No More Heroes 3 is a strange game to release on Xbox.
You see, being the third entry in the series (not counting Travis Strikes Again) would normally be no problem as the Xbox has its fantastic Backwards Compatibility programme reaching back through to original Xbox games. However, No More Heroes hasn’t ever properly come to the Xbox. Well, the original got a release in Japan only for the Xbox 360, but that was it. It’s such a shame that we can’t go back and play more of Travis’ story to experience where it all began.
Anyway, onwards my friends as there is no time to worry about all that now we have No More Heroes 3, developed and published by Grasshopper Manufacture and created from the mind of the brilliant Suda51. Travis Touchdown is the star of the show, the main focal point since starting life on the Nintendo Wii when No More Heroes introduced us to Travis and his crazy world.
Travis runs out of money after winning a beam katana in an internet auction. He meets a lady named Sylvia who tells him to kill a man named Helter Skelter. Once Travis succeeds, Sylvia tells him that Helter Skelter was ranked number 11 and he must kill the top ten assassins to survive and will also have assassins after him to nab his spot. Confused? Understandable. No More Heroes is wacky, crazy and nonsensical, but in a compelling and fantastic way.
This brings us to No More Heroes 3. Released originally in 2021 for the Nintendo Switch, No More Heroes 3 takes place some nine years after No More Heroes 2 and a couple after that of Travis Strikes Again, as Travis returns home to Santa Destroy after his previous exile.
No More Heroes 3 – like the original game – is a free roam, “open world game”, but not like the overwhelming side of those open worlds that have been seen in the likes of Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry. Santa Destroy is the setting for the game series and is more like a hub world with a few things to see and do, rather than a full-blown open world setting.
The No More Heroes franchise loves to take inspiration from pop cultures such as the world of super sentai and pro wrestling, as Travis is an Otaku; one who has obsessive interests in the likes of anime, manga, cosplay, collectables and more. Travis has figures, plush toys and various other collectables displayed around his motel room.
No More Heroes 3 plays very much like an evolution of the previous entries in the series; a hack and slash/beat ’em up with a hub world filled with mini missions between boss fights. Using the beam katana you must take down the ten assassins above you (very similar to the original No More Heroes) and free the planet. Each fight has its own unique twist too, as you could be facing off during a diva pop concert or even playing a deadly game of musical chairs in order to move up those ranks.
Each chapter ends with a boss fight, but to reach that, side quests must be undertaken. These could range from facing waves of enemies to cutting grass for the locals. Success earns money which you can deposit into an ATM, before heading to the boss fight to try and defeat them to move up towards the leader Lord FU. Every single beat of the plot reminds me of Dragon Ball Z, with the top assassins spoofs of Goku’s hit-list of villains.
The plot is very silly and takes in some tropes from anime and pop culture along the way. A bunch of aliens have come to earth, killed the president and set up a tournament for fun.
Fighting is done via the beam katana, weak and strong attacks are assigned to X and Y while finishers that pop up on the screen are done with a flick of the right thumbstick in the direction shown. Travis can also perform wrestling moves by grappling with the enemy and flicking the sticks in the direction shown with another on-screen prompt will replenish the beam’s charge. Finishing off enemies is more satisfying than anything that other big hack and slash games can provide.
Carried over from Travis Strikes Back is his Death Glove, allowing special moves to be pulled off. These can be unleashed during a battle and take extra damage off of your opponents. Additional special moves are unlocked when you face Native Dancer, and once you put all those moves together battles become even more satisfying. Chapters – depending on difficulty – can last up to an hour, with this time extended if you choose to seek out collectables and higher medals in the side jobs.
Each chapter finishes like a Netflix show with its “time till the next episode” countdown and title credits as the next chapter begins. No More Heroes is very self-aware, filled with pop culture references throughout that just adds to the wackiness and charm of not just the game, but the series staple. Padding out the game are required battles with minor bosses that are spread over the different areas of the world, and whilst these are mostly fun, on occasion they feel a tad tedious, as steps repeat for every boss on the ladder.
Whilst there are six different areas to travel to, there is not much in each area to do besides take on side missions or buy new T-shirts and clothes for Travis. Normally this could be considered a negative but the hub worlds and Travis’ bike have a certain charm about them that fit the franchise’s style. Fast travel to other areas is also an option if you prefer getting straight into battles and don’t enjoy the slight exploration elements. Clothing options are plentiful, but in the early game money is scarce so saving for entry money only is necessary unless you don’t mind the grinding for cash and side missions.
Some of these areas are a bit bland, and the most noticeable is the Call of Battle area; a spoof of the Call of Duty series. Whilst this may be to highlight how bland those games can be, it in turn makes every moment spent there an absolute drag. On the flipside you will have fun with things like the first person horror level set in a bloody school, the “Final Fantasy” JRPG section or anytime Travis activates Henshin, his Gundam-like mech suit of armour.
The setting for No More Heroes 3, as well as the character design, is all very unique. Take a splash of combat from Bayonetta, the side stories of Yakuza, and mix it up with some crude humour and pop culture references and you are halfway to what No More Heroes is – a very violent and swish-looking story that is told using a blend of in-game engine cutscenes and anime. There is not a game on the market that comes close to being even the slightest bit similar to its design and narrative.
Newcomers wishing to jump on No More Heroes 3 without playing the first few games will be glad to know the story will be just as bonkers to beginners as it is to series veterans. There are references and characters throughout that were introduced in earlier entries, but nothing stands out so much that it will leave fresh faces confused. There are over problems though, like having to still use save points before and after battles which feels a bit dated. An auto-save system would have gone down much better.
That said, No More Heroes 3 is a slick, stylish, and aesthetically cool game, one that will go down a treat with hack and slash or beat ‘em up fans. It may feel slightly tricky early on when you’re trying to pull off more complex moves and some early 2000 game tropes creep in on occasion, like invisible walls and QTE’s which slightly dampen the experience. However, if you are looking for a break from the normal churn of box ticking games, No More Heroes 3 could be the breath of fresh air you seek.
Fans of No More Heroes, this is our final form. No More Heroes 3 is the pinnacle of the franchise; the best entry yet. Welcome to the Garden of Insanity.
No More Heroes 3 comes to the Xbox Store on October 14th 2022