had to this degree since the very first game – Travis Strikes Again notwithstanding.
All of this is a really long and roundabout way of saying something that most No More Heroes and Suda51 fans had already determined – No More Heroes 3 is really good, and fans will love it, flaws and all. For them, that was never going to be in question – rather, the broader question is whether or not No More Heroes 3 can actually appeal to a broader audience beyond the one that the previous games in the series have courted.
That’s where things become dicier, because while No More Heroes 3 is the ultimate realization of the series’ identity so far, that includes the bad things every bit as much as it does the good things. It’s still a janky game with shockingly poor graphics on the technical front, with the open world, and the accompanying frame rates, textures, draw distances, resolution, et al, coming in at circa 2002 era games. The Switch, while being a decidedly more constrained platform in terms of raw hardware grunt than its peers, has punched above its weight pretty consistently where open world titles are concerned, with games such as Breath of the Wild, Immortals, Skyrim, and even The Witcher 3 showing us just what can be achieved on Nintendo’s little hybrid. No More Heroes 3 will not be joining that list, because very frankly, it would hardly have passed muster on the technical fronts back on the PS2 or Wii.
"No More Heroes 3 is really good, and fans will love it, flaws and all. For them, that was never going to be in question – rather, the broader question is whether or not No More Heroes 3 can actually appeal to a broader audience beyond the one that the previous games in the series have courted. "
No one in the world plays No More Heroes for how it looks, or for the open world though (and if they do, I really want to ask them – why?). You play it for the stylish aesthetic and soundtrack, the over the top story, the sharp writing and witty subtext, and the amazing fights with some pretty well designed combat. If you are like me, the inane and repetitive mini games you have to grind to unlock the next boss fight are also a part of that list. And on all those fronts, No More Heroes 3 decidedly delivers.
The conceit is very decidedly Suda, while taking cues from the superhero mania that sprung up in the intervening years between No More Heroes 2 and 3. The game wears that superhero inspiration on its sleeve, and namedrops the MCU in dialog explicitly a couple of times as well. But the plot is, to the extent there is a coherent summary possible, as follows – a young boy found an alien in the woods, rescued it from government agents, and helped it get back home. Now, decades later, that cute alien returns as an evil overlord hell bent on taking over the earth, styling himself and his cronies as superheroes, given the superhero obsession on earth. They set up a league of ten such superhero alien overlords that is administered by the United Assassins Association, and series protagonist Travis Touchdown must now take them down to beat back the alien invasion and save the earth. Just go with it.
The important thing is that a premise as unhinged as that allows for everything you would want from a No More Heroes game – there are some incredibly imaginative boss fights, the writing is really funny and full of the meta subtext you expect from Suda’s works, and it allows for a lot of characters, new and returning alike, each more over the top than the last, to pepper the adventure as well.
Things are structured about the same as before – you have to win in the ranked battles, each ranked battle carries a pretty steep (and progressively steeper the more battles you fight in) fee, to earn that money, you have to do odd jobs around the town, going around the open world to engage in activities ranging from mowing lawns, cleaning out the trash, unclogging toilets, taking down rowdy biker gangs, and fighting back waves of enemies. Once again, I cannot stress how unhinged and bizarre No More Heroes games can be.
All of this works pretty much as expected, though No More Heroes 3 does add its own layers – you’re supposed to fight in a bunch of preliminary battles first before you are even cleared to take on a ranked battle every single time, for example, and in what I can only hope is a mercilessly satirical riff on the “Ubisoft Towers” conceit in most modern open world games, you have to find toilets (which also function as save points) and unclog them before the activities available in that general area become revealed for you on the map. The activities themselves are designed well, and there’s a zen-like nirvana to their repetition as you settle into their rhythm to grind money for the next fight. All of this is much the same as before. In combat, too, No More Heroes 3 mixes the new with the old, and some variations throughout, with heal items, buffs, an ultimate Mecha armor attack, and different Death Glove attacks (returning from Travis Strikes Again) all mixing things up to keep you on your toes on top of the already wildly varying fights the game puts you up in.
"I cannot stress how unhinged and bizarre No More Heroes games can be."
Those fights are the peak of the experience, the point in time where everything in No More Heroes 3 comes together. The wacky characters, the sharp writing, the strong sense of style, the excellent combat, the marvellous (pun intended) boss fight design, and even the technical performance holds its own here, with the frame rate being a rock solid and fluid 60 frames per seconds in fights.
Nevertheless, it can take a minute to get into the rhythm of these fights, because they are hard. Suda seems to have bumped up the difficulty level in this game across the board, and you might find yourself struggling at first. Even bumping down to the easier difficulty isn’t really a solution here, because that difficulty seems to essentially make you invincible with an auto guard nullifying all damage – which, you know, really takes away from the fun of things. But once you do calibrate with the combat, boss fights in No More Heroes 3 are thrilling, engaging, and consistently surprising.
Through all of this, the question we started out with remains unanswered – is this a game that a newcomer can play and enjoy? If you mean in terms of story, then the truth of the matter is there is a lot going on in the game that directly continues on from the previous three games (Travis Strikes Again included), and you might find yourself lost. However, given how insane the story is in general, you’re probably getting the same takeaway of being bemusedly overwhelmed and amused at everything that goes on and trying to keep up with it all. I wouldn’t let story considerations keep you from trying out No More Heroes 3 as a newcomer, is what I mean.
"If you can buy into No More Heroes 3 for what it is, then you are in for a great time, as with excellent bosses, satisfying combat, sharp and witty writing, gloriously over the top characters, and a positively unhinged story, No More Heroes 3 delivers what is without a doubt the best game in the series, and arguably Suda’s best work yet in general."
But if you do, will you like it? I think there’s a certain kind of bent you need to have to enjoy the insanity and bank that permeates Suda’s works, and that is as true for No More Heroes as it is for anything else, in spite of No More Heroes being Suda’s most mainstream friendly IP. In fact, No More Heroes 3 being Suda’s first fully directed flagship release since the original No More Heroes (the smaller and more experimental Travis Strikes Again notwithstanding) means that this is the most concentrated dose of Suda in a while.
To be able to enjoy No More Heroes 3, then, you need to be able to not take the story seriously while still being fully invested in it and all that it has to offer, and you need to be willing to put up with the distinctly low budget jank that permeates the game without letting it get in the way of your enjoyment of all that the game does well. If you want a serious, grounded, polished and high budget story driven open world adventure, No More Heroes is not for you, and you should run as far away as you can in the opposite direction before you even consider considering it. If you can, however, buy into No More Heroes 3 for what it is, then you are in for a great time, as with excellent bosses, satisfying combat, sharp and witty writing, gloriously over the top characters, and a positively unhinged story, No More Heroes 3 delivers what is without a doubt the best game in the series, and arguably Suda’s best work yet in general.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Great combat, with some extremely imaginative and engaging boss fights; sharp writing with great subtext and witty humour; great sense of style, in terms of aesthetics and music alike; completely unhinged and gloriously over the top in the best ways possible.
The game can be an embarrassment on the technical front, especially in the open world sections; the repetition of the structure can be off putting; the easy mode is *too* easy.