Just imagine how awesome it would be if a superhero was so powerful that they could decimate any villainous fiend with a single punch. Well, you don’t have to imagine it because there’s a manga and anime series dedicated to such a character, Saitama. I am of course referring to One Punch Man, which has finally been adapted into a video game by the experienced development team at Spike Chunsoft. One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a 3D arena fighting game essentially, so one must ponder how it’s going to differ enough from similar Bandai Namco offerings such as Jump Force and Dragon Ball XenoVerse 2. What’s going to make us want to get to know this unprecedented hero a little better in his debut title? Or will we in fact be left wishing we’d never heard of Saitama and his extraordinary power?
Straight off the bat, it’s worth pointing out that the premise of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows actually sees the focus placed more on your very own created character. As a new hero on the block, the aim is to become recognised by the Hero Association and rise up from Class C to Class S in the hero rankings. What’s quite cool though is that your story intertwines with the goings on that play out in the first season of the One Punch Man anime, ensuring you’ll encounter Saitama, Genos, Deep Sea King, Boros, and many others.
In order to tell the stories, there is a mixture of stills taken from the anime and cutscenes rendered using the in-game models. It looks damn good either way, with a cel-shaded presentation for the characters really working well. Better yet, the accompanying voiceovers can be switched from English to Japanese, so your ears can enjoy whichever is the preferred way of taking it all in. On a slight damper though, the rookie hero barely says a word and that makes various interactions pretty awkward; it’s unnecessary because a voice can be chosen for pre-fight trash talk and could have surely been used during cutscenes. Instead, my guy just nods and smiles as if he’s no clue what’s happening.
Furthermore, the creation process leaves a little to be desired due to the limited choices in terms of costumes, accessories, hair styles, and different faces to use. That’s in part because of the way A Hero Nobody Knows requires you to unlock such apparel items through shop purchases and bonus rewards. As a result, you’ll be a fair chunk into the game before your particular hero begins to feel unique and moulded to how you want them to be. Even so, the placement and implementation of accessories is rather weird, generally seeming out of sorts appearance-wise and sometimes clashing with hairdos for example. Nevertheless, in time and with a bit of extra effort, the main character can eventually look the part.
Just like the aforementioned Jump Force, A Hero Nobody Knows features a hub world – albeit a slightly smaller one – from which every activity will take place. If you choose to allow it, the town can be populated by tons of other players, making it a constantly connected environment to roam around. Not that it matters an awful lot, for the most important aspects are the Branch and Association HQ as these house the missions to partake in. The general routine will see you picking up missions and completing them at the Branch in order to earn recognition, thus unlocking new main missions as well as side-missions that’ll potentially lead to you climbing the Class rankings.
Seeing as A Hero Nobody Knows is a fighting game, the mission objectives often set the task of battling enemies until they’re defeated. These can be 1vs1, 2vs2 or even 3vs3 battles, with a quirky idea meaning that help arrives mid-conflict rather frequently. Sometimes hanging on for a bit of support from a fellow hero is the smart strategy, but you must also bear in mind the opponent potentially has the same opportunity. For the crucial story-based missions though, you’re just a stop-gap trying to survive until the infamous ‘One Punch Man’ Saitama turns up.
At this point you’re probably wondering how the invulnerable, invincible, utterly powerful Saitama can seriously be a playable character. Well, from the first mission that actually places you in control of him, you’ll realise it’s bloody ridiculous in the best possible way. Just tap an attack button and simply watch the enemy crumble in defeat. To be fair, it is in keeping with the anime and is rather amusing to slog it out against a behemoth like Carnage Kabuto, before Saitama wipes the floor with him instantly.
Either way, completion of any mission provides EXP to level up your hero and then you can put the growth points into garnering more health, higher attack power, additional damage done by special moves, faster special meter recharge rate and better assistance from allies. I have to be frank here and say that it’s rare that you’ll ever feel over-powered, which is fine, but every so often there’s a sense that you’re a bit weak. Then a harder task makes you out to be a brute, decimating massive portions of the health bar. It’s a tad unbalanced.
Unfortunately, a lot of the missions outside of the main ones come across as very samey. At first, the horse-headed foes, thugs and weird creatures offer some variety to proceedings, but as you’re grinding to contribute to the town’s safety on the route to making more story progression, it becomes repetitive to do the same general mission – start the fight, beat the similar looking enemy to a pulp, rinse and repeat.
It’s a good job then that the gameplay itself can be a lot more exciting if you embrace the selection of fight styles present. Every fight style has a different basic attack combo, strong attacks, killer moves and super killer moves. Initially there’s only a Standard type, which isn’t going to win any awards for creativity by having lots of fairly bland punches in its arsenal. But, over time, the styles such as Machine and Psychic – amongst others – allow for the unlocking and equipping of awesome manoeuvres linked to a special meter that charges up. Bringing down the pain with a mechanical hammer, firing off hand cannons and telekinetically hurling debris is great fun.
What helps matters is the simplicity of performing the killer moves, which merely require a trigger press alongside a corresponding face button. Even the blocking and evading of attacks is straightforward enough for the less skilful gamers to grasp. All of this leads to the action being accessible, fast and fluid. To cap it off, random events can occasionally occur such as lightning and meteor strikes as well as helpful stat boosting packages delivered by drones. When a fight is a bit too tough, things like that can really swing the result – sometimes not in your favour!
Outside of the Branch and Association missions are sub-quests dotted around town, which can vary from being simple fetch quests and fun quizzes, to actual battles alongside heroes to build up a rapport. The latter is good for enabling some of the lesser characters to get screen-time e.g. Puri-Puri Prisoner, Stinger and Hellish Blizzard. These are far more interesting than the standard Branch offerings and in improving relationships you’ll get access to some devilishly cool moves to add to your arsenal.
Upwards of 12 hours could easily be spent working through the main story and partaking in the various side objectives, but afterwards there’ll still be a ton of extra missions to level up further. At this point, you’ll probably have had enough of those, and so that leaves just one last major feature to check out – online play. Player versus player is essentially split into Arrival Rules and Team Rules, with the former seeing you begin as the hero character and another two allies arrive after so long, whilst the Team Rules has all three team members available immediately for tagging purposes.
The selection of playable characters is decent enough, although the numbers are a little weighted in the favour of heroes. Nevertheless, it’s still great to let loose with a team comprised of Crablante, Vaccine Man and Melzargard. In regards Saitama, he either arrives as the last addition or is made to be on equal footing with the rest of his team, which is the fairest way to do it. The number of different environments/arenas for everyone to fight in is in short supply sadly, and what are included are really uninspiring for the most part.
Whilst the online action is smooth and matchmaking is relatively swift, there are a few negatives in regards the game performance around the town. Quest givers can take an age to appear even when you’re stood where they’re meant to be and the same thing happens to vendors too. Not only that, but while traversing the through the rather small districts, a drop in visual clarity within the environment is noticeable and it’s quite unkind on the eyes.
All in all, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows on Xbox One delivers a flurry of hard-hitting punches, but misses with almost as many as it lands. The story-based goings on are in keeping with the anime, many recognisable characters feature and you just have to love the nonchalant Saitama. Even the fighting is a lot of fun thanks to the quirky events, ace killer moves and the arrivals, with a frantic feel to proceedings. However your hero is lacking in character, customisation options and just how powerless they feel at times. The game doesn’t do itself any favours with the fact that the majority of the side missions are way too repetitive. At times it feels a bit like a mindless chore.
That being said, if you love the adventures of One Punch Man, then there are probably just about enough positives for One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows on Xbox One to be added to your collection. For everyone else, it won’t convert you into a fan, so look elsewhere.