If South Park, Rick & Morty, and Saints Row IV have shown us anything, it’s that you can smart and stupid at the same time, even if the stupid stuff is immature or scatological, so long as it’s ultimately fun. It’s something I thought about while playing the third-person hack & slash action game No More Heroes 3 (Switch), which would be idiotic and immature, and also kind of annoying in how flawed it can be, if it wasn’t so much silly fun.
In No More Heroes 3 —
or, as it’s also known, No More Heroes III — Travis Touchdown once again has to take out ten increasingly skilled and rather varied assassins. Except this time around, the assassins are from outer space, and have invaded Earth in a bid for conquest.
Like in previous installments, much of the action in No More Heroes 3 is combative. Specifically, hack & slash in the vein of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — a fitting comparison given that Travis’ weapon of choice is a lightsaber, er, Beam Katana.
Though instead of being with the force, and having the force be with him, Travis instead has a different set of combat combos. While Travis can, of course, hit people hard or fast, and can also smack them while jumping, he can also grab them and slam them to the ground, WWE-style. There are also some special attacks, including one where Travis dons a suit of armor that makes him look like a mini-mech from a ’90s anime.
Combat in No More Heroes 3 even includes some quick, God Of War-esque QuickTime events, though it’s always more about flicking the right thumbstick one way or another, as opposed to hitting a complex combination of buttons.
And then there’s the “a good defense is a good offense” idea, which is why No More Heroes 3 gives you the option of blocking incoming attacks or doing a dodge move that, if done right, gives you the chance to perform an effective counterattack. And when those don’t work, no worries, you can just eat some sushi that augments your abilities like they’re power-ups. Maguro (i.e. tuna sashimi), for instance, replenishes your health, while Ikura (a.k.a. salmon roe) increases your attack power. Just be sure to buy some at a local sushi place before going into battle, as enemies don’t drop random sushi rolls during fights.
As fun as these fights can get, though,
they can also be a little frustrating. For one thing, Travis’ Beam Katana runs out of power way too quickly, and must be recharged manually…which Travis does by, uh, shaking it like he’s, well, “taking matters into his own hands,” if you catch my drift.
This isn’t done by just hitting a button, though. Instead, if you’re playing No More Heroes 3 portably, you have to hold the right bumper button while flicking the right thumbstick around; if you’ve got your Switch hooked up to your TV, you have to shake the Joy-Con controllers like they’re maracas or a Polaroid picture. Either way, having to do this so often leaves Travis open to attack.
Or rather, it would if Travis’ enemies didn’t oddly give him time to do what he has to do. While I had to recharge the Beam Katana’s battery multiple times during every fight — and there were, of course, multiple fights in this game — not once did any of my enemies every think to themselves, “Hey, maybe I should attack him while he’s…uh….” (though maybe that’s why they always left Travis alone).
The problems with the combat in No More Heroes 3 aren’t the only ones that make this less cool than Travis thinks he is. (Though given that they’re the same problems as earlier installments, it stands to reason that if they didn’t annoy you before, they won’t bother you now.) Take the camera controls, which are wonky both in and out of combat, even when you adjust them. And while you can lock onto enemies when fighting someone, this doesn’t work when you’re just trying to look around and end up staring straight up, no now I’m looking at my shoes, dang it.
It seems like the developers are also big fans of Death Stranding and other games made by Hideo Kojima because, man, this has a lot of long cutscenes.
Then there’s the music in No More Heroes 3, which has the same wonderfully trashy and over-the-top approach as the rest of the game…but still gets annoying after a while. Which wouldn’t be a problem, since this has the option to turn the music off, were it not for this making the oh-too-common mistake of also turning off all of the sound in some of the cutscenes. As annoying as long cutscenes can be, they’re worse when they’re weirdly silent.
The same can also be said…
for the open world in No More Heroes 3, which seems like a real waste of time. While there are some side missions and random fights to get into, the city is largely empty…and, well, silent. It’s like being in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve during the pandemic (and yes, I know of whence I speak).
Still, what redeems No More Heroes 3 somewhat is that yes, you can pet the cat.
Well, that and the fights. While the camera may not do you any favors, the hack & slash gameplay, with all its options, is really fluid and frantic and just well-done. You also get attacked from multiple sides, and at the same time (save, of course, for when you’re recharging your Beam Katana).
It also helps that this has a similar over-the-top, gleefully silly, I don’t give a fuck vibe as Saints Row IV, just with even more nods to Japanese culture, sci-fi movies, and old school arcade games. Just look at the aliens, especially the big boss, Fu, who looks like he was kicked off RuPaul’s Drag Race for being too outrageous and, in response, looked into the camera and defiantly said, “You think this is outrageous?!?” It’s just bonkers that way, and all the better for it.
In fact, the best reference I can make for No More Heroes 3 — one that Travis would appreciate and understand — is that it’s kind of like a porno in that all that matters are the action scenes. Sure, the things that set them up are dumb and we’d skip them if we could, there’s problems with the camera, the music is terrible, and people don’t always jump in when they should, but the action more than makes up for it by being super fun, exciting, and, well, satisfying.
All of which is why…
No More Heroes 3 or III or whatever the hell it’s called is as much nutty fun as the previous games in this series, numbered or otherwise. Sure, it could be better — a lot better — but it could also be more mature and serious, and who the hell would want that?