On paper, Forget about Heroes 3 is a third-person, open-world, action-adventure game with RPG elements. NH3 is so a lot more than that though. The developer Grasshopper Manufacture, helmed by Suda51, includes a long track record of subversive, genre-smashing titles such as the previous No More Heroes games, Killer 7, Lollipop Chainsaw, and much more. Thankfully, NH3 develops Suda51’s legacy of fun and meta-breaking games by bringing what should be a far more than dated protagonist into this generation with little to no compromises on the way.
Santa Destroy, We Missed You
No More Heroes 3 stars Travis Touchdown. A crass, probably middle-aged, otaku assassin that has seen more than his great amount of crap through the years. The era of the prior games have discovered Travis living a peaceful life in Santa Destroy until a group of aliens starts destroying cities and murdering civilians right and left. The aliens are led by FU, a being who left the earth two decades before the game’s start and it has returned to keep his promise to a human named Damon. Upon FU’s return, he states be considered a god damned superhero while destroying the earth. This event sets the tone throughout the sport.
Travis and his friends end up thrust into this conflict as they easily have the ability to dispatch among the “superhero” aliens. FU however proves to be too much of challenging on their behalf and instead forces Travis right into a tournament of death. Although he was living peacefully up till then, Travis enthusiastically joins the tournament where he will need to get rid of the ten superhero aliens in front of him in the ranking to finally face FU and save the planet. Yet another day for Mr. Touchdown.
Much like anything else hanging around, the story is told unconventionally. NH3’s narrative plays as an anime television show with each ranked battle becoming its own episode. At the outset of each episode, a literal anime intro plays capped off with the episode’s title. After defeating the ranked alien of the day, an outro plays like the ending of the anime before a short Netflix-esque timer counts down to the next episode’s start. Fourth wall breaking. Subversive. Meta. There are so many words to explain it however it definitely cannot be called boring.
The actual content from the story between these episode headers is told through cutscenes, transmitter skits a la Metal Gear, an odd YouTube-style show with Travis and the friend referring to Takashi Miike and his various works, and plenty more. What’s frustrating, especially to a writer, is it all fits together perfectly when it really shouldn’t. The storyline hits every beat perfect from Travis explaining to a boss what onscreen prompts to make use of down towards the over-the-top violence that removes any gravity from character deaths or dismemberment due to the ridiculous amounts of blood on display. The storyline is easily one of the strongest points of No More Heroes 3 as it never takes itself seriously enough which gives it the liberty to get in any direction it wants knowing its audience will either accept everything completely or none of it at all. It’s a daring way to tell a story.
Cut All of them Down
Combat may be the main draw of NH3 and there would be a lot of polish added to make the latest title feel that far better. Travis is equipped with his signature Beam Katana which has no power as he attacks or defends. Shaking the controller, performing pro-wrestling moves, or eating sushi would be the only methods to recharge it and are just inconvenient enough to create running out of power in battle a fantastic moment. During battles, Travis gains tension signified by a small kitty on the screen. The lower the strain, the cuter the cat appears. As Travis lands attacks or blocks and dodges enemy attacks, tension builds. At max tension the kitty becomes a red tiger but what exactly does that mean?
The basic controls without More Heroes 3 include swinging the aforementioned Beam Katana to complete damage, a lock-on feature for enemies that doubles as a block, dodging, Death Glove abilities (more about that later), and camera controls. Swinging the Beam Katana at first feels pretty basic as Travis only has some light and high combos with no real variation. Tension however affects what combos are performed. As tension rises, the light and high combo hit count and flashiness increase and Travis turns into a whirling dervish of death. Tension is another good measure of how good Travis does in battle. Each battle is ranked from no rank (meaning it was too low) to double S rank that is earned by taking no damage and whooping plenty of butt. The larger the grade achieved, the more currency earned by means of Utopia Coins (UC) and World Ending Super Nova (WESN).
Outside of the Beam Katana, Travis’ move set includes some over-the-top wrestling moves and Death Glove abilities. The wrestling moves on display can be executed on stunned enemies or after performing a perfect dodge. The Death Glove gives Travis access to a total of four abilities with cooldowns that may alter the direction a battle is going in. Some abilities are being in a position to decelerate time or deliver a teleporting dropkick. Both wrestling moves and Death Glove abilities can be put in between light and heavy combos for flashy, effective, and awesome feeling combat.
Finally, when an enemy’s health drops low (virtually zero hp), a prompt to some finishing move can look by means of a killer slash. Once executed, the Slash Reel will begin to spin. The Slash Reel is a slot machine that may give Travis additional UC and WESN or, better yet, activate a mode that lets Travis grab and throw enemies like a madman. Every spin of the reel can turn the tides of battle adding another layer of depth to the bloody parfait that is No More Heroes 3.
At its best, combat in No More Heroes 3 feels amazing. Mastering the basic principles can turn boss fights into straight-up beatdowns by being able to stun, suplex, and roll the slash reel of all of these just like a normal enemy. It’s fun and addictive but there are several issues with it. Lock-on is wonky at best as it grabs the closest enemy and slightly narrows Travis’ field of view. Due to this, it’s hard to track what other opponents do which caused lots of unnecessary deaths.
Almost every battle places Travis against multiple enemies so not locking on would default towards the game using a soft lock. Use a Death Glove ability without manually locking on first? Don’t be surprised if the attack hits some random enemy way the heck on the other hand from the room. What’s more, at least on Spicy mode (hard mode), enemies can continue to deal damage during most of Travis’ moves. There doesn’t seem to be many iFrames displayed as death was far too frequent due to enemies attacking throughout a Death Glove move that can’t be canceled from. Whilst not enough to hamper the overall experience, these should be noted and hopefully will be addressed in a future patch.
Lawn Mowing Simulator
As mentioned before, the story isn’t the only unconventional feature of the game. Outside of combat and between ranking matches, Travis is free to roam the multiple cities of his world. From Santa Destroy, other locales include Perfect World that is supposedly an idyllic city, and Call of Battle which appears to be a Call of Duty parody without directly saying so. Every city to go to has a large number of things to do which is where the game’s style and attitude begin to appear.
Whether it’s grabbing trash from the river while suplexing hungry alligators to straight up just mowing someone’s lawn in style, the activities in NH3 are ridiculous but fun. It’s clear that Suda51 wanted to include activities similar to GTA but refused to simply have races and other, now default, open-world game activities. Heck, to unlock save points around the world map, Travis needs to clear an obstruction from a public toilet whose contents are thankfully blurred out. Not one other game might get away with that.
As mentioned, there's time between ranking matches before Travis can participate. To sign up, Travis will have to clear all of the designated matches in whichever city is on display for the following battle. They are moderate difficulty battles against a few of the game’s various enemies. After clearing enough designated matches, a payment of UC will have to be deposited into the ATM that will grant accessibility next ranked battle. This flow works surprisingly well as every zany activity completed pays in both UC and WESN. WESN, by the way, can be used to gain levels skills for example Travis’ attack and the max control of the Beam Katana.
With so much variety, the only complaint during the time of this writing may be the insufficient visual notification that the activity continues to be completed. Whether it’s the defense missions or even the others, at first there appears to be a red stripe through them so it's clear they’ve been finished but upon returning to the region, the stripe is finished. Occasionally where a secondary activity is going to be added but a definite indication of what has or hasn’t been completed, without diving in to the game’s records, would be extremely helpful to manage time. Plenty of wasted time occurred because of having to drive over just to discover the activity was exactly the same one already cleared. This really is pretty essential in an open-world game to save players time.
Subversive Nolstagia Smoothie
Going into Forget about Heroes 3, nostalgia could definitely dominate. The visual style continues to be upgraded but still just like intentionally offputting as it was on the decade ago. The aliens particularly directly clash using the visual style of everyone and anything else that is exactly the point. They’re alien towards the senses so that they need to look unnatural. After the first hour or so, all of them appear to fit the universe No More Heroes 3 has melded together. The aliens look alien, the citizens of Perfect World all look “perfect” which makes them bland and expendable, and Travis’ bike appears like it’s straight from Akira. The visuals are further heightened through the excellent sound design including some amazing tracks especially when chowing down at the sushi stand. Like if a person wanted to break into rap today, they should definitely sample those beats.
Continuing with the nostalgia angle, Travis, without beating the gamer over the head by using it, has grown in lots of ways. While Travis still takes a peek at his wife’s backside when she bends over and curses just like a sailor, he continuously asks about his kids and can wear a hoodie using the words “Fuck Racism” plastered over it also it fits his character perfectly. There’s something oddly satisfying with visiting a game not trying to pull punches within this day and age while still showing progress through its narrative. They don’t make a problem from anything happening and instead just have a really fun game with a few under-the-surface themes and subversive dialogue as Travis continues his journey to be the biggest badass within the whole universe. Many shockingly violent moments occur but none which should make anyone switch off the sport. Think a Tarantino film in video game format and that’s about 10% of what NH3 is wearing offer.
The smoothie isn’t done there though because the game is constantly on the mess with set expectations. NH3 will frequently set up a cool boss combat a trope of characters observed in a lot of other action games just to pull the carpet from under the spectacle at the eleventh hour. Many fights don’t go the way Travis expects and some aren’t even against the ranked alien during the day. You can even find some events through the game that will leave jaws agape at just how from nowhere they think. While it would have been safe and easy to simply have ten battles consecutively with really sharp boss designs (every boss battle is amazing incidentally), subverting expectations helps make the journey a lot more fun. Rather than wondering exactly what the next boss is going to be, the idea becomes what crazy thing could they be going to do that time?
Summarizing No More Heroes 3 in a few sentences is hard to complete. It’s the fantastic sequel that Travis Touchdown and fans of the series deserve in which the game, visual, and sound designs are all sublime that is rare in this current generation. The issues such as lock-on during combat as being a tad wonky and also the world map not showing activity completion accurately bring the experience slightly down from 100% perfect. However, anything else is done very well and deliberately that it’s difficult to not think that these problems could be some meta-comment Suda51 doesn’t expect one to get. To summarize in a way Travis would be proud of, it’s a really weird-ass game but also a very good-ass game. GTFO and buy it.