Publisher: Marvelous Inc.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
There are two kinds of Suda51 fans, the ones who comb through his collective works and can find interconnected threads amongst them all. Uttering the phrase ?Kill The Past? to these fans will usually produce a glint in their eyes. The latter are more superficial, latching on to common interests that Suda is interested in such as wrestling, anime, ultra-violence. Unfortunately or fortunately I?m in the latter group. No More Heroes was a series that drew me in because it?s protagonist?s station in life mirrored mine. An ?adult? whose accomplishments were minimal, coping with existing through the amassing of trinkets, tchotchkes. An out of the ordinary online purchase and a mysterious woman goads him into a path that veers him away from the lifestyle we shared. Travis makes his way to the top, gets the girl (but yet he doesn?t?) and returns to isolation. A sequel to No More Heroes draws the otaku assassin back to the fold after his friend was murdered (who subsequently was replaced in the same means found in Broken Lizard?s Beerfest, Bishop is literally Landfill!) and to no surprise he handily defeated those who conspired against him.
The fledgling franchise saw no activity for almost a decade until Travis Strikes Back. A side game which finds Travis living in isolation again, drawn into an adventure due to the consequences of his climb up the United Assassins Association ranks. No More Heroes 3 returns to the same gameplay cadence as the first two titles, while rewarding players who played and paid attention to the side title which was released between the core games (An odd coincidence with this week?s other major release Psychonauts 2 which also featured this core title, side title core title with long release gaps cadence).
An alien invasion has invaded Santa Destroy, the fictional Southern California town which has been a key location of this series. The invaders co-opted the yet to be opened ?Utopiland? and made it the battleground for the Galactic Superhero Rankings Fight which will determine the fate of Earth. Travis emerges with seemingly no real reason to take up the mantle of the planet?s hero. The Galactic Superhero Rankings fight?s structure is eerily similar, as the United Assassins Association which ran the Assassins fights of the first two games are administering this running this as well. Thus Travis and the player will now begin their journey through the Garden of Insanity.
Anyone familiar with the No More Heroes series will be familiar with the pacing of the Super Hero/Assassin fights. Collect and pay the fees to the UAA and then go through a location, culminating with a fight with the next ranked fighter. No More Heroes changes the formula up, removing the stage leading up the ranked fighter and replacing them by having complete 3 provisional matches that are strewn around the game?s open world. The replacement of these stages with provisional matches removes a lot of personality from the Super Hero fights as most of the provisional matches take place in a room inside some spaceship. Players not wishing to bloody their hands collecting funds can alternately take part in the ?menial jobs? minigames which are also hallmark of the series. Collecting trash in bodies of water, mowing grass, mining minerals, defending the coasts from invading crocodiles, and chasing down bad drivers on the highways and byways of Santa Destroy can help finance your attempt to save the world from the alien invaders.
Combat remained somewhat consistent in it?s simplicity. Travis isn?t exactly a master swordsman so his repertoire is somewhat limited. His selection of suplexes feels varied compared to older titles. Taken from Travis Strikes Again is the death chip attack system which eventually will allow Travis to perform 4 types of special attacks with a cool down. Enemy variety however is a lot more expanded, the introduction of aliens to the series means it?s not just gun-toting or pipe-toting thugs that Travis will be maiming. Enemies will not wait their turn to pounce and you can get overwhelmed if you do not control the crowd properly. The slot machine which has been constant of the series also makes a return and features a couple of jackpots which can actually be overcompensating for the game?s increased difficulty, specifically the throw happy jackpot which allows you to perform suplexes without having to stun enemies. I feel it?s a tad broken because the suplexes will cause the slot machine to re-roll and I?ve experienced sequences where I beat a ranked fight in 30 seconds because I chained suplexed the boss until their untimely demise because I kept hitting the throw happy jackpot.
While Travis is the poster child of the series, the real draw are the bosses that Travis fights. Characters like Shinobu, Bad Girl and Destroyman are appealing enough that they made multiple appearances in the series and even some of the characters that have been killed almost immediately are memorable enough to fans of the series (Captain Vladimir and Holly Summers will forever be ingrained in my mind). However the group found in this outing, I can?t say that they are as memorable as bosses from games past. I don?t want to be too vitriolic, but most of the designs feel like they stumbled out of a modern art museum. That said despite their less than aesthetically pleasing, the fights with them are varied, and extremely challenging. I also appreciate the life bars being segmented and color coded, indicating that if you’ve passed the threshold between colors, the boss? attacks and tactics will change. Another welcomed addition to this title is the ability to fight boss encounters via the ?time machine? rather than forcing another playthrough of the game. Although the existence of this feature is used to hold up another new feature…Loot.
Yes, No More Heroes 3 features a loot system, and all this stuff you find is used to build chips which can be equipped to provide gameplay modifiers. Sadly you won?t know the breadth of the offerings until you have all the components of said chip otherwise it remains obfuscated on the menu. Loot can be obtained via fighting or completion of menial jobs and rarely components can only be obtained by playing on higher difficulties.
The open world of the first game makes it?s return and while there are some slight improvements it is still rather lifeless and sterile. There are a scant amount of cars and pedestrians roaming about. The pedestrians you encounter look like they stepped off the stage of a Lady Gaga concert. A series of characters called the T-Shirt Aliens replace Area51 as your clothier (Clothing customization has been stripped down to just changing shirts, although Travis does have different outfits including one which is a bold…but yet not bold statement). T-Shirts aren?t really acquired money, but by completing feats in game. An annoying aspect of the T-Shirt Aliens besides the fact they are spread across the multiple regions of the game, is a cooldown before you claim another t-shirt even if you have met the next set of qualifications. Other activities in the open world involve planting trees, collecting trading cards, scorpions, destroying art and playing hide and seek with a boss previously found in Travis Strikes Again.
Speaking of Travis Strikes Again…again, Grasshopper was not kidding when they said playing the title was a prerequisite for playing No More Heroes 3. Not only does this title utilize the visual presentation, but it takes mechanics, characters and pulls plot points from the 2019 side title. Sadly I found that game a little too schizophrenic presentation wise and this entry added more disparate elements to the game?s presentation. Don?t get me wrong some of it is welcomed like treating each ranking as an episode of a bingeable program on a streaming service, complete with opening sequence, end credits and even the Netflix style next episode countdown screen. It reaches the border of stylish and just trying too hard. Some of the sequences feel like they are building to something, but the pay off doesn?t seem to be worth it, the example being the series of conversations between Travis and Bishop about the works of Takashi Miike strewn across each chapter. The open introspection regarding media is red meat for the diehard Suda51 fans, but it?s a little lost on me (I?ll watch a YouTube retrospective about this when those fans have made them).
All and all No More Heroes 3 gave me what I wanted, in another blood filled romp in the world of Santa Destroy. This entry is getting a little too close to Saints Row 3 in terms of wackiness, but that said I did like Saints Row 3. In the lead up to the release, Suda51 has said it might be a while before we see Travis again. With that said this was one hell of a ride even if there were bumps along the way, let?s hope we haven?t reached our Final Destination with our leather clad assassin.
Marvelous Inc provided us with a No More Heroes 3 Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.