No More Heroes 3 review: A fitting send off for Travis Touchdown

Grasshopper Manufacture
Grasshopper Manufacture /

Title: No More Heroes 3
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Grasshopper Manufacture
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release date: August 27, 2021

A story about my life real quick that I promise relates. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was a mall rat. A couple of friends and I all worked and hung out at the mall all day long. And almost every day we were there we saw, “The Russian”.

“The Russian” was a nickname for a gentleman that was at the mall EVERY day. If you went to the Parmatown Mall while it was still around towards the end of its life I promise you, you’d see him there. Here’s him with his face removed to protect his identity. Respect this drip.

Screen-Shot-2021-08-28-at-1-22-48-PM /

The thing that earned “The Russian” that coveted “The” was how he carried himself. He was in his sixties. He wasn’t overweight but he was very much out of shape. But the main thing was that he carried himself like a fashion icon. Every outfit was shiny. Bright blue leather pants paired with a silver sequined button shirt left open to reveal a hot pink t-shirt with some indescribable madness airbrushed onto it. He had shoes that never went with the outfit, whether they’d be Ugg boots or Adidas slippies or Jordans. The man absolutely loved looking flashy and, ultimately, he put so much effort into looking cool that he never spent time tying everything together. Long story short, “The Russian” was a flashy mess. He’d look in a mirror really quick and see “hot” without thinking about it long enough to notice the word “mess” after it.

For better or for worse No More Heroes is “The Russian”.

Since the first No More Heroes game came out for the Wii almost 15 years ago, people have been fascinated with the insane aesthetic. It’s a platform that famed game director and absolute lunatic “SUDA51” has used for years to pump out every insane idea that pops into his head.

The games start out with wrestling enthusiast and hardcore otaku, Travis Touchdown, finding someone online who was selling a makeshift lightsaber. He purchases it and immediately, with precious little reason to do so, decides he’s going to enter into a tournament in which he must work up the rankings of the top 10 assassins. Killing one moved him up a video game-like leaderboard. To fight an assassin you had to pay a massive entry fee with money you earned by picking up trash around the city, mowing lawns, and murdering groups of local ruffians. All this would help you earn enough money to fight the next assassin provided you didn’t blow it all on anime-themed t-shirts for your character to wear.

The assassins were a brilliant and bizarre collection of madness. You had everything from a high-school ninja girl to a superhero/egotistical actor that puts anyone from The Boys to shame, to one of the highest-ranking assassins, an elderly woman named “Speed Buster” who pushes a shopping cart that carries an energy cannon capable of decimating entire city blocks with a single shot. Each of them is then killed in a ridiculously violent fashion.

Since 2007 there was a sequel and a spin-off. If you haven’t played either of those games you are absolutely going to be overwhelmed by where the story has gone since the first game, or at least vaguely heard of it because you get ZERO lead-ins.

Without spoiling the bizarre eccentricities of it, the game boils down to a cocky alien frat boy destroying a part of the planet and deciding it would be fun if he and some of his alien buddies challenged Earth to a battle similar to the assassin ranking battles of the previous two games. From there you’re brought to the No More Heroes Hotel in which your character is hanging out in a neck brace and his roommates are Shinobu and Bad Girl, who are mainstays from the previous games. Even being familiar with the series the rate at which the game expects you to be up to date is almost as jarring as the character’s one-dimensional personalities.

I can’t even imagine what this must be like for someone who’s starting the series with this, as the previous games are absolutely not easy to find. This is one of the few times in which I’d absolutely state “read the wikis” if you’re about to just jump in here. Because if you think that’s bizarre, here’s what happens several seconds later.

That’s right, your character waves his glove (that looks like a Switch controller) past his face, summons his best Kamen Rider impersonation, say Henshin, and gets adorned with power armor.

Nope, no explanation is given towards the armor or the immense tree with a woman’s face in the hi-tech basement of the hotel that awakens and summons it.

And that’s pretty much all the story you are going to get. Enemies will show up out of the blue and get a playing card straight out of “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” that tells you anything you need to know. But when a man in a leather mask and a baseball bat comes to your defense you’re given absolutely nothing.

And that, in a nutshell, is SUDA51’s whole thing. It’s high-end gatekeeping on multiple fronts. If you don’t understand who all these people are, it’s your fault for not following along with the games that came out in short supply for three separate systems. If the game sells poorly, it’s your fault for not appreciating the uniqueness of the product.

This tends to extend to the game itself as well. When I take screenshots from my Switch, I upload them to Facebook and then transfer them to my computer. When I transferred the above videos, the majority of the comments people left on the footage were along the lines of “oof those graphics”. The game looks dated, with its desolate flat patches of land with no detail. The same tree was cut and pasted throughout several areas of the city. The jagginess that gives the entire game the same level of graphical detail slightly exceeds the PS3.

But even typing this, I know I’m going to get people who dismiss this as “you just don’t appreciate the visual aesthetic that SUDA51 was going for”. It’s not that the game is unpolished and that they didn’t put the work in to utilize current-gen technology, it’s that I don’t understand it.

Same thing with the gameplay. I can complain about how the battle mechanics are janky, or about my character constantly missing attacks or the camera getting too close at times for me to see the enemies around me. I can complain about how my motorcycle handles about as well as a boat from Hydro Thunder. And the response from defenders would be “that’s how the games are” or “it’s keeping in the spirit of the previous game”.

Now, I never developed a game so I’ll put this in terms of a job I have had. As a restaurant manager, if a cook dropped food on the floor then served it, I would be upset. If the cook, later, dropped a second dish on the floor and served it, I absolutely would not be telling the customers, “It’s in reference to his previous order. It’s his artistic choice.” I’d consider firing the chef.

It’s things like this that make a game review like this difficult. Is the game fun? Absolutely — despite the terrible controls and the simplistic gameplay loop. Mundane tasks like picking up cans from the water and mowing grass is weirdly enjoyable despite the fact that both look and play at a level that free-to-play mobile games have far surpassed.

Is the story enjoyable? Absolutely — if you’re down for that sort of thing. It’s extreme and insane and remarkably self-aware. The characters will go from murdering people to talking about having sex with each other to having long-winded rants on the couch about the collected works of Takashi Miike and how he should be added to the MCU. But are the characters ridiculously one-dimensional and impossible to get invested in? E-yup.

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So ultimately it comes down to gameplay experience versus the product. It’s like reviewing Play-doh. My experience ultimately boils down to my own skill level and my imagination and, finally, what I do with it.

If all you care about are framerate and graphics, you will hate this game. It is ridiculously ugly.

If you’re looking for something with the controls of recent games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, you’re going to hate this game.

But if you go into this series realizing its high levels of stupidity and just appreciate it for how absurd it is that this game even exists, you may or may not genuinely have a blast.

But at the same time, if you played the previous games you might be disappointed to find out No More Heroes III lacks the insane amount of customization options. Your bike now looks like a rip-off of the one from Akira whether you want it to or not. The clothing store is shut down with an alien in front of it who will occasionally sell you ONE shirt. And all the different weapons you could get, each with completely different play styles, are all gone, leaving you with the one basic weapon. In a lot of ways it almost feels like a step down as every city you encounter now suddenly feels completely emptied out, like you’re just walking around a fake movie set.

I can’t even tell you if I’d recommend it or not and yet I kept playing it just to see what else the game threw at me. I tore through a guy with a rock containing a miniature black hole in it for a head and followed that up by taking out a golden four-armed alien with the powers of Mysterio and the personality of an expensive interior decorator. And I kept playing past that just because I want to know what other weird ideas this game had.

My honest recommendation to you is to look up gameplay and watch for at least five minutes. Don’t watch the cutscenes or spoil the things that happen, but focus on the actual gameplay — driving around, fighting enemies — and see if it’s your jam. Because this No More Heroes III is definitely not for everyone.

6.5. While fans of the series will enjoy seeing the final <em>No More Heroes</em> story that ends SUDA51’s incredible run with Travis Touchdown, it’s impossible to ignore the game’s faults. It’s fun, but suffers from many faults that make this game seem like a work in progress. Poor movement and driving controls, a clunky camera, and dated graphics plague what could have been a much better game if SUDA51 was more willing to adapt to the capabilities of modern systems.. Grasshopper Manufacture. . No More Heroes 3

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.