I feel like I have to get this out of the way, but I LOVE the No More Heroes franchise. Ever since I played the first game on the Wii, I’ve admired the concept of an otaku rising through the assassination rankings. With the sequel, I grew to love the characters even more, making me a lifelong fan. Thanks to the sheer will and tenacity of series creator SUDA51, this series is still going strong with No More Heroes III. This is more than just a sequel, however, as it’s also a celebration of Goichi Suda’s creative spark. His inspirations and ideas. If you’re a SUDA51 fan, then you really have to pick up this game.
Taking place two years after Travis Strikes Again, this story starts with Travis Touchdown waking up to an alien invasion. Jess-Baptiste VI, better known as FU, returns to Earth after having spent time with his childhood friend Damon 20 years prior. Deeming the planet to be perfect to conquer, FU brings nine other alien criminals back to meet up with Damon, who is now a CEO of Utopinia, as well as the boss to Travis’ wife, Sylvia Christel. Deciding to make a game out of it, FU creates the Galactic Superhero Rankings, and in partnership with the United Assassins Association (courtesy of Sylvia), they challenge the Earth to fight back. Of course, being the two-time rank #1 assassin, Travis is more than willing to accept, especially when things get personal.
Things get crazy as Travis fights through alien hordes and takes on odd jobs to earn the entry fee for each rank. Along the way, he’ll encounter multiple crossovers, references, and even returning characters on his quest to save the planet. It’s worth pointing out that if you’ve only played the first two games, there is a good chunk of context missing. Many of the characters and references come straight from Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes, so it’s highly recommended to play that game to fully enjoy the story here. It’s honestly impressive that No More Heroes has such a deep level of lore, but I’m here for it.
Ultimately, No More Heroes III, like the first two games, is a boss fight game. This is even clearer with this entry, as bosses no longer dwell in a stage for the player to fight through. Instead, you’ll travel across five different regions to take part in Designated Matches. Upon completing three and fulfilling the requirements, you’ll be able to deposit your entry fee and take on the boss. While you might have to do some traveling to take them on, usually they’ll end up being right in front of Travis’ motel. While I do miss the stage presentation, No More Heroes III finds other ways to compensate for it.
It’s actually interesting to see this game act as a blend of the previous three entries. The original No More Heroes had an open world, only for the sequel to ditch it entirely. Now it’s back and bigger than ever, and makes the use of Travis’ motorcycle (complete with Akira bike sliding action) much more viable. Elements from Travis Strikes Again also show up, including food stalls (run by Bugzaburo instead of Bugjirou), adventure segments in the style of Travis Strikes Back, enhancement chips, and even the Death Glove, which grants special skills to Travis. In fact, Travis Strikes Again is pretty much the foundation for the combat system here too.
Using either traditional or motion controls, players will wield their beam katana and cut down foes. You’ll have access to light and heavy attacks, as well as jump attacks and dodge rolls. Travis can stun foes after a myriad of attacks and initiate wrestling moves, or even deal devastating damage with a Killer Slash. Using a Killer Slash will activate the Slash Reel, a slot machine of random bonuses. Sometimes these bonuses give you money, and sometimes they can grant you abilities like Full Armor Mode. Of course, you’ll also have your perfect dodges when evading enemies, which slows down time to get multiple quick strikes in. While there’s no more high or low attack, fans of the original games will likely still feel right at home. And as always, Travis can only do this with a shake-charged up beam katana battery.
Over the course of the game, you’ll receive two currencies: UtopiCoin and World End Super Nova (WESN). While UtopiCoin is most important for entering the ranking matches, WESN has a different purpose. You’ll use this currency to upgrade Travis at Dr. Naomi’s power-up machine in his lab (conveniently located under his motel). You’ll be able to improve his health, attack power, battery levels, and even gain new abilities. It’s a streamlined system, but I was a bit disappointed not to have Dr. Naomi back in person for this sequel. It also would’ve been nice to see the dual wielding return. Either way, progression for building up Travis works just as well as ever.
Outside of combat, Travis will have quite a lot on his plate. To help earn some extra cash, he’ll be able to take on volunteer work. This can range from something simple like mowing the lawn, or even to suplexing alligators while collecting trash. These jobs ditch the retro style of No More Heroes 2 and goes right back to the in-game engine. While these jobs do earn some extra cash, you honestly earn more by fighting in designated matches and challenges. You can also get some pretty good rewards by finding collectibles like scorpions and trading cards on each map. I do wish that the game tracked these things by location, because I’m still having trouble finding the last few.
When it comes to the visuals, No More Heroes III maintains the visual style from the Wii era, but with just a little extra definition. While this will likely be a criticism for most people, the graphics makes it feel like it came shortly after 2. Unfortunately, the performance is also hindered, mostly in the open world areas. Frame rates will drop, textures will take a bit to load, and objects won’t appear until you get close enough. As unfortunate as it is, I don’t think having better performance would make me enjoy the game more. You sort of just have to step back and appreciate the artistry at work here.
As for the overall visual style of the game, it’s a truly psychedelic experience. All the aliens display such unique designs and have their own crazy realms for their boss arenas. The game gets heavy with the filters too, with one area being completely filtered like an old history film. Other effects showcase flashing sparks, blood geysers, alternate animation styles and more. It’s truly on another level of taking games out to the furthest reaches of style. You never truly know what to expect here, as the game will surprise you around every corner.
When it comes to music, it’s been an important part of the No More Heroes experience from the start. No More Heroes III sets the bar even higher with great new tracks. One moment, you’re watching an old style anime credits sequence with a sorrowful theme, only to get the DonMai sushi rap at Bugzaburo’s stall. RED ORCA’s Nobuaki Kaneko takes the reigns on composing the game, but gets a few helping hands. This includes Meebee, who previously worked on Travis Strikes Again, and brings in some of his colleagues like Okumura, Whale Talx, Annie the clumsy, and more. It’s a soundtrack that truly sets the anime inspired tone of the game while also maintaining western flavor.
When it comes to voice acting, Robin Atkin Downes literally kills it again as Travis Touchdown. I can’t think of anyone better for the role after his excellent performances. Most of the voice cast from previous games also return, including Paula Tiso as Sylvia, Kimberly Brooks as Shinobu, Kathryn Fiore as Bad Girl, and more. Noshir Dalal joins the cast as Prince FU, truly selling his crazy side as well as his laid back demeanor. Travis’ cat Jeane gets a voice replacement, with Ike Amadi taking up the role in a comical way. Other cast members include Max Mittelman, Mark Alan Stewart, Paul Mercier, Josh Keaton, Jennifer Hale, Steve Blum, and many more. Overall, it’s a rock solid cast that does a fantastic job.
The game is chock full of other great cameos and collaborations that make the experience more unique. I won’t spoil them here, but there’s a lot of cool things to take note of. Of course, it wouldn’t be a No More Heroes game without Travis’ love for Takashi Miike. After each ranking mission, Travis will sit with his buddy Bishop and they’ll talk about Miike movies. It’s these really down to earth moments that really make the series relatable. It also shows just what kind of connections that SUDA51 has in the industry, making for a fun time.
In the end, even with all its faults, No More Heroes III is a true standout to me. I love the meta references, the dialogue, and even the crazy boss battles. The anime inspired cutscenes and effects pump the title with over-the-top energy and I’m here for it. If you’re a SUDA51 fan and you’ve followed the series, you need to pick this up.
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