Considering I’m such a massive fan of No More Heroes, I’m as surprised as you are that I never actually finished No More Heroes III on Switch. Shameful, really, but I’m going to be honest: There’s a small part of me that thinks it looked like a septic truck exploded all over a stained glass window.
It’s something about Unreal Engine 4 on Switch. Games using the engine are typically fine, but they just look… wrong. Blurry, like you got those eyedrops that make your pupils dilate. To be fair, I think the same thing when you turn down the settings in a PC game, so maybe I’m the one who’s wrong here, but I’ve tried hard enough to change. The world needs to meet me halfway here.
So, when the PS5 version hit, I decided to give it another try. It, unfortunately, robs me of my motion-controlled suplexes, but at least it doesn’t make me feel like I need glasses.
When we last left Travis Touchdown, it was in Travis Strikes Again, and this is kind of important. This isn’t a distant sequel to No More Heroes 2; it’s a direct sequel to Travis Strikes Again. Why is Badgirl both alive again and living with Travis? You’ll need to play Travis Strikes Again. Or don’t, because there’s really no making sense of this nonsense, so why even try?
Aliens invade and immediately start redecorating the place. Travis doesn’t agree with their choice of drapes and decides he’s going to do something about it. Even by No More Heroes standards, it’s absolutely a circus sideshow and distances itself from one key part of the No More Heroes narrative formula: Travis being a loser. He hasn’t changed, but the world around him has changed to the point where he’s a goddamned super-hero.
If you start asking questions like, “How can a normal guy stand against an alien empire that can vaporize most of the Earth in an instant? Shouldn’t it be way easier to just kill this dude?” You’re off track. There’s a good chance that this is Travis Touchdown’s ultimate fantasy: It’s a situation where his nerdiness is normal. An asset, even. In fact, it has elevated him to godlike status.
EXCITED IN NEW WAYS
Despite this, No More Heroes III feels exactly like a new core entry in the series. It brings its own stuff to the table, but the characters act like they do in Suda51’s previous approaches to the universe. They’ll pour out soliloquy on the floor like a bloodthirsty thespian, and only half of it actually makes much sense. The fourth wall is constantly broken and hastily reconstructed. It does a bunch of stylish things for essentially no reason. There are lots of T-Shirt choices. The years have not corroded Grasshopper’s approach.
No More Heroes has always bucked expectations. It starts you off like everything is going to be routine. You raise the cash to enter the next boss battle, defeat a few groups of enemies, then go after the big baddie. However, when you show up, someone else might kill them first, you might have to perform emergency surgery, or perhaps you’ll be playing an intense game of musical chairs. I only made up one of those scenarios.
Like the previous titles, No More Heroes III does whatever the hell it wants. There’s a mix of structure and anarchy. Each chapter opens with a cold opening, an opening credits sequence, and closing credits after it’s all done. There are segments where Bishop and Travis talk about Miike Takashi just, you know, because. That’s what they do in their spare time. Observe.
Whether these flourishes make sense or not, they act as a strange anchor in the sea of weirdness. Nothing about the overall narrative really makes sense, and even the aesthetics are otherworldly, but then you’re reminded that Travis is a geek, and suddenly there’s something to relate to.
God Damned Super-Hero
The combat of No More Heroes III has changed, though I’m not really ready to commit to saying it’s better. The biggest difference is that instead of high and low attacks, there are light and heavy, which kind of takes away from some of the dynamism in battle. However, added is the ability to perform a suite of attacks powered by the Death Glove. I didn’t love it. I didn’t love the combat in previous No More Heroes games, either, but this is more of a lateral shift than an improvement.
Part of the whole good/bad dichotomy is that the enemies have changed from a bunch of interchangeable random dudes to larger, more readable aliens. This has the benefit of making combat more legible, but it also doesn’t feel quite as exciting as hacking through dudes who spray blood and repetitive one-liners in all directions. These enemies take more abuse before you can deliver the kill shot, and I guess, at the end of the day, I prefer quantity over quality.
How are the kids?
There’s also a dearth of customization options. Don’t get me wrong, you can change into a huge assortment of T-shirts, but there aren’t different outfit styles until after you finish the game. No new jackets, no new pants, no new shades. I hate that. When I’m done with a game, I typically prefer to move on to a new one. I don’t just want to play the same one in a different jacket. I would have loved to have that new jacket earlier.
Likewise, the side activities aren’t as enjoyable. I feel like No More Heroes 2 had the best ones, as they emulated retro-style designs. Here, you still mow grass and unclog toilets, but because you’re doing it for weird aliens in weird places, it doesn’t feel how it should. The work that Travis did was one of the things that made him feel human. He was doing what he loves: murdering lots of people. However, in order to fund his blood lust, he needed to work for a living. That’s sort of missing here.
It was also a disappointment that Shinobu doesn’t feature very much as a supporting character. I’m not saying we needed a section to play as her again, but I would have liked to. I suppose having her out of the way plays better into the idea that this is just Travis’ ultimate power fantasy. He’s the hero. Just him. Any other supporting character would just take the spotlight off of him.
INSIDE THAT CONFUSING MESS HID THE TRUTH
I’m not sure where I’d place No More Heroes III alongside the first two. Maybe below them.
After a lot of soul-searching, I think that my favourite part of the series is its ability to marry the absolutely bizarre with the groundedly mundane. Travis is a believable character doing unbelievable things in an unbelievable world. No More Heroes III still has that, but not in the same balance. It’s far more bizarre and comparatively less grounded.
That’s certainly not to say I didn’t enjoy No More Heroes III. It’s definitely not a situation like in Travis Strikes Back, where I grappled against a strong distaste for its gameplay. No More Heroes III is fun to play, and while the story doesn’t have the sort of hooks I like to see from a narrative, it’s still entertaining and enjoyable.
My concern is that, if we see a No More Heroes 4 (and Suda51 said this wouldn’t happen, but he has said that about previous games), it’s going to try and further escalate things. I don’t want that. I’d rather see Travis grapple with human problems while cutting off heads in his spare time. No one has done it like No More Heroes, and I’m afraid we may never see that again.
This review was conducted on a PS5 using a disc copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.