One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Review — Meh
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows was never going to be a balanced tournament fighter like Dragonball FighterZ or Street Fighter. It would be a disservice to its source material to place cosmic horrors on a level playing field with a hero whose superpower boils down to "owns a bike."
No disrespect to Mumen Rider — he's doing his best — but that's just the way it is.
In many ways, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is pleasantly faithful to its source material, with a story that involves rising up through the ranks of the Hero Association. It's a shame, then, that the overall experience will leave you as bored, hollow, and disappointed as Saitama after a battle.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Review — Meh
Much like Dragonball Xenoverse, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is constructed around an all-encompassing story mode. This means that as soon as you start the game, you'll create your own custom character and be dropped into the game's tutorial missions.
It's smart for the developers to frame the game this way; instead of playing as a hyper-powerful Saitama or a relatively-powerless Mumen Rider, you create your own hero who can rise through the ranks, getting more and more powerful as you level up.
This, in turn, means that as you progress, you'll be teaming up with, completing missions for, and facing off against well-known characters from the series as you claw your way towards the next grade in the Hero Association.
Character creation is satisfying if a bit spartan at first. Your initial character will kind of look like a (relatively) normal person, but character customization options unlock fast and furious as you progress through the game, allowing you to create some truly hilarious monstrosities.
Progression is similar for your character's moveset. Though you begin with a relatively basic slate of moves, you'll be able to customize your fighting style and your slate of special moves as you level up and complete missions.
Being stuck with a dearth of options at the beginning of the game is a bit frustrating, but at the same time, it doesn't take very long to increase those starting options.
Plus, even in the early stages of the story, you're not just fighting as your customized character. Heroes from the series (as well as custom-created heroes from other online players) will often join the fight and help you out, giving the story mode a bit of variety, even if it's a bit shallow.
Your narrative runs parallel to the story of the anime and manga, with plenty of side-quests to take part in. It's interesting to see the story of One Punch Man told from a perspective that's not Saitama's, but the gameplay loop does get stale after a while because all of the story missions start to feel samey.
It's really hard to create an engaging, multi-hour story mode out of a fighting game, and One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows stumbles in that regard.
Unfortunately, that's not where the disappointments end.
I've reviewed a lot of Bandai Namco fighting games based on anime over the years, and it has, unfortunately, become clear that they're phoning it in.
Though it's a very different series than, say, One Piece or My Hero Academia, the controls here are almost identical to any of those. That isn't a good thing. All of these games feature a control system that is somehow both simplistic and unsatisfying.
You have five buttons to work with: a light attack button, a heavy attack button, a guard button, a jump button, and a button that allows you to select your special moves and form changes. You can also throw enemies by pressing two buttons at once.
The issue is that each character only has a few special moves, and you can't really chain them into combos the same way you can satisfyingly chain, say, a Hadouken into a Shoryuken in Street Fighter.
No matter what character you're using (with the exception of Saitama, who, as promised, knocks everyone out in one punch), battles proceed the same way. You'll mash the light attack button to start a combo, hold it down for a guard break if your opponent is guarding, and then finish the combo with a heavy attack. This will repeat until you build up enough meter to unleash a special move.
There are a few saving graces, however.
The game looks spot-on, and characters and locations are lovingly recreated in a way that fans of the show will appreciate. And the reinforcements mechanic, a method by which other characters take real, in-game time to show up and aid the player (or their enemy!), adds a layer of tension that is appreciated.
Can you hold out long enough for a hyper-powerful ally to show up? Can you defeat an enemy before their beefier friend joins the fray? It's a system I'd love to see other games incorporate.
But at the end of the day, the fighting is just too simplistic. Movement is clunky, jumps are floaty, and everything just feels heavy and slow. From things as obvious as characters taking between two and three full seconds to stand up after getting knocked down, to less notable things like the fact that you can't cancel moves into other moves, everything just feels unresponsive and unsatisfying.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Review — The Bottom Line
- Looks the part and admirably recreates One Punch Man's visual style
- Legitimately fun to create your own superhero
- Flashy special moves
- Takes at least an hour to unlock versus mode
- Fighting feels slow, sticky, and frustrating
- Can't chain combos
If you really, really enjoy the fighting engine used in My Hero One's Justice, you'll probably have a great time with One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows. It's hard to be fully objective with things like this, especially since it's pretty clear that this is the way the game was designed.
But it's hard to get past the clunky fighting, especially when the story mode leans so hard on it. It makes the game's other issues stand out more starkly. It becomes difficult to overlook the fact that quest-giving NPCs are sometimes completely absent from the map, or the fact that sometimes, map notifications don't clear the way they should.
When the fighting isn't much fun, I'm less inclined to cut the game slack elsewhere because I'm already kind of bored.
Bandai Namco used to make these sweeping odes to anime fandom, but it seems clear that they have stalled out, and it makes me worry about upcoming games like the upcoming My Hero One's Justice 2 and even the sports title Captain Tsubasa, two games I was previously really looking forward to.
Bandai Namco will have to shift their priorities in a pretty significant way, or their next games will be forgotten the same way this one will likely be.
[Note: A copy of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows was provided by Bandai Namco for the purpose of this review.]