No More Heroes III (Switch) Review

Let me be upfront and honest about what kind of review this is going to be. I have not played the first two No More Heroes games, nor have I played Travis Strikes Again. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve played any SUDA51 game. This is not a review from a series veteran, it’s a review from somebody going in completely fresh, with no expectations or exposure. If you’re a No More Heroes mega-fan, this review probably isn’t for you, and with the timing of this review embargo, you’re probably already 10 hours deep into the game anyway. If you’re new to the series and wondering if No More Heroes 3 is a good place to jump in, or if you’re interested in how it looks and plays (especially to a newcomer), welcome! This is the right place for you. Let’s get stuck in.

No More Heroes 3 tells the story of a young boy, Damon, who stumbles upon a cute little fuzzy alien called FU. Damon deeply cares for FU, they go on adventures and read comics together — but FU is an alien, he yearns for a return to his homeworld. After some time has passed, he’s able to contact his people, and gets picked up to return to outer space, never to be seen again. Or not so much, because decades later, FU returns to planet Earth a sexy, psychopathic monster with some uh, twisted ideals of becoming a “superhero”. Together with the help of an adult Damon, FU (now going by the name of Prince Jess Baptiste VI) decides to set up the Galactic Superhero Corps, a ranked organisation of similarly psychopathic aliens intent on dominating the near and far reaches of space, starting with Earth.

And that brings us to our true hero — though that might be stretching it a little bit — Travis Touchdown. A grumpy, jaded, retired assassin/otaku with a talking cat, who’s frankly a little bit pissed that aliens have rocked up and decided to start messing up the place he lives and the things he likes. He’s given the opportunity to rise through the Galactic Superhero Rankings by defeating members of the organisation. And, well, he’s an assassin, and killing big baddies is kinda what he does best, so he steps up to the challenge and starts hunting them down.

It’s a fine enough story, and it certainly gets the job done of pushing the game forward. It’s got a surprising amount of depth to it, too, with some big, emotional moments and a good amount of twists and turns. As a newcomer, jumping into a third (technically fourth) game in a series, I was definitely expecting that there’d be a lot that went right over my head… and I was 100% right with that expectation. There’s next to no explanation for just about anything that happens between what I’m assuming are series regulars, very little backstory to catch you up to speed. It just jumps right in, with the assumption that you’re well aware of what’s happened before and how it pertains to what’s happening now. It took me a pretty considerable amount of time to realise that Sylvia, the game’s mysterious librarian-like quest-giver and seemingly complicit in the actions of the Galactic Superhero Corps was actually Travis’ wife — that’s the kind of background information you’re missing when you go into NMH3 completely blind. I can’t fault the game for assuming that players jumping into the third game in a series would be at least somewhat familiar with the characters and history of the series, but some kind of optional explainer wouldn’t have gone astray, either.

What I wasn’t so hot on was the game’s writing. Look, I know that part of No More Heroes’ appeal is its nonchalant, piss-taking approach to writing, and that’s fine in small doses or when handled with care. There’s an argument to be made that this type of writing satirises and parodies the “very serious work of art” that certain games stumble over themselves to try and push, with mixed success over the years. The problem is, with No More Heroes 3, so much of the writing leans so hard into mid-2000s teenage edge that it flies right past parody and satire and into a place where it’s hard to take anything that’s happening seriously. I won’t say that it’s all bad, there’s some wonderful, meta, in-joke games and comic book discussion that I thought was absolutely hilarious, but for every well-written moment in the game, there’s another where the whole point of the scene is that Travis just dropped the F-word, and isn’t that just hilarious? It grates on you, after a while, even if each moment would probably be fine in isolation, and edgy or stereotypical gags frequently overstay their welcome. Again, it’s not all bad, there’s some genuine moments of hilarity and soul and terror here, but it’s a shame it’s sandwiched by hours upon hours of edge-for-the-sake-of-edge.

I have similarly mixed opinions on the gameplay itself. There’s a surprising amount of things to do in NMH3, from combat encounters to motorcycle racing, and a tonne of silly little minigames like mowing lawns, picking up garbage while avoiding alligators, unclogging toilets, and catching scorpions around the city. They’re silly little bits of fun, but they break up the main gameplay loop in a satisfying enough way. Unfortunately the rest of that gameplay loop is frustratingly linear and repetitive, with each section of the game presented as a chapter in an anime or manga. Here’s how each episode goes:

  1. Go to a new area in the city.
  2. Complete a set amount of combat encounters in that city.
  3. Earn money to enter into a fight against the next boss.
  4. Fight the boss, then return to step 1.

Those set encounters in step 2 are kinda brutal, and not exactly in the “this is a difficult fight” way. There’s a decent variety of standard enemies, each with their own abilities and quirks, but the way you fight them is going to be almost identical no matter which enemy you’re up against — chain attacks and abilities until they die. The combat is fluid and fun, and managing the charge of your beam katana in the midst of battle is a genuinely exciting and thrilling aspect to fights, but the fights themselves are just the same thing, over and over and over again, and the satisfying combat only goes so far to keep you interested. On a positive note, however, the boss fights against ranking members of the Galactic Superhero Corps are genuinely fantastic. Each one is rife with interesting mechanics, new ways to approach combat, and puzzle-y aspects that will keep you on your toes — and that’s in addition to the solid combat mechanics throughout the rest of the game. Honestly, I’d probably have enjoyed NMH3 a lot more if it was more focused on those kinds of unique battles, even if a boss rush was all there really was to do in the game.

And so we get to the unfortunate part of this review, the visuals and performance. You’ll be pleased to learn that the frame rate is pretty solid, especially in docked mode, which is really important for a game like this with fast, fluid combat. There are dips here and there, especially when speeding through the open world or in a combat encounter with lots of particle effects, but for the most part there’s not much to worry about. Unfortunately, that solid performance comes at a very heavy cost to the game’s visuals. I’m not much of a pixel-peeper, and I can generally forgive a low resolution if the art style is strong enough, but NMH3 is running at such a low resolution that it’s hard to ignore. It’s muddy and unclear, aliased to hell and back, and any detail in the image drops off HARD once an object gets about a meter away from the camera. In its busiest moments, the game becomes a blur, with combat encounters sometimes reduced to two nondescript blobs clashing while other nondescript blobs circle on the outside.

I’m being slightly hyperbolic there, but only slightly — it’s hard to overstate just how genuinely terrible this game is to look at 90% of the time. Even the cutscenes, traditionally a place where developers can optimise a lot by culling anything that isn’t in shot, don’t look particularly great. It gets a little better in docked mode compared to handheld or the Lite, and the day one patch improved things a teensy bit, but not much, and not enough. Even on-screen text is sometimes heavily compromised by the low resolution. And honestly, it’s a shame, because I absolutely love the character design in this game, they’re genuinely some of the best-designed characters I’ve seen in a game like this for a long long time. And the art style seems like it could be really striking… it’s just held back so significantly by whatever’s going on with the visual fidelity here. If there were ever a case to be made for a Switch Pro, NMH3 would be Exhibit A.

I wish I could be a bigger fan of No More Heroes 3. There’s a lot to like about it, from its enjoyable combat to its solid character design, and even the story setup is absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately for every given thing I liked, there was just as much that I disliked, and its visual fidelity holds it back for far too much of its runtime.If you’re like me, jumping into the third game in a series you’ve never touched before, there’s probably more than enough to turn you away. However, mega-fans of the series will likely find a lot to love.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Good

+ Frame rate is surprisingly solid
+ Combat itself is fluid and satisfying
+ Boss fights are fantastic

The Bad

+ Episodic structure is frustratingly repetitive
+ Looks dreadful visually
+ Writing tries a little too hard to be edgy

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Final Thoughts

I wish I could be a bigger fan of No More Heroes 3. There's a lot to like about it, from its enjoyable combat to its solid character design, and even the story setup is absolutely fascinating. Unfortunately for every given thing I liked, there was just as much that I disliked, and its visual fidelity holds it back for far too much of its runtime. If you’re like me, jumping into the third game in a series you’ve never touched before, there’s probably more than enough to turn you away. However, mega-fans of the series will likely find a lot to love.

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About The Author
Oliver Brandt
Deputy Editor, sometimes-reviewer, and Oxford comma advocate. If something's published on Vooks, there's a good chance I looked over it first. I spend way too much on games and use way too many em dashes.
  • Arkhe
    August 31, 2021 at 11:49 am

    I’m not sure how to feel about this game.
    I’ve been a big fan of the series since the first, but this one really makes a lot of basic mistakes.

    Visuals are kind of all over the place. From the first game, it always felt like it was held together through sheer style over substance, but this one went further than I’d like in that regard. The cel-shading is far too detailed, too dirty, too cluttered. There are buildings that have noticeable holes in their textures. The texture pop-ins happen when you turn your camera. Is it intentional? I couldn’t say. Surely Unreal’s Engine wouldn’t let this happen normally, but it’s done in such a way that it’s ridiculously intrusive, rather than something out of a fevered dream.

    The tutorial over-explains everything, compared to the original which almost under-explains the really important things. But the HUD uses up a huge amount of the screen.

    So far, I do like the city-planning. The map increased over 5x over the original in the first game, and continues to be 5x as empty as the original as well. There seems to be only 2 outdoor npc designs with a handful of colour variations. Though the care put into planning is leagues better, I find it weird that the majority of side fights to be performed in small closed parts of the map, rather than utilising the map you’re already on.

    Aliens, from a design standpoint, make more sense than humans, as it let’s the devs get away with more ultra violence, but it’s a double-edged sword that seems to get further away from the themes of the first. But then again, I’m not even half way.

    I hear the Beam Katana doesn’t have upgrades, which hurts the game massively. Though it keeps Travis on design, it loses the excitement of getting a new toy to play with.

    I’m not far enough in yet to definitively rate it, but I’d definitely caution anyone to not let this be their first entry into NMH.

    • Arkhe
      September 6, 2021 at 9:50 pm
      The Good

      A decent send-off for the No More Heroes series that will undoubtedly have a spin-off or three, but it can be best summarised as 'one step forward, two steps back'.

      -Pretty solid battle-system gameplay. They changed blocking from high or low, into a single block, since there's more emphasis on (perfect) dodging. The Death Glove element they kept from TSA was an interesting switch up.

      -Open world has some excellent architecture and city-planning (for the first two areas). Side-missions open up as the story progresses, and there's a few that keep you on your toes the whole game. They even include some Visual Novel story missions much like how they were done in Travis Strikes Again.

      -The mini-games are all 3D and they're funner to play than back in NMH1

      -The ending has some amazing parts to it.

      The Bad

      -Requires you to play Travis Strikes Again, otherwise massive confusing spoilers (though there's a lot that doesn't make sense regardless)

      -Fighting gameplay has been simplified a lot. High and low blocks being combined into a single block also removes the variety of moves. The wrestling moves took the biggest hit

      -The open world falls apart really quickly. Really empty, and more often than not, finding a fighting side-mission puts the game into another area that just requires so many loading screens -particularly if you're farming. Also, around only half of the map is accessible, - 5 total, with 3 of those being vast empty swathes of land, and one of those being ridiculous to travel around in (lots of invisible walls for no real reason). Also, it's possible to get stuck in places, like jumping over things you weren't intended to jump-over, like say, jumping off a balcony down a story, you get stuck in a falling animation since tarp has weird hit-detection that doesn't let you fall forwards, but forces you at a snail pace to fall sidewards. Luckily, you can access your map and fast-travel your way out of out-of-bounds bugs.

      -Why weren't any of the 2D 8bit minigames included?

      -No Beam Katana upgrades. Why. One of the best things of the previous games, and they were completely removed. No references at all.

      -No moree waves of mooks leading up to the boss, and instead give you 1 wave of hard mooks/miniboss(es) in separate instances. After 3 of these, it unlocks the boss door (which still requires ingame currency to enter).

      -Music was disappointing. It was perfectly serviceable, but no ear-worms to really make the game stand out.

      -The ending has one excellent part, and the rest of it has no budget. Some of it occurs as credits scroll over a sequence that really should've been playable.

      Further mixed bag of notes:

      Going into this, I wasn’t invested in aliens as enemies, so lucky the game does shake it up a little with interruptions, as is the NMH formula, and this weirdly switched the dynamic because the ones who get interesting build-ups were the aliens after all.

      The fan-service was all over the place. Travis’ NPC friends get a lot of cameos, but they don’t get a lot of interaction in-game. Likewise they basically removed much of the world-building by omitting things like Bizarre Jelly, Travis’ ingame anime obsession. I get that they included different aspects to make it closer to VHS segments of a music-video, but they got old fast. For instance, after every boss fight there’s the ranking display, a VHS-like musical outro, commentary about the Director Miike, a musical intro, the novelty of all of it becomes tiring filler, particularly because this game has a lot of loading screens.

      Also, while the game still includes long hallways and a phone call prior to the boss fight, you can tell it was included because of tradition more than anything else. Normally long hallways are a dev trick to load the boss room, so this was kind of pointless.

      The transition into a two-colour image for transition screens have nearly all been removed, and instead only kept the kill-shot on the last enemy or when closing out the boss chapter.

      I think they removed the cel-shader that was normally on NMH1 & 2, or at least severely toned it down. You can tell because someone ripped the models from the original, and they looked closer to how NMH Paradise looked. I felt this was kind of a shame, the comic-book/anime look was really defining.

      My game crashed once. For anyone who has major problems with it, if NMH3 is anything like the eShop, just move your game from the SD card to the HD, and make some room on the HD, and performance improved a little bit. There’s still going to be massive loading screens, terrible screen tearing and the render-distance being a few feet away will still be a thing – though I’m pretty sure these are intentional, because Unreal normally doesn’t do this sort of thing. Still a weird design element though.

      I guess in some ways it was disappointing, but in other ways, it was fine. Not quite the big hurrah I wanted, and whilst it had lots of cameos, most weren’t meaningful. Even Shinobu was stumped in comparison to her roles in the previous iterations.

      If you’re a fan, go ahead and dig in.
      If you’ve never played NMH before, start from the first.
      No More Heroes has always been style over substance and this wasn’t a bad way to bookend the series.

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