Is Travis' latest adventure a touchdown? Find out in our No More Heroes 3 review!
At this point, the No More Heroes series and developer Grasshopper Manufacture in general has garnered a well-deserved reputation for strikingly original parody.
By blending zany, tongue-in-cheek humor with a semi-serious punky aesthetic and over-the-top action the studio has created a trademark style that lights up the eyes of just about every nerdy 15-year-old or nerdy-15-year-old-at-heart that sees it.
Fans have been waiting more than ten years for No More Heroes 3, which is a hell of a run up to stick the landing. But genuinely, it’s hard to think of how it could’ve been executed any better.
No More Heroes 3 Review
Building on the work we saw in the stopgap collection of mini-games, Travis Strikes Again, No More Heroes 3’s use of multimedia is fantastic, incorporating mini-games, different styles of animation, and genre parodies to create a game that’s teeming with joyously creative flourishes and set pieces.
Whether it's VHS vaporwave aesthetic or rainbow-colored overlays when you’re interacting with objects or in cutscenes, photorealistic petals covering the screen as it transitions, or an imitation Netflix autoplay filter between chapters of the game’s story, it feels like there’s always something grin-inducingly goofy and cool and silly going on.
The story this time around raises the stakes to galactic proportions, with Travis facing off against deadly alien assassins as he rises through the ranks to reach number one.
And where you might think a cult series returning after a decade might tie up a few loose ends just in case, in true No More Heroes fashion the narrative is hilariously unfocused, blowing a raspberry in the face of anyone who wanted to get too po-faced about the pre-existing lore.
However, one place where it does feel like the series has matured is in the gameplay grunt it has to back up the funnies. It now feels like there’s more fluidity to the hack-and-slash combat, with more options when engaging opponents, that stops things from feeling as one-paced as they could have.
Signature wrestling moves are fun to pull off on stunned targets, while DeathGlove special moves even the odds against increasingly difficult extraterrestrial enemies.
Draining an alien’s health bar lets you unleash a killing blow quick-time-event, which again fits in nicely with the flow of battle, but also sets off a slot-machine wheel spinning, which gives you random bonuses in battle.
One of these bonuses is an Iron Man-style suit of ultra-powerful armor - because superheroes are popular now - which is pretty much a skip button for whatever fight you’re in.
It’s a good mix of systems that helps to keep the regular encounters engaging and the boss battles booming.
And it’s in those boss encounters that No More Heroes 3 is at its best, with each set piece consistently delivering the unexpected.
However, it’s in between these showpiece encounters that the game starts to slip. To qualify for each ranking battle, you have to plug your way through a series of smaller fights called Designated Matches and complete mini-games to earn enough money to progress.
A gag in the previous No More Heroes games was that Travis earned money to enter the extravagant boss battles by completing really mundane tasks like mowing the lawn and collecting trash - and those mini-games return in abundance.
There are a few more exciting ones to complete in No More Heroes 3, but it does feel like a grind to collect all of the cash, character upgrade resources, and Designated Match crystals you need in fairly pedestrian fashion - even when you’re zooming through the sparse semi-open world on an Akira trike.
I understand the fan service of bringing the minigames and open-world filler back, and to have some downtime between big encounters to pad the length - but are they really in here because they’re good or just because they were in the old games?
With that said, aside from the grind, No More Heroes 3 achieves a difficult task. There’s a tightrope to walk with parody games, and ‘funny’ games in general.
Everyone’s going in expecting madcap mayhem, and there’s often no one more stony-faced than someone sitting with their arms folded waiting to laugh. But if nothing else, Grasshopper Manufacture’s latest knows how to make you crack a smile.Reviewed on Nintendo Switch, with code provided by developer.