|Release Date||August 27, 2021|
Reviewing No More Heroes III is proving harder than I expected. I’m looking back at my review of Travis Strikes Again, thinking if my expectations have been met. Playing the last game to a beloved franchise is never easy but Suda definitely did his best to send Travis off with a bang. No More Heroes III (NMH3) is, by far, the wildest ride Travis has taken. Your enjoyment from this game comes with quite a few caveats though.
Gratuitous amounts of blood is used as enemies and characters are slashed or decapitated. In one early scene, one character has their arms ripped off with blood-splatter from the open wound and another character is brutally beaten to death. A neon-colored blood is used for the alien enemies when they’re cut apart.
F*** and sh** are used often. B**** is used lightly but, like with Travis Strikes Again, there’s little vulgar humor. There is dialogue that embraces violence and letting your rage take over.
It’d be no small compliment to call NMH3 the “greatest hits” of the last three games, on top of having its own charms. You take control of Travis Touchdown once again to take on ten galactic invaders and travel beyond Santa Destroy, through Utopiland, and even space to stop the alien invasion. Though the premise is pretty straightforward, the story to the end is anything but normal.
Return to the Garden of Insanity
If you’ve kept up with No More Heroes, you will definitely be happy with the gameplay. The overworld exploration and original minigames return and combat has been greatly improved. There’s even fast travel between the new areas, though you still have to drive to minigame and mission locations. Even though you’re protecting Earth, you’re still required to shell out some cash for each fight since the United Assassins’ Association (UAA) is sponsoring the alien invasion for some reason?
Regardless, the money grind is a lot easier this time around as long as you balance out between the collectible side missions, chore minigames, and defense missions. The loading times are a bit of a struggle which is the only thing that makes the farming tedious. The overworld doesn’t perform very well even in docked mode but the minigames themselves are playable enough with little slowdown. Combat missions are handled in different zones that allow for 60fps gameplay which is necessary because enemies are not the same cannon fodder as before.
The combat in Travis Strikes Again was brought over to NMH3. Enemies all have a unique design to distinguish them from each other and to immediately identify what their attacks are. You have an arsenal of four Death skills and three Death Chip slots to equip. The four skills are: Death Force, Death Slow, Death Rain, and Death Kick. Force is grabs the nearest enemy and throws them far. Slow produces a field that slows down any enemy within it. Rain creates a ring that shoots at any enemies within it. Kick is a dropkick with invincibility that knocks down most enemies. The Death chips add passive traits like increasing attack or defense. There’s even a chip that helps with finding collectibles in the overworld.
As far as NMH3‘s gameplay goes, it’s similar to 1 and 2 but bigger. There’s a lot more types of collectibles to find in this game as well, which unfortunately don’t unlock anything related to gameplay except T-shirts and materials to craft Death chips. T-shirts are a nice replacement for achievement hunters since Nintendo doesn’t have achievements in games. Not that I’m complaining.
Devil in the Details
NMH3‘s other outstanding quality is its attention to detail for people who paid attention to the series. You’ll also get a kick out of it if you enjoyed 80’s media as well as some pretty old anime as well as Takashi Miike, which Travis will make sure you know is the best. I’m fully convinced Suda is just trying to add to my watchlist by making me think there’s some other details in the game that I’m missing unless I watch some Miike films. Who can say really?
The references definitely missed with me even though I’ve pretty much been told to death that I should watch mecha anime classics like Terra Formars. I did enjoy the conversations in between boss fights where FU will talk with his comrade, usually partaking of some trendy food item like boba or ramen. These are oddly humanizing for characters who should just be straightforward villains. These cutscenes actually add some intrigue to the plot along with later cutscenes which turned out to be some freaky foreshadowing that caught me off-guard.
The boss fights in this game are incredible setpieces. Though it sacrifices some gameplay convention, I was always pleasantly surprised with each encounter. Four of them really impressed me. For an example, one of the fights was a big game of musical chairs. No, you didn’t misread that. I played musical chairs to the death. It was glorious. I would say this one is actually the most tame out of the four. Another boss fight basically puts Travis into another game but I’m not telling which one.
There’s a lot about NMH3 that I just want to gush about and sing its praises. But at the same time, I am fully aware that Suda’s style of games is not going to mesh with everyone. However, games directed by Suda always have an earnestness that you can feel from their execution. This will be the final title involving Grasshopper Manufacture as the franchise currently belongs to Marvelous. Hard to say if we’ll ever see the magic again but I’m genuinely happy that Suda got to send off his man-child otaku son with no regrets.
The Bottom Line
While not sticking its landing well, No More Heroes 3 is the most polished experience of the franchise with really entertaining set pieces.