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No More Heroes III Review

We could be heroes, but we won’t

When No More Heroes exploded onto the Nintendo Wii in 2007, it joined the console’s small family of ‘hardcore’ games. While the demographic terms of ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ have (thankfully) fallen out of fashion, the divide was a searing-hot debate in the late 2000s. What ‘hardcore’ boiled down to in the end, really, was a statement that the game enjoyed violence more than a ‘casual’ game would. That or it was just more ‘difficult’. No More Heroes and its 2010 sequel Desperate Struggle were certainly ‘hardcore’ games, and they walked the talk. They were apologetically brash and stylishly drenched in blood. The Wii would get more games with this ‘hardcore’ style – 2009’s Madworld and 2010’s Red Steel 2 are good examples – but No More Heroes remains a staple of any Wii collection.

After 2010’s No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, the series would stop to catch its breath and wipe its blood-stained face. Besides ports, it would see no major action until Travis Strikes Again‘s release in 2019. A spinoff just as stylish as its predecessors, its mixed critical reception muffled its trumpet. It wasn’t just that, either: The game’s attitude, while still perfectly punk, hadn’t really changed in the nine-year gap between releases. In hindsight, Travis Strikes Again was still trying to show how ‘hardcore’ the series was. Its philosophy felt more 2009 than 2019.

No More Heroes III, the series’ first true sequel in a decade, is also dedicated to its self-image. Its Switch exclusivity (for now) doesn’t make it stand apart as its Wii counterparts boasted, as the system has plenty of ‘hardcore’ titles available. There are no apologies for No More Heroes’ grunge presentation, adoration for graceful murder, and healthy addiction to Americana. Within the first few hours, it was abundantly clear that No More Heroes III was every bit as sincerely chaotic as its predecessors. Yes, ‘hardcore’ gamers of 2010: No More Heroes is back as you’ve always seen it before! Do I mean this as a snobby backhand, or a playful yet dominant middle finger up your nostril? A bit of both, honestly.

Don’t lose your head, haha. Seriously, don’t lose it. It’s worth a fortune

No More Heroes III takes place not long after Travis Strikes Again. 20 years ago, a young boy discovers a cute alien named FU (pronounded ‘Fu’, but we all know how I’m pronouncing it). With the FBI after FU, a plan is hatched to get him home. Their plan succeeds, with FU promising to return in 20 years. That time passes, and FU becomes a galactic war criminal with a penchant for superheroes. He returns to Earth, and announces an all-new assassin tournament. Travis Touchdown, our wonderfully weeby protagonist, decides to take part after some…unfortunate circumstances that I won’t spoil. You’ll thank me, you know.

The first thing you’ll notice is that No More Heroes III does, in fact, look and feel like a title from the turn of the last decade. Its visuals, for example, are impaired by both the unfortunately under-powered console it’s on, as well as its own troubled development. Loose bits of character models are left to the whim of the physics engine, resulting in some very silly hair and cape ragdolling. Maps are barren of life and devoid of activity and variety; each area has the exact same NPCs with only differing colour schemes. Textures snap in whenever they feel like it a-la 2004’s actually-pretty-ugly Halo 2. Make no mistake, No More Heroes III is not a graphics masterwork.

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What it lacks in technical wizardry, though, it more than makes up for in style. Yes, No More Heroes III is a desolate and dull game graphically but it’s also just as sharp as its predecessors in the style department. The game looks its best when you’re in combat – slight framerate drops notwithstanding – where its ‘gamepunk’ aesthetic can really make a player feel powerful. Having a kill rewarded with gratuitous spurts of blood sounds like it’d get old, but it never ever does. You’d think that each chapter beginning and ending with Japanese 70s-inspired intros and outros would get old, but it never does. You’d think that hitting the handbrake on your new Akira-style motorbike, making you do the Akira pose, would get old, but it never does. Director SUDA51’s punk-rock chaotic mishmash of artistic inspirations is what the series is most known for, and No More Heroes III delivers it in spades.

Its daredevil style, riveting combat and unabashed love for cool weeb stuff is still there, but so is everything else…

The overworld from the original game has returned, and it’s almost the same! I say ‘almost’ because most of its mini-games are new. You’ll need to do these to earn enough money to advance to the next stage after designated fights are depleted, just like the original. They range from quirky (lawn mowing) to boring (shooting alligators with a tank gun), just like the original. The worst is having to do this handful of mini-games repeatedly with marginal increases to difficulty, just like the original. While I came to appreciate having a more old-school and laid-back open-world environment, having to retreat to the conventions and standards of when I was in high school quickly lost its melancholy.

Sometimes it can get a little TOO stylish. No, you can’t turn the filter off

This is where combat would normally come in and save the day. No More Heroes’ combat has always been drenched in its iconic bombastic attitude. But combat, rather fittingly, is also more indicative of a game from ten years ago than a modern title. If you’ve played either the original No More Heroes or its sequel, No More Heroes III plays identically save for a couple of new mechanics. And I mean, identically. Use either light or heavy attacks to damage enemies, dodge incoming attacks of their own, and perform wicked sick executions once their health is low. You’d think that doing wicked sick executions would get old, but it never does.

Camera controls are probably the most dated aspect. The camera does an awful job of following enemies, not even adjusting itself when you murder an enemy and have to find another one. This’ll make you rely on either the lock-on feature, or just having to keep one eye on adjusting the view. It’s also emotionally demanding to have to turn the camera when you take a corner in the overworld, because the camera doesn’t follow you like you’d expect it to. You have to move the camera while you’re turning, which isn’t as interesting as it sounds in writing.

That said, keeping an eye on your camera is hard to do when the combat is still as enthralling as it was a decade ago. Despite only having two combos at your disposal at the beginning of the game (others can be purchased with the in-game currency), No More Heroes III’s combat is endlessly enjoyable. Much of that is to do with its visual style, but its simplicity of control – camera not included – is honestly more nostalgic than frustrating. Hits have sharp, clean sounds that betray their true power. Mastering frame-perfect ‘perfect dodges’ is satisfying, allowing the player to temporarily go slo-mo to land some big hits. The returning ‘Death Glove’ from Travis Strikes Again lets you perform cool abilities with varying effectiveness, but it’s difficult to use them and lock on at the same time thanks to both abilities being mapped to the left Joy Con’s shoulder buttons.

‘Difficult’ is a word that selectively applies to No More Heroes III. For the first half of the game, I only found true challenges that I could count on one hand. The difficulty increases considerably in the later parts of the game, but you’re upgraded too hard by then for it to matter. Upgrades to health, attack power, and beam katana recharge speed are purchased with in-game currency in the same manner that you learn new combos. They’re marginal increases that do carry weight, but for all its visual style No More Heroes III has no cool visual effects for leveled-up attacks. For people who just want to see how the story continues, this shouldn’t pose a problem. You may have been a ‘hardcore’ gamer ten years ago, but chances are that you’re less enthusiastic about ten-hour late night gaming sessions now.

Yeah, Travis, I like Galo Sengen too

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But people who are looking for a challenge, or those that want to rekindle a their fondness for the well-loved cult series, may walk away with a distinct feeling of longing. Longing for a past that’ll never come back. No More Heroes will never be difficult to you ever again. Its daredevil style, riveting combat and unabashed love for cool weeb stuff is still there, but so is everything else; the dated camera, the empty overworld, and the lack of activity variety. Your standards have changed since then too. What No More Heroes III has to offer simply might not be your speed any longer, and that’s fine. It’s not 2007 anymore, after all. But if you’re not concerned with how far it pushes boundaries – as far as an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping – and just want to be covered in blood and jump up in your chair when your own weeb arse recognises a reference, then you’re in very good hands.

Final Thoughts

No More Heroes III is exactly what fans of the series have been waiting ten years for, if they waited ten years for the original game with extra bits. The same old repetitions and mechanical woes are here, but so is the not-for-your-grandma boyish attitude. No More Heroes III is a wild and fun ride, but its refusal to get with the gameplay times isn’t very hardcore at all.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher

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No More Heroes III Review
There is at least one more hero
No More Heroes III is a game of a different time. While its simple combat and its unique style still set it apart, its hidden age does more harm than good.
The Good
It's No More Heroes, babyyyyyy
Still-engaging combat system
Drenched with style
The Bad
Ripped straight from 2010
Below-par camera
Same as it ever was
6.5
Has A Crack
  • Grasshopper Manufacture
  • Grasshopper Manufacture / Marvelous
  • Nintendo Switch
  • August 27, 2021

No More Heroes III Review
There is at least one more hero
No More Heroes III is a game of a different time. While its simple combat and its unique style still set it apart, its hidden age does more harm than good.
The Good
It’s No More Heroes, babyyyyyy
Still-engaging combat system
Drenched with style
The Bad
Ripped straight from 2010
Below-par camera
Same as it ever was
6.5
Has A Crack
Written By Arana Judith

Arana blames her stunted social skills and her general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between her ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. Her brain remains at large.

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