- Release Date (NA): August 27, 2021
- Release Date (EU): August 27, 2021
- Release Date (JP): August 27, 2021
- Publisher: Marvelous Inc.
- Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Everybody knows the plot of Steven Spielberg's "E.T.", right? It's a classic, after all. A weird alien meets a little kid and they become friends for life. The kid starts helping the alien find a way back home, but the government gets involved and tries to capture the extraterrestrial visitor, for obvious reasons. Finally, the two overcome all obstacles and "E.T. goes home", much to the audience's relief. The same thing happens to Damon, with only one small difference - his extraterrestrial companion promises to come back. In twenty years, down to the second, FU returns to Earth to rejoin his childhood friend. Much has changed in the course of two decades, to say the least. Damon, now the CEO of Utopicorp, became a multibillionaire, and he spent his life building a landing pad to FU's exact specifications to facilitate his friend's return. FU on the other hand... he became a full-blown prince of an intergalactic empire, and he brought some friends back with him... friends from the space slammer. Now, imagine if you will, that E.T. wasn't as friendly as you'd think. In fact, imagine he was a psychotic killer with just one thing in mind - galactic conquest. Conquest that, naturally, he wants to involve you in, and is keen on immediately demonstrating his power to you. Well... that's a pickle. Thankfully we have our own anti-heroes to rely on - ones like Travis Touchdown, the number one assassin on the planet. Let the games... begin!
If you're a fan of the series and you've played Travis Strikes Again there's probably one burning question on your mind - "is this an actual No More Heroes sequel"? The answer is a resounding "yes", with a few caveats. If you remember the level design of the previous games in the series where you had to slice and dice your way through hordes of enemies in order to reach the climactic final boss, I hate to disappoint you, but you won't find any of those here. This time around SUDA51 distilled the experience into a very specific game loop. For no reasons other than their own entertainment, FU and his minions have decided to enter into an arrangement with the United Assassin's Association and keep the conquest of Earth nice and organised rather than enter into a full-blown armed conflict. You're once again fighting your way up the rankings to become the best, but this time it's on a galactic scale. Much like in the Mortal Kombat tournament, if the invaders are victorious, they will earn the right to annex the planet, so obviously the UAA put forward their best and brightest - you, Travis Touchdown. Of course it wouldn't be a SUDA51 game if you could just waltz into the bad guy's lair in Damon Tower, take everybody there on a quick one-on-one and be done with it, oh no! Each match requires you to play qualifying matches, as well as transfer a hefty entry fee, so I hope you don't mind minigames and side quests because you'll be doing those *a lot*.
Each chapter of the game is structured like an episode of an anime, complete with an intro and outro, which immediately gave me the impression that SUDA played Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain during development. This... gets old, and quick, but fortunately you have the option to skip cutscenes, which came in handy during those repeated segments. As soon as the intro is over, you're thrown straight into the open world of the game and you're free to explore any part of the map that you've unlocked so far in search of ways to earn your entry fee. The tasks ahead of you are numerous and varied, including (but not limited to) fights with the invaders, ore mining, pest control (the pests being Godzilla-sized crocodiles which you have to shoot with a tank. Yes, you read that correctly) or... unclogging toilets, in the service of the public. How dignifying. This was the part of the game that disappointed me the most, at least initially. The open world in NMH3 is... very barren. In the first few chapters there's nary a soul to be seen in the streets and very little traffic to speak of, but I powered on through and... it gets better. As you advance in the story, new activities become available to you and, slowly but surely, the world becomes populated with an abundance of things for your To Do list - I didn't manage to complete all the side content in my first playthrough, so I might revisit it in the New Game+ mode to become the best not just at assassination, but also at mowing overgrown lawns.
With your entry fee paid you can return to the No More Heroes motel where you have the option of chatting with some of Travis' friends, playing with his cat Jeanne or heading straight to the next ranked battle. Each one is a unique boss fight, no two are alike, which was definitely a high point for me. In fact, some of them could hardly be called "fights" in all honesty - I won't delve into the details so as to not spoil the surprise, but if you thought the genre-bending of NMH:TSA was interesting, you haven't seen anything yet. Some of them both look and play like a completely different game, and that kept NMH3 "fresh" as I played - you never knew what was going to happen during the next battle. Once you defeat your adversary, your wife Sylvia, who functions as both the UAA representative *and* Damon and FU's personal secretary, shows up with her goons to announce that you've successfully reached a new rank (and to clean up your mess, of course) - success! Rinse and repeat until you reach the big bad, save the planet, get the girl and win the game, or at least that's the plan. Simple, but effective.
Combat plays out exactly as you would expect, and in many ways improves upon its predecessors. There are two ways to play - using the Pro Controller and the correct way, with a pair of Joycons, so you don't miss out on those satisfying motion control finishing moves. SUDA51 made the bold choice of connecting just about everything he's ever created into one universe, including NMH:TSA, so Travis isn't just limited to his katana and wrestling moves. Most notably, the Death Glove makes a return and allows you to pull off some special moves, starting with a jump kick. Those moves are neat openers, and good emergency moves if you run out of charge in your katana and need to temporarily floor the enemy before you retreat to safety. That's right, your beam katana still requires charging by vigorously shaking your remote (or wiggling the analogue stick, if you choose to play on a Pro Controller), however pulling off successful wrestling moves automatically recharges it, so the game does encourage strategising your encounters. Each time you kill an enemy, a slot machine display takes over the screen and, with some luck, triggers a random effect, one of which includes Travis' own mecha suit entering the fray, which is always a blast to use. Most importantly, staying out of harm's way is crucial to maximise your damage output. Dispatching enemies increases your Tension meter, while getting hit decreases it. The more tense Travis is the crazier (and more lethal) his combos get, so dodging often is a must. As an added bonus, a successful perfect dodge triggers a temporary state of bullet time, and who doesn't like that? All in all, much like some other elements of the game NMH3's combat initially felt a bit dry, but once I unlocked the glove's full potential, I was quickly able to learn how to pull off some impressive combos. As soon as I reached that point it became thoroughly enjoyable and as fluid as can be. Should you fail, you get to spin a roulette wheel where even more randomness awaits, including positive and negative effects alike.
In terms of in-game currency and items there's sadly precious little to talk about. Completing missions and tasks nets you Utopicoin, the "Earthling" currency which can be spent on tournament entry fees, some pre-fight sushi rolls and take-away and WESN which is primarily spent on improving your stats and unlocking new moves in your secret underground lab, where you can also build upgrade chips for your Death Glove. Yes, you have a secret underground lab, don't question it. Travis is a two-time number one ranked assassin on the planet at this point, surely you didn't expect him to *not* have a secret underground lair, right? It's a shame that the option to buy new katanas is curiously absent from this sequel - dual-wielding katanas in Desperate Struggle was one of the more memorable things in the series, but... we can't have everything, can we?
Return of the King?
So, is this a return to form for Travis Touchdown? Will we see a No More Heroes 4 in the near future? Yes, and maybe. The game is clearly set up for a sequel, so I remain hopeful that this isn't the last time we see this rude dude with an attitude on our screens. As for the scoring... I will have to level with you. If you expect an AAA experience, this isn't it. SUDA51 is many things, but most importantly, he is an auteur. There's a precious many things wrong with the game - the textures in some non-critical areas are horrendous, the open world is devoid of unique NPC's and feels barren, much of the game's mechanics are time wasters and I would be lying to you if I said that this is a game every Switch owner should run out and buy right now. In fact, some parts of it seem more like a SWERY creation than a SUDA one - it needs significantly more polish to earn the coveted "must have" moniker. A lot of you will hate this game, or you'll find it tedious. Knowing the history of the series and the man behind it makes scoring it a tremendously difficult task, and I say this because odds are NMH3 came out precisely how SUDA imagined it. Yes, the open world wastes your time a lot, it feels pretty empty and it lacks polish in many ways, but you could say the same about the original. This isn't the fault of hardware - it comes across as a parody of today's open world model. Yes, a lot of things in the game seem absolutely bananas, but that's SUDA's trademark psychedelic style - if it wasn't crazy, would it still be No More Heroes? It is the way it is... because it's meant to be, as a statement, a form of expression, and SUDA's personal piece of art. Is it good? To me? Definitely. To No More Heroes fans? Yes. To the average consumer? I don't know. I thought a lot about how to describe the game I've played in one sentence and all I could come up with was an analogy. No More Heroes 3 is just like a coconut. Wait, hear me out! It's a bit fuzzy on the outside - the performance (especially in the open world segment), the textures and some of the minigames need a bit more polish to truly shine. Past that fuzzy exterior is a hard shell of tedium - mowing lawns, unclogging toilets, mining for ore and other tasks that serve no purpose other than to allow you to earn cash for the next ludicrously high tournament entrance fee. You crack that hard shell and there it is - the meat. It's... a little chewy at first, but you can taste the sweetness coming through, and then... it all clicks. You take a sip of fresh coconut milk and all you want to do is put a straw in there and slurp it until you hit the bottom. That's No More Heroes 3 in a nutshell - a coconut, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
- Fluid katana combat, with new abilities to boot
- SUDA's trademark psychedelic art style
- Crazy storyline with a surprisingly relatable villain and anti-hero
- Very satisfying use of motion controls
- Unique and very original boss battles
- Some of the alien designs are a little uninteresting
- Performance and graphical shortcomings
- Can be a huge time sink, purposefully so
- No option to change or improve your katana