Developed and Published By: Grasshopper Manufacture Categories: Action Release Date: 08.27.21
You could say I’ve been a fan of the work of Goichi Suda, known to most as Suda 51 for a while. While I was aware of it, it wasn’t until the game killer7 was features as the cover story in Volume 190 of Nintendo Power. I was nothing short of enamored by what I was reading about. It wasn’t just how bizarre, political, or violent it was for a game to be covered by Nintendo to be that pulled me in. It was the game’s eccentric creator, Suda 51, who at the time donned a Mexican Luchadore mask for interviews. Playing this game became a must, I bought it at launch even. I was pulled in to a game perhaps over my head at the time.
killer7 is the kind of game I would tell all of my friends to play. Some got it, some didn’t, but I knew it was special. I had to play games by Suda 51 and his team, Grasshopper. So I’d read magazines, go online to find their new releases. I was in a rabbit hole if you will. Soon, a game for the Wii called “Heroes” was announced, giving hardcore killer7 vibes. As a fan of killer7, I knew I was going to have to play this game. It’s name was formally made into No More Heroes, and I followed it even to the Japanese launch, which was a month earlier than the US.
A game where you play as a man in his late 20’s killing people with an ebay bought Beam Katana. All with the goal of getting action. You do odd jobs, you sit on the toilet to save, and you pull of wrestling moves. It’s bloody, incredibly bloody, another rarity for a Nintendo console.
A Third Eye Open
Why is this important? Why am I ragging about old games like this? The work of Suda 51 back in 2005 changed how I view videogames. It wasn’t just the best graphics or the tightest gameplay, but how a game could make me think, feel. How a game could make me think of the intrinsic value, why games should exist. My line of sight for new releases was altered. If a AAA game and a smaller, more oddball game both came out, I would gravitate to that oddball. Speaking with my wallet, I wanted these developers and publishers to know the game was worth supporting.
So I bought No More Heroes, then I got the sequel when it came out. Nearly a decade later, I then bought Travis Strikes Again. It was a thirst for more, especially after the tease of future games. Now in 2021, No More Heroes 3 is finally here. TSA was a more indie, a more personal kind of game. 3 goes bigger and badder.
Welcome Back Travis
Aliens, Goddamn Superheroes are invading the earth. The stakes are as big as they can be, Travis kinda looks like he’s been in hibernation though. Casts, a scruffy beard and messy hair, his apartment is a real mess too. Travis must have switched from weeaboo to catdad. While Suda may have said the game is supposed to feel like a Marvel film, I feel that that is more of a way to get westerners interested. The plot, the mood, it all feels closer to a Tokusatsu show. You know, Super Sentai/Power Rangers, Kamen Rider, Ultraman. GODZILLA AND GAMERA.
The inspiration seeps out of the pores of No More Heroes 3. From a power armor summoned by a loud HENSHIN, to battle chips being named after various characters, to an outright Kamen Rider reference, cleverly censored in the subtitles. The Handsome Men in killer7 make sense now.
A Little Refresher
Must like it’s predecessors , No More Heroes 3 is an action game. At it’s core, you kill boss, make money, kill boss, rinse, repeat. Take a look at my reviews of 1 and 2 if you’re wanting to sort of get a taste of this. Or you know, buy the games, they’re both great. Bosses a full of charisma, often being the showcase. You’re going to be doing oddjob minigames just as often, if not more though. While in No More Heroes 2, they were retro inspired, they’re back to how they were in the original game. Not only that, but the very much divisive overworld returns. I for one was disappointed at the lack of it the sequel.
No More Heroes 3 comes off as an amalgamation of the certain parts of each game. The more organic, open-ness of 1, the quicker action of 2, the skills, powerups, and movelist of TSA. Truly, the columniation of what Suda as a director and Grasshopper as a developer have learned in the course of nearly 15 years. Poop to save, jerk to charge, mow some lawns, buy new clothes. Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill. Sweet, Bitter, Spicy.
Sounds of Slaughter
As much as the games seem to have tonal shifts, the music might have something to do with this. No More Heroes 1 had more energetic, videogamey tunes from Masafumi Takada, complimenting the game’s quirky style. 2 had a harder, grungy sound, headed by Akira Yamaoka (and a quite numerous ensemble of composers). Travis Strikes Again struck with a more moody, indie feel, headed by a DJ, Kazuhiro Abo. No More Heroes 3 has Kazuhrio Abo return, but is matched with Nobuaki Kaneko. Kaneko, the actor, and fellow you might know from the band “Red Orca”. Which I’m sure any people will recognize from the “FUCK RACISM” hoodie. By the way, fuck racism.
Nobuaki Kaneko is new to videogames, but that doesn’t mean his work on No More Heroes 3 is anything short of excellent. No More Heroes 3 has plenty of fun, gamey sounding songs, but I took a feeling of somberness from many tracks. Even the fight music feels…sad. The exception is ITADAKIMASU by Abo. I cannot get that song out of my head.
It would ultimately be unfair to not mention the work of Jun Fukuda, who’s been working on the music for Grasshopper Manufacture games for as long they’ve been reaching the west. The song “Tex Mex” in killer7, by Fukuda was one of those earworms that has never paid rent for my headspace. It just lives there for free. This all goes without saying, that Grasshopper and music, whomever they hire is good times.
*END OF DISC ONE. PLEASE INSERT DISC TWO*
The following segment will delve more into NMH3 as a whole and will include minor spoilers out of context.
A Lot Has Happened Lately
No More Heroes 3 begins with a rollercoaster of emotions. From nostalgia with Travis browsing
Youtube for the true ending of an old game from his youth, hitting really close to home for people who grew up in an era like his. Soon after you kill one of the invading Alien leaders after having a conversation on destiny and purpose, tragedy happens. No More Heroes has always been a violent series, but a particular scene early on comes off as very sadistic. I’m not entirely squeamish when it comes to videogame violence, but this scene made me incredibly uncomfortable. Like Travis, I felt helpless. If you need a good comparison, go back to the Curtis and Pedro scene in killer7, it hits like a goddamn truck.
Strawberry, Cranberry, Blueberry!
In terms of story, this is our mood going forward. It’s no longer just a quest for the downward dog, it’s not just revenge. With gameplay, it’s just as chaotic and fun as ever, if not more. First off, combat, ALL combat is a locked 60 FPS, and it’s the best it’s felt in any of the games. Mix the standard combat from 1, speed of 2, and mechanics of TSA. Stances are gone, now replaced with Light and Heavy attacks, ditching those melee attacks in the process. Death Glove chips return, with most being stat buffs.
Gone are boss stages, instead you’ll fight in Designated Fights on your way to fight a boss. These introduce new enemies gradually, to which there are a lot of. The enemy variety blows the other games out of the water, with even before the second boss you’ve seen at least half a dozen. Some of these even act as mini-bosses such as LEOPARDON, which had moves I had quite some trouble avoiding.
New to the action is the addition of a Tension mechanic. I don’t feel the game quite adequately describes tension, so this is all to the best of my knowledge. The higher the tension the quicker and stronger your attacks get, with longer, better combos. Get hit, and it goes down.
The slot machine returns, but works a bit different. Before, it was mostly just on the odd chance to make Travis super powered. For NMH3, it seems like bonuses for doing well. More WESN and coins are typical. The fun ones are making Travis go into Mustang Mode, making him super fast. Throw Crazy allows you to grab endlessly for a short period, great for refilling the battery, new to NMH3. Invincibility for a short period is another boost. But then you can activate Travis’ armor mode, which allows for a devastating missile fire.
Remember those bug chefs from TSA? Well they’re back! While before they had a nice healing ramen, they now host nice sushi bars. Ramen healed you, but sushi can do more, much more. Enhance the body, enhance the mind, enhance the soul. I hear, it’s so good it can raise the dead!…maybe you should try that.
Another returning aspect is the special moves you you would have with your Death Glove. A devastating kick, a force push, punishing rain, and a slowing aura around you. These definitely help when you’re either in a pickle or when you want to just overpower the opposition. Depending on your skills, you might not need these, but you might just want to use them anyway because they all feel good to pull off.
Bosses in previous No More Heroes were all great, there’s no arguing that. However, majority of the bosses at least on a surface level are functionally the same. They all have unique moves, but all go down the same. In No More Heroes 3, bosses feels like a bit of a puzzle in itself. The second boss fight prays you know how magnets work, and no it’s not a miracle. You’ll get JRPG bosses, a giant mech fight that feels like you’re playing Panzer Dragoon…musical chairs? Throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks is a recurring theme for NMH3.
You might even run into a small handful of space mech shooter segments, playing a bit like Panzer Dragoon.
Now is a good time to mention dodging. The Dark Step returns in NMH3, but is referred to as the Perfect Dodge. I could definitely pull off these more consistently as the game outright tells you when it’s possible to do so. When the action ring in a fight turns purple, dodge, then everything surrounding Travis gets all slowmo. Use this opportunity to whoops some serious alien butt!
You get graded at the end of each fight, but please do not take those too much to heart. This grade means almost nothing outside of your reward. There’s incentive to get better and grow, but it’s not like DMC or Bayonetta where the game is built around this mechanic.
How Many Bikes Does Travis Have?…
The Open World is back! It’s just as empty as it was in NMH1 as well. This time however, there is more purpose and reason for it…I guess it looks nicer too. NMH1 had collectables with shirts and Lovikov Balls, but NMH3 has side quests. Grab those fruity smelling scorpions! Collect those DEATHMAN cards. Find your cat Jeane’s many children…wow, Jeane gets more action than Travis… The overworld is much bigger, so you might have to save a bit more often. First you’ll have to unclog those toilets! How gross must they be to have a mosaic cover the bowl?
The odd jobs return, no longer retro. Travis still does that goofy turn when he mows lawns. Picking up trash is more dangerous though, as the water is infested with gators! Take over traffic safety by ramming into cars! The best part about these jobs in NMH3 is that you no longer need to go to the job center for them. Just go to their designated spot on the map for it and go nuts. Infact, side mission fights are like this too. This greatly beats going to a spot, loading, picking the mission, loading, going to another spot, loading again.
I got a little emotional seeing environments from the first game again. Area 51, K Entertainment, Holly Summer’s beach “Body Slam”, Thunder Ryu’s building, Gold Town. It felt almost like you came home after so many years. It’s weird to get nostalgic over *that* slope near the job center, but god it hit me hard.
No, My Mom Does Not Dress Me
Like every other game in the series, Travis likes his clothes and anime shirts. There’s a lot in this game too, though you can’t exactly buy it anymore. Scattered around each segment of the overworld are T Shirt Aliens. They all have their own challenges they want Travis to attempt. Fulfilling this obligation grants Travis a new shirt. Throughout playing the game he’ll come into possession of more shirts and other sets of clothing. There’s a lot of it, but the customization and mix-match of the clothes in NMH1 and 2 is sadly missing.
I’m a Tree, Travis! I’m Naomi Tree!
Going to the gym isn’t going to cut it anymore, we’re going back to the lab again. In an groanworthy example of wordplay, the busty (63 year old might I add) scientist Dr. Naomi is now a tree…a skill tree….and another Toku reference. Here you can use WESN (World Ending Super Nova) you’ve collected to power up. Health, Strength, Battery, abilities, and how fast abilities refill after use. If one can grind enough, they could presumably get their stats up rather high, rather quick, no longer blocked off by progress.
Also in this lab is where you can equip and assemble chips for your Death Glove. No More Heroes has finally done it, it’s introduce crafting. None of this feels forced however, so if you want to neglect this, that’s your prerogative. However, the non-action related chips like the 80 Chip, which helps you find objects in the overworld is vital for late game.
While combat as mentioned earlier is a smooth 60FPS, everything else is 30FPS. People will say this is an awful thing, but if you played the first game on Wii, it’s obviously an improvement. It’s surprisingly not choppy when in the overworld. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s not bad or anything near unplayable. Especially since combat is smooth.
On the other hand, No More Heroes 3 leaves me questioning if certain aspects of the artstyle are deliberate or a lack of power for the Switch. Some textures look downright awful, worse than the first two games. On the top floor of the motel, Travis’ bedroom looks astonishingly lo-res. Otherwise, cutscenes all look fantastic and the game can look very good. Is this Unreal 4 or the Switch? Either way, I imagine a PC port would very much do this game good, though you’d miss out on the series’ motion controls.
What’s YOUR Favorite Miike Film?
No More Heroes as a series has always been overflowing in style. It had quite the reputation as being a style over substance game. While No More Heroes 3 finally props up the gameplay to excellent levels, it’s still just as stylish and dare I say, the owner of the best presentation in the series. Up front, the game has this episodic nature, with each main fight being an episode of an anime. Intro credits and old school anime ED bookend each chapter. There’s also the overlay of a streaming service for certain moments like dialog. It’s all rather charming. Even more charming is the little podcast Travis does with Bishop over their love for Takeshi Miike. Travis as a whole drops references for days, for various film, anime, and tokusatsu. Though some of his gushing is probably a tad inappropriate at times.
Bookending boss fights are little vignettes almost humanizing the alien bosses. It’s greatly appreciated after NMH2’s lack of…anything for most of the bosses. They can bond over the illustrious pleasures of Boba Tea, or how it’s not cool to just bullshit your friends and the ones who are yes men, are almost always snakes. After a somewhat mean spirited death, you get a cute PSA from your main characters in chibi form. Cartoons gotta have a moral lesson at the end right? This is the FCC’s fault isn’t it?
Cutscenes, hell entire chapters are all over the place in their own style. Sometimes it’s standard, sometimes it’s a visual novel segment like what was in the Travis Strikes Back segments in TSA. Sometimes it’s even the bizarre animation by AC-bu of Bob Team Epic and GAL O SENGAN fame. One could argue it’s inconsistent, but I for one love the variety this game throws at me.
A little detail, or maybe not so little detail I enjoyed is that on your bike in each of the different areas of the overworld, the music changes. It’s just another detail I wouldn’t think a game would include, but does. NMH3 as a whole is like that, for better or worse.
Out of Battery?
So…what didn’t I like about No More Heroes 3? Just a few things. First, the clothing options, while pretty varried isn’t what it used to be. To wear some clothes, it NEEDS to be a set. I miss going into Area/Airport 51 and making the dumbest combo of items. Second, I do kind of miss the unique stages per ranked fight. They dragged on in NMH2, but did add a bit of character to areas in NMH1. Third, much like No More Heroes 3, there is *one* Beam Katana. That one is a bit of a nitpick though, as I would generally just ditch a beam katana the moment a better one came by, but having options is great.
This is all from a standpoint of comparing No More Heroes 3 to the first two games, which is inevitable. Each game has it’s own flavor though. A new art style, a new way to play, a new feel. Open your mind, don’t stick in the past, you’ll be better off and find more enjoyment. Not every sequel needs to be a clone of the original, especially fourteen years later.
Good Bye Travis
I’ve been waiting forever for a new No More Heroes after 2, before the WiiU came out. Was this worth the wait? Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. As No More Heroes as a series has grown, I feel it grew alongside me. It might be better to say Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 as a director though. Thank you Goichi Suda, for changing how I view games as a medium. Thank you for making killer7, No More Heroes, Flower, Sun, and Rain, and the games you’ll make in the future. And thank you for making No More Heroes 3. A fitting Swan Song to both the franchise, and Travis Touchdown.
No More Heroes 3 may not be perfect, but it’s everything I could have asked for. One hell of a rollercoaster of a game to boot. It sounds sappy, but I was in a both creative and emotional rutt prior to this game coming out. So thank you again Goichi Suda, for revitalizing my passion.
Buy Now: $59.99
*This Game was Reviewed on a Japanese Copy Ordered from Amazon Japan