Travis Touchdown isn’t your every man, nor is he a hero, but in a world where heroes no longer exist, even the roughest, deadliest, and badass-est assassins gotta make a living, am I right? He may not be the guy for the job, but he’ll always get the job done, and after his beloved Santa Destroy is threatened by a posse of sociopathic aliens, he only has one choice. To get off his ragged ass, and put those bastards in their place. I mean, if there’s gotta be a number 1 superhero in the Universe, you can bet it’s gonna be Travis.
In No More Heroes 3 from Grasshopper Manufacture, you’ll control Travis Touchdown in his latest bizarre adventure. This time around you’ll be hacking and slashing every alien that crosses your path as Travis tries to protect the sunny Santa Destroy from Jess Baptiste VI (FU) and his 10 intergalactic “superheroes”. To do that you’ll have to cut each one down and rise in the ranks of the Galactic Superhero Rankings to prove that the human race isn’t to be trifled with. Oh, and maybe complete an errand of two for old time sake to make a quick buck.
Before dipping my toes into the No More Heroes universe, I was always hesitant to give the games a try. I mean, I’m a big fan of everything SUDA51 and Grasshopper Manufacture does, but there was just something about the series that turned me off. Though thinking about it, it was probably due to the fact that they were exclusive to the Wii console, before eventually making it to the Switch.
Speaking of the most recent ports, that’s when I finally decided it was time to try these bad boys out, and let me tell ya, their wacko shenanigans won me over and I was a fan for life. So, when I saw that No More Heroes 3 was coming to the latest generation of consoles I was all about it, and 100% ready to get my Travis Touchdown fix.
Like the games that came before it, No More Heroes 3 leans heavily into the cell shaded style and is complemented with an overwhelming amount of stylized effects utilized in the UI, cutscenes, its mini-games, and everything in between. Honestly, it’s something you come to expect from the series, and that balance of wackiness and style is what made me fall in love with No More Heroes to begin with. It can certainly be an assault to your senses at times, but it wouldn’t be a SUDA game otherwise. That said, the style has started to feel a bit dated, especially now that we’re on the 3rd entry in the series. Sure, the engine has been updated, the resolution has been boosted to 4k, and the textures are shinier than ever, but it still feels like we’re back on the Wii.
Speaking of feeling a bit dated, you could say the same thing about the world you’re meant to explore. By that I mean, the world just feels so empty, with most of your objectives as well as any points of interest, like quest givers, being spread out thin across a relatively large and interconnected map. There is a sprinkling of cars driving on the streets, or a handful of NPC meandering up and down the block, but for the most part Santa Destroy and all of its surrounding locations just feel empty. Kind of like a ghost town. I will admit that the previous games were set up in a similar fashion, but because they WERE older games, I kind of looked past it. This being a modern game however, makes it end up feeling lackluster. Which is a bit disappointing.
All of that aside, No More Heroes 3 still delivers. I mean, its world building wasn’t its biggest draw anyways. Like the first two games, it’s truly greater than the sum of its parts. It’s still vulgar and filled with over-the-top characters, it still has a weirdly alluring but nonsensical story with obscure anime and movie references, and its action is as manic and satisfying as ever. I especially appreciate that Grasshopper Manufacture brought back the roulette mechanic that can give you perks after killing an enemy. Which spices up the fights, most notably when you roll the ability to turn into a mech and blast your enemies away with reckless abandon. I enjoy that the “shake to charge” mechanic is still a big focus of the fight as well, with you having to strategically charge your blade while in the middle of the action, lest you run out and become vulnerable for a second or two. It definitely keeps you on your toes! As for the new stuff, the “chip” crafting system was kind of fun, and allowed you to use the materials gathered from encounters to create equip-able accessories that could give you additional perks during a fight, like increased attack or defense. Though most came with some sort of negative effect that would counteract whatever increase in stats it would give you. They weren’t perfect, and once I found a few that I really liked, I didn’t change them often, but it was a welcome addition.
Honestly, my only real complaint about the game, next to the empty world, was that the mini-games didn’t seem quite as unique as they did in the past. Which have always been one of my favorite features of the series, and were a great way to get those few extra bucks you may need to enter the next ranking fight. This time around you’ll be able to race your motorcycle and run criminals off the road, or clean up trash in an alligator infested pond, or even collect a multitude of action figure gotchas depicting scenes from series as a whole, but in the end the novelty of these distractions just didn’t have the same effect. Except for the Deathman arcade game, which seems like a full fledged retro-inspired beat ’em up, and that’s pretty dang cool.
I may have said it in the past, but despite my love for the series, the No More Heroes games are tough to recommend, and No More Heroes 3 doesn’t stray far from that sentiment. It’s one of those games that caters to a particular taste, and if you’re into that type of thing, then I’m sure you’ll love it just as much as I do. This sequel probably isn’t my favorite in the trilogy, by far, and it may lean on the side of monotonous at times, but its eccentricities (in my mind), more than make up for its shortcomings. I mean, how many games will break up the action to throw you into a monochrome visual novel reminiscent of something you’d find on the MSX, just for some throw away side content? And how many games display an 80s inspired anime intro AND outro between chapters, complete with a Netflix style “next episode” loading bar? Not many, if none at all, and that’s why I keep coming back. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see what wacko antagonists SUDA51 will come up with next.
No More Heroes 3 may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the series or are in the mood to have your mind blown by its over-the-top action and off the rails characters then this latest entry will deliver that and then some. Two shaken and charged thumbs UP from us!!