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No More Heroes 3 review
by Uneducated_Reviews

No More Heroes it's one of those franchises that I kinda don't love but can't resist playing it either. Its alluring punk and inspired B-movies spirit are some of the things that keep me getting back to it. While I'm not sure if creator SUDA51 has achieved the title of genius, at least not yet, one must commend his way of making games, unrefined but with a lot of heart and passion kind of games. NMH3 marks the 4th installment in the franchise but it is also a culmination of Suda's and Grasshopper's game development, well more than a culmination it feels like a checkpoint to what has been done and what else can they make.

Head-on Fight

The story takes place 9 years after the events of NMH2 and apparently 2 years after Travis Strikes Again, Santa Destroy has been invaded by space pirates led by the once cute and seemingly harmless Jess Baptiste VI A.K.A. FU. This FU guy first arrived on Earth ala E.T. the extraterrestrial and make friends with a boy named Damon which in return helped FU to escape from Earth to his planet, promising Damon that he will return years later. Now in the present, Damon has become a billionaire and kind of joins forces with FU and his 9 killer alien subordinates to conquer Earth. In the same fashion as NMH 1 and 2, FU makes his invasion a conquest game in which anyone could try to stop them if they could kill his subordinates by their ranking order.

No More Heroes 3 kind of went the route of those 80’s B-Movies when they already exhaust every idea for their sequels and the last installment goes full “NOW IN SPACE!” but the difference is that the space came to Earth. If you’re familiar with No More Heroes this turn of events won’t be that shocking as the series or any SUDA51 game has always been filled with this kind of surprise, and for this entry, it works well with its comedic nature. Some of the narrative problems of past entries have been taken care of like having a compelling antagonist, this time around we won’t have to wait to the last fight to see them, as we have different cutscenes and story bits from time to time with FU, there is also more cohesion with the other assassins (aliens) as they have a type of connection with FU, in contrast with the assassins from the past games which aside from being interesting in design they also didn’t add much for the main narrative, that’s not to say that aliens make the plot denser but their presence feels more natural.

Although the narrative has more cohesion, it is also divided by episodes, literally, episodes with an opening and ending song (both of which are great by the way), these episodes are more or less self-contained stories which is not a bad idea but it is also a double-edged sword since it still separates the main narrative albeit less than the other games. Again, these kinds of self-contained stories aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as the more you advance through the main campaign the more surprises you’ll get in the most unexpected ways, but it also blurs the line between what felt like a good plot twist and what felt more like a turn out of nowhere.

It is worth noting that NMH 3 it’s more a sequel to Travis Strike Again than NMH 2 or at least that is my perception as I didn’t and regrettably haven’t played TSA. The story has many key throwbacks to TSA and a few to the numbered entries. If you played TSA then you’ll be rewarded by having faith in Grasshopper and expect some important twists related to that game.

Start The Game

NMH 3 maintains the simple yet satisfying combat introduced in NMH 1, you have two types of attacks, light and heavy which can be used to connect pretty basic combos and once you completed a full combo the screen will prompt you to use motion controls to simulate a final slash, this slash was satisfying in NMH 1 and 2, and it is still quite satisfying in 3. It’s possible to change the motion controls if you don’t fancy them but I highly recommend keeping them. You can also do wrestling moves when an enemy is stunned and make flashier and deadlier combos when your tension is higher (this tension goes up as you keep attacking and killing opponents), evading to slow time it’s also a possibility.

As you may notice the combat isn’t groundbreaking as it has all the characteristics from a current action game but with simpler mechanics, however, what kept the combat interesting were the enemies, usually you’ll be fighting 3 to 5 enemies at once and they can hit really hard so if you’re just button mashing your way out you’ll probably be having a hard time as some strategy and patience it’s required to complete many of the challenges you’ll be thrown at. As you progress enemies will be getting harder and a little bit spongy sometimes but you can also increase your health, attack, battery (your beam katana will deplete from time to time when attacking), and a few movements by using a special currency. If you’re having trouble with one of the challenges you might want to increase something before retrying.

After having a varied arsenal of weapons on NMH 2 it is a little disappointing getting back to just one beam katana for all the playthrough, the combat being more refined than before might be the reason but still, it feels like a downgrade in that regard. You can unlock 4 cooldown skills and also create and equip chips with different attributes like more defense, attack, cooldown, etc. Sadly you can only create and equip these chips on your base so unless you remember them sporadically it will be easy to forget about them for longer chunks of the game.

Chips and skills make up a little for the absence of more weapons but it would be great to have more variety or at least a way to create and equip chips on the go. Same as NMH 1 and 2 you have to make money and pay it to gain access to the next ranking battle but instead of entering a dungeon-like level with a boss fight at the end of it, now you have to complete at least 3 low ranked battles. These battles are basically arena stages with a different combination of enemies by each, they're fun, they're challenging but they also separate the narrative as when you finish them in whatever order you like, you can now access the boss fight. I did enjoy my time completing these low-ranked battles, many of them took me more tries than some of the boss battles, and repetitive as this system is it didn't bother me at all, but I could see how this could bother someone.

I played it on Spicy difficulty (which is hard mode) so it keeps the challenge at a healthy standard but maybe playing it on normal would be unchallenging and boring. Repetition aside the main dish in this course are the boss fights, they always have been the center of NMH and they still are, every single one of them introduces a new boss with quite different mechanics and gameplay options, some of them have several phases but every one of them surpass your expectations and makes you want to meet the next fight as soon as possible, they make you forget the repetitive process of accessing them, so I assume a big part of the budget and resources were used in them.

Minigames are still a big part of making money, in NMH 2 they introduced 2D minigames which was a nice twist to this mechanic however this time around they went the 3D approach of NMH 1. While they're not groundbreaking or anything they are serviceable and fun, the only problem is that there isn't much variability to choose from. No More Heroes 3 features a star-shaped semi-open world that is filled with sci-fi retro humans that feels kind of empty for the most part, although in canon it probably makes sense since one of the aliens seemingly decimated a big chunk of the population in one shot and maybe the rest of them evacuated the area after that. But still, it feels like a ghost city with quests spread around.

Speaking of quests, the way they are organized and represented in the map is way too ambiguous, for instance, if you complete a minigame you'll gain access to the next level but instead of speaking again to the NPC an icon will appear in the ground to access it, once you complete it if you want to play the minigame again you have to talk to the NPC again (sometimes this won't be available) making things confusing. Something similar happens with the shirt aliens, they are scattered around the world and each of them has prerequisites to giving you a new shirt like paying money, killing enemies, activating certain skills, and so on. Instead of simply talking to them again and see if you meet the requirements to get another shirt, you have to leave the area and enter again or activate a minigame or event to refresh their dialogue, it isn't the most annoying thing but it is far from ideal.


One thing the game excels at and isn’t debatable for me is its amazing presentation and art direction. From the very beginning when the game starts with a 2D mockup game in Beat em’ up fashion and right after that a beautiful and stylish animation kicks in about FU and Damon, from the tutorial cards and its classic bathroom saving scenery, it is just wonderful. The surprises don’t end just there as each chapter comes in with its own pieces of stylization, and every time a new graphic style comes in it is hard to not be smiling all the way through. Visually it can’t be more satisfying, enemies would gradually change their colors and physical appearance as they got stronger, and because their blood it’s made from the colors of the rainbow every time you kill any of them the screen will be filled with a colorful spray of blood, and every time you defeat the last enemy the word KILL cover the entire screen along with a sweet guitar riff that is easier one of the best and most cathartic score screens that I have seen.

Character design has always been one of the highlights of the series as each assassin has to tell a lot by just a simple glimpse because their time it’s quite limited, this time around the aliens have the main focus and they ooze with style. All of them have this modern-art feel to them which make them more memorable, they have patterns, contrasting colors, simpler but different shapes and forms, I particularly love FU’s design, he looks cartoony and playful yet at the same time, he is terrifying and has a limitless aura about him, after all, he is a goddamn superhero. However, even if the character design it’s great, the 3D model's faces didn’t pay off that well, I’m not sure what it is since the 3D models for the two original games were pretty good, they looked like 3D anime versions of anime artwork, and here I’m not sure what exactly happened but except for Travis and the less humanoid aliens they look like soulless dolls, maybe Grasshopper was trying to do them less anime and have a more western look but many of them look way too rough.

The game features several areas and each of them has a particular look to it, Santa Destroy it’s the metropolitan part, Perfect World is the perfect suburban space, Neo Brazil it’s like a futuristic utopic-dystopic future, Call of Battle it’s a plain destroyed city, and Thunder Dome it’s a Mad Max inspired desert with a Japan-like center. All these locations are interesting by themselves but they feel barren and empty, every one of them is populated by soulless and repeated NPCs. I know NMH 3 isn’t a AAA game and I also prefer the budget went to the presentation department but still it’s worth noting. Another highlight from the series is its music, same as the game and maybe Grasshopper philosophy too. It has a renegade/punk spirit that it’s hard to overlook, it doesn’t have a song with the iconic NMH 1 theme but it’s filled with leitmotifs here and there. The music’s so versatile that you also wonder what will be the next tune to hear. Maybe I’m over-excited about the soundtrack but it might be my favorite from the series.

Sadly NMH3 only features an English dub, it has been this way since the start of the series but I was hoping this time around we Westerners could choose between Japanese or English VA. The result it's in line with the previous entries of the series which might sound great if you liked it, I sure like it back then when I was younger, however, the game has an over the top quality while going from whimsical to serious in many scenes, and it's on the darker more serious parts where the acting seems to miss the mark by far, in general, they sound more like caricatures than characters and that killed the mood of many scenes for me, serious or not. Robin Atkin Downs as Travis it's good for the most part, and I think he kind of manages to pull off this rare range of emotions, but all the others struggle to make more dramatic scenes.


No More Heroes 3 still struggles to be an overall great game but it also delivers in different aspects, I don’t think I have played a game as committed with its style as this one. Some of its parts could be tainted with budget restrictions or questionable acting but I didn’t encounter any dull moment in my entire Spicy 23-hour campaign, it is rough around the edges but its edges are quite sharp. Goichi Suda stated that this would mark the end of Travis story for the time being to focus on creating new IPs that belong to Grasshopper and that could be a good thing, maybe 10 years later when the team has acquired more experience still we could finally see a less limited version of what their vision is for NMH 3, but for the time being, it is a satisfying conclusion for the series.

I still think that Killer7 is the best SUDA51 game of the few that I have played yet, but No More Heroes 3 shows a lot of maturity for the series. In the end, as an overall product, it might stumble a little to be great as a whole, but if we see it through its more episodic nature, it will be pretty easy to find its blinding brilliance.
«Just one more turn»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
«That ending!»
«OST on repeat»