No More Heroes III Review: The Same Goodness and the Same Flaws
It’s been 11 years since we got the last mainline No More Heroes game, and two years since the spinoff, Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. While many longtime fans, including myself, wanted a proper third entry in 2019, Travis Strikes Again was a nice detour, setting up story beats that would eventually coalesce into No More Heroes III.
Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51’s latest adventure is pretty much exactly what longtime fans asked for, for better or worse. It’s got the same fun gameplay, wacky characters, inventive boss battles, and funny writing. At the same time, it still has the same problems that plagued the first entry back in 2007.
No More Heroes III Review: The Same Goodness and the Same Flaws
No More Heroes III takes place in a fictional depiction of California called Santa Destroy, following the events of Travis Strikes Again. You’ll need to at least play that game to have any semblance of understanding the few opening scenes here.
Things start off with a heartfelt interaction between a young boy named Damon and a small alien named Fu. After Fu leaves Earth, he and Damon meet up years later, both grown up. However, Fu becomes homicidal and is bent on planetary destruction. He then returns to Earth and Santa Destroy, something that brings Travis Touchdown into the picture.
Travis kills an alien and inadvertently joins Fu’s Assassin ranking tournament; turns out the alien was in 10th place in the tournament. From then on, Travis must take down the next 9 ranking members of the tournament, with Fu holding the top spot.
The story isn’t very deep, but that's made up by the sheer ridiculousness of all the characters.
The Same High Octane Fun You Expect
The bosses, in particular, are an absolute delight. They all have distinct personalities, even if you don’t get much time to get to know them. At most, there are only a few cutscenes of them interacting with Fu.
These fights have unique formats; sometimes game mechanics can change entirely, some even copy-pasted from other well-known real-life games, such as turn-based RPGs or first-person horror. As such, each boss fight is incredibly memorable and fun.
The gameplay outside of these fights is largely unchanged from No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2. It’s real-time action, and you use Travis's beam katana to slice enemies. After depleting an enemy’s HP gauge, you can either flick the right stick or swing the Joy-Cons in the direction indicated on the screen to perform a finishing move.
If you dodge an enemy’s attack at the last moment, you’ll slow down time and be able to unleash your wrath on them. You’ll often take enemies on in groups, but Travis can really only fight one on one. What’s frustrating here is that you’ll very often get hit by an enemy’s attack from offscreen, and there’s no warning if or when it’s coming. If Travis gets knocked down, he takes ages to get back up.
A new addition is the Death Glove, which Travis can use to perform some special attacks. Every so often, you’ll have to recharge the battery on Travis’ beam katana in a masturbatory way, or if you manage to stun an enemy, you can use his wrestling moves to suplex it and regain your battery’s energy.
At the end of every fight, you’ll receive materials that you can use to craft chips that Travis can equip to improve his passive abilities. You’ll also earn skill points, called World’s End SuperNova (WESN), that you can use to invest in Travis’s stats and learn some new moves along his skill tree.
Although one disappointment is that there isn't a wider range of beam katanas. In previous entries, you can get new blades either by purchasing them or through story events. As far as I can tell, this has been replaced with the new catch-all stat system.
The Daily Life of an Otaku
Before you can face off with a boss, you have to pay a fee. By going around Santa Destroy and its surrounding areas, you can pick up odd jobs like mowing lawns, plunging toilets, or mining minerals in exchange for currency, called UtopiCoin.
You also need to participate in a certain number of designated fights. These are just points on the map where you’re whisked away to a battlefield to fight some enemies, and these offer more substantial rewards than the odd jobs.
Unfortunately, you have to repeat this same process for every single chapter in the game before any boss fight. It gets pretty repetitive after a while.
What’s really apparent as you go around the open world completing these mundane tasks is how empty it really is. Every area is sparsely populated, and it honestly doesn’t feel very lively at all. It doesn’t help that almost all of the NPCs look the same and their voices are in a garbled speech pattern like those in Animal Crossing. But unlike the NPCs in that game, the ones in No More Heroes III just have no personality.
It feels like the open world is just an obstacle between getting from one place to the next. The main characters and their models look good, but everything else is pretty ugly. The low-res environmental textures just aren't pleasing to look at, either. It’s even worse when you’re playing in the Switch’s handheld mode. There’s also some really jarring pop in from bushes, street lights, and other random objects too.
In contrast, I absolutely love the game’s aesthetics when it comes to its user interface and transitions. There are side adventures that present Travis’ interactions like those in the Metal Gear Solid Codec screen. The menus have this 8-bit retro style that incorporates elements of a vaporwave look, similar to something like Paradise Killer. There's also an anime opening every time you go into the next chapter of the game after you beat a boss, as well as a loading screen modeled after Netflix's "next episode in 3...2..1.."
The game’s soundtrack is stellar as well. You can hear the calming beach music as you explore Santa Destroy, or rock out to the epic rock tunes played during boss fights. Musical Chairs is a smooth and sexy R&B song that fits perfectly into any contemporary playlist. My favorite is the rap song, ITADAKIMASU, that plays whenever you visit the Sushi Shop to eat food and obtain temporary buffs for battle. It’s a little over the top given that you’re only eating sushi, but it fits the wacky tone that the No More Heroes franchise is known for.
The writing and dialogue between characters are just as juvenile as previous entries, which is great because it's full of raunchy humor and non stop cursing. The game also introduces some new characters and some plot twists here and there. While some of them are predictable, they’re nevertheless entertaining and enjoyable.
No More Heroes III Review — The Bottom Line
- Fun gameplay and unique boss fights
- Great soundtrack and UI aesthetic
- Funny writing and interesting characters
- Really ugly environmental graphics, especially in handheld mode
- Shallow open world
- The tasks related to raising enough money can feel very repetitive after a few chapters in
No More Heroes III is just more of the same. This game feels a decade old and like it was made for its most hardcore fans. It has all the same charm, humor, and fun gameplay, but also the same issues, mainly the dreadfully boring open world and repetitive structure.
Those who played both of the two previous mainline games will know exactly what to expect here in No More Heroes III. There isn’t much evolution between them and this, and maybe there doesn’t need to be. But I still wish that the game would have matured a bit more along with its audience after all these years.
[Note: Grasshopper Manufacture provided the copy of No More Heroes III used for this review.]