STAFF REVIEW of No More Heroes 3 (Xbox One)

Monday, January 9, 2023.
by Chad Goodmurphy

No More Heroes 3 Box art Back in the early days of the Nintendo Wii, I found myself feeling bad for not using it as much as expected and attempted to rent or purchase the must play games. Well, not just the critically acclaimed and much talked about games, but also anything that looked interesting and may have flown under the radar. This attempt, and a healthy dose of curiosity, led me to rent No More Heroes from a now defunct local video game store. I’d seen its box art, had noticed similarities to Star Wars, and thought it looked like a good game.

By the end of that somewhat brief rental I’d completed the new IP twice after having decided to rush through it a second time. Why? Well, I’d accidentally picked what led to the B ending, bypassing the final boss and leaving me feeling like I hadn’t actually completed the game. This wasn’t exactly an easy task either, given that No More Heroes was quite tough.

Although it wasn’t something that I’d normally play – that being a strange and surreal Japanese game built on weird – I was glad I’d done so, and found that it quickly became one of my favourite Wii titles. Thus, I rented and completed the challenging second one as soon as it was released, although it didn’t measure up to the original in terms of quality (despite being good in its own right).

Fast-forward to the summer of 2021, and I found myself wishing I owned a Switch because No More Heroes III was released as an exclusive for just that platform. I hoped it would eventually come to other consoles, though, and got my wish when that happened in later 2022. As a result, I could now play the third game in one of the strangest but more enjoyable series I’d discovered on a whim.

No More Heroes III continues with the punk rock attitude, designs and inspirations found in the first two games, but unfortunately doesn’t deliver to the same level as either of them. It’s an alright conclusion – assuming this is planned as the last in Travis Touchdown’s series – but nothing special, especially when compared to the original. Let’s talk about why that is.

Things begin with an 80's style anime opening, in which a young boy meets a cuddly white alien in the forest. The two become fast friends, but the alien – whose name is FU – eventually leaves our planet with a promise to return. When he does, what was once cute and cuddly is a chiseled frat boy of an alien a-hole, who has aspirations of taking over the planet. Gone is everything that made him endearing as a ‘child,’ replaced with douchebaggery, annoyances and grating characteristics, including an annoying voice, the penchant to talk and talk and talk, and a love for violence.

When the proverbial sh*t hits the fan and aliens – not just limited to FU – come to earth with violence in their eyes, our friend Travis Touchdown once again finds himself in the middle of it all. It doesn’t help that said aliens land in his town of Santa Destroy, in which he still resides in what is now a three level motel suite. The jerks have come right to his door.

What follows is a ten, maybe twelve, hour-long game in which you must use a ‘Beam Katana’ to hack and slash through enemies, accompanying said attacks with wrestling moves and other special abilities. In that sense, No More Heroes III is very similar to what came before it, except it’s very stunted, separated and lacking flow.

The core combat systems are based around light and heavy attacks, and the ability to stun enemies, leaving them open for throws and wrestling slams. You’ll also find that Travis has some sort of special tool, which lets him pull off different abilities, although once one is used it must regenerate before it can be used again. These include a powerful drop kick, an area of attack ability, and something that slows time in a limited area. If you're lucky, the mid-combat slots will give you invincibility or a faster attack, or you'll unlock the ability to turn into Gundam Travis for a quick, rocket-based, attack.

This game brings the open world back, and allows you to drive through Santa Destroy and other neighbouring regions – like a war destroyed area called Call of Battle, a near perfect town and something called Neo-Brazil – on Travis’ three wheeled bike. As you do you’ll look for odd jobs (cutting grass, picking up trash, shooting approaching giant Godzilla-esque crocodiles with a cannon, and destroying cars during a fast-paced chase). All of these will allow you to earn money, which is helpful because of the way this series continues to be set up. By that I mean Travis’ ultimate goal: to defeat all of the major alien players, allowing him to move from 11th to 1st on the Galactic leaderboard.

To enter one of these boss battles, one must have the appropriate amount of money, and will have to deposit it through an ATM. Before that’s even possible, though, they’ll have to complete at least three different ‘Designated Matches,’ which are essentially just portals that lead to arena battles against three or four enemies, some of which essentially embody different classes like warriors, grunts, super soldiers and mages. This is the only form of combat you’ll experience outside of the boss battles and training tutorials. That is, unless you engage in the optional space battles, wherein Travis turns into a Gundam and battles robots in space. These can be very repetitive, because the bosses appear over and over again, the gameplay is basic and it’s all mediocre-at-best, but it does act as a good way to earn extra money.

The boss battles, themselves, occur against colourful, original and sometimes caricaturized characters. Some guest appearances and mix-ups also occur throughout, meaning you won’t necessarily be fighting the planned opponent each time. As is always the case, some are better than others, but I truly didn’t feel that any of them were all that special. In this way, No More Heroes III is lacking the coolness, the creativity and the originality found in its original predecessor and its sequel. Those games oozed badassery, but these opponents are pretty mediocre overall.

I hope that this helped to describe how everything feels dated and, as mentioned above, segmented. The open worlds feel pretty empty, and are only populated with the same occasional civilian character models, who all look like they came out of the Jean-Claude Van Damme Street Fighter movie. You essentially drive around them, look for portals to close in arena fights, and attempt to earn money to pay off boss battle entrance fees. It’s not organic and it’s very stilted. The only additional reasons to explore the open world areas come in the form of hidden character cards and toilets.

At this point you may be wondering why toilets are so important. Well, therein lays part of No More Heroes’ ‘charm.’ You see, Travis Touchdown can only save his progress when he sits on a toilet and does his secondary business. As such, finding toilets scattered throughout the map is important, as is using every one. You’ll find that some public toilets are clogged, and must complete a minigame to unplug them using a plunger, which is something that can also help you earn a small amount of money. Be smart and save every time you’re near a toilet. Don’t be like me and get lazy about it, resulting in losing twenty to thirty minutes of boring progress through ‘Designated Matches’ and odd jobs after an unexpected crash. This happened to me once after I’d completed one of the final boss battles.

If you’ve played a No More Heroes game before then you’ll also be familiar with how Travis’ Beam Katana works. It’s essentially a beam or light-based lightsaber rip-off, which must be charged every so often during battle. On the Wii, this meant using a masturbatory motion with the WiiMote. On Xbox, it’s kind of similar. You press 'RB', then you must toggle the right joystick up and down to charge the sword.

No More Heroes III also continues to be a challenging game, which isn’t exactly accessible to everyone on its base settings. I found this out when I started the game and got my ass handed to me by the first boss, not once but several times. After that, I decided that I didn’t want to risk getting stuck and not being able to review this game properly, so I restarted on ‘Berry Sweet’ (Easy) difficulty, as opposed to ‘Mild’ (Normal). Maybe I didn’t read the description properly, but all I really noticed was that it would auto block for me. What I didn’t notice until about an hour in was that I was completely invincible. I thought I’d just been doing a good job of evading attacks, but apparently not.

This is a good way of doing a story only difficulty – which is something that the developers of Evil West should take note of – but it’s not a great way to present an easier difficulty below your hard ‘Normal’ setting. Being invincible takes some of the fun away as you’d expect. By the time I noticed I had no interest in restarting again, or fighting the game, so I just continued on with it. If you decide to go through No More Heroes III on Mild or one of the more challenging difficulties, make sure to take full advantage of toilets and sushi carts.

The latter – which is staffed by some sort of skeleton creature, no matter the franchise location – allows you to buy one time use or delayed use sushi, which can provide increases to your attack, health bonuses, a revive or whatnot.

I should also mention that there’s apparently some sort of upgrade system, although I never noticed it myself. Sure, I noticed that I had some stats that said ‘1’ beside them, but the game never introduced the ability to upgrade Travis nor did I find one as I played. Then again, this game is kind of lacking in its transparency, its creativity and quality. It’s missing things from previous games that made them more fun, like the gym, Beam Katana upgrades, unlockable wrestling moves and more. It also feels so limited and lifeless a lot of the time, which may have been done due to the Switch’s limitations but I doubt that. It’s capable of more.

The story itself is honestly forgettable, and was kind of grating. I found myself losing interest rather quickly, and often wondering what the hell was even going on. No More Heroes III has homages to other popular series, like Rocky, and is full of attempted humour – some of it crass – but it doesn’t exactly land well. The enemies are also insufferable to listen to, with the award for the most annoying character going to FU. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who skipped all of the cutscenes, weird interludes and opening and closing credits. Why am I mentioning credits? Well, this thing is kind of portrayed in a half-assed episodic fashion, meaning you get to watch an opening TV show animation and closing credits each time you deal with a boss.

Visually speaking, this is a very mediocre offering. Although this series was never known for being incredible looking, and has had a penchant for looking sterile and bare bones, this entry feels limited and lacking. There’s little flow, the world feels lifeless, and very little stands out when it comes to the visuals. I did appreciate the attempts to differentiate things by occasionally putting a tube TV or VHS player overlay over everything, making it feel like I was playing through an 80's action movie, but even that was kind of overused.

The audio is fine, but far from noteworthy. As mentioned above, the writing is all over the place, the characters are often annoying and our friend Travis – who’s accompanied by his talking cat, Jeane, who you can play ball with in the motel – has lost a lot of his charm, too. The music, on the other hand, is serviceable and decent, but also not all that noteworthy.

As a pretty big and unexpected fan of No More Heroes and its sequel, I had high hopes for No More Heroes III, and looked forward to finally being able to play it. However, the end result was a mediocre-at-best game that I didn’t enjoy all that much and sometimes looked forward to simply finishing. This sequel lacks a lot of the charm of the first two games, but isn’t bad by any means. It’s just decent. Too much of the experience feels like busy work, as opposed to fun content.

**No More Heroes III was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.9 / 10
Visuals: 5.5 / 10
Sound: 5.8 / 10


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