When I reviewed No More Heroes III just over a year ago, I absolutely adored how it attempted to wrap up or at least provide a definitive end to Travis Touchdown’s story. For the most part, my opinion hasn’t changed but playing on the Nintendo Switch last year led to a myriad of performance issues. Now something we’ve come to expect from third parties on the Switch, No More Heroes III rectifies these performance issues by making the jump to other platforms. Make no mistake, this is the same game, but one with better performance and, without a doubt, the best way to play.
No More Heroes III takes place nine years after the events of the second game and two years after the events of Travis Strikes Again. Travis Touchdown is once again the star and takes it upon himself to protect the planet as an alien ship descends on Earth. Onboard is an intergalactic alien prince known simply as FU, who has brought with him a troupe of other aliens who want to conquer the planet out of sheer boredom.
No More Heroes III continues the story of Travis Touchdown from previous games. Still, as a standalone game, it is easy enough to follow. The history of the characters is rich – some of which spanning over a decade of games – but I wouldn’t be put off if you haven’t played the first two games or even Travis Strikes Again. Certainly, the direction that No More Heroes III takes might seem a bit out of the left field, but it naturally progresses from where Travis Strikes Again left things.
Regardless of your experience with the series, there’s no denying that No More Heroes III is a stylish affair. An endearingly potent love letter to video games, it’s clear that this is a product that auteur director Goichi Suda had every hand in creating. This isn’t just a tribute to No More Heroes as a series; it’s a celebration of Suda and his distinctly endearing style of game-making. It’s self-aware and fantastically written. That being said, one or two characters definitely didn’t need to make a return and aren’t entirely developed as much as the others, but overall, No More Heroes III is Suda’s stylish best, easily.
No More Heroes III plays closer to the original game than its sequel. You play as Travis Touchdown as he works his way up the Galactic Superhero Rankings. Essentially, you have to kill ten different bosses to save Earth from destruction. But this competition is run by the UAA, so in between missions, you’ll have to scrounge the open world for jobs and money to pay for each of your ranking battles. It’s a simple premise held together by the strength of its set pieces.
Speaking of simple, the combat inherits aspects from previous games while adding its twist. Travis will now fight with the identical beam katana from beginning to end but still retains his wrestling move repertoire. In addition, the death drive device on his arm can now be equipped with skills that are a little wackier – including installing turrets, teleporting dropkicks, and telekinetic throws. These do a great job of keeping the combat fresh without completely overhauling it – which is great as the combat in No More Heroes III is the smoothest the series has ever had.
Such streamlining has been applied to the structure of the game too. In previous games, you’d enter a level, fight through enemies and then battle the boss. In No More Heroes III, you’ll be treated to some scenes detailing the boss and their relationship with FU before being thrown straight into the battle. This revised structure has proven to be divisive between fans in the past year, but I feel that it results in a much better-paced experience with little to no downtime – a common issue that I found with both of the previous mainline titles.
But don’t fret – this doesn’t mean there is less “game” on offer. Between missions, Travis can explore five districts of an open world. To progress, you’ll find preliminary qualifying battles to take place in or pick up odd jobs to make money to pay for his entry fees. The battles are all single-room affairs that have you fighting all kinds of unique enemy types. These admittedly feel super game-like in how separated they are from the story, though it also, once again, means that No More Heroes III feels immaculately paced.
I say this because No More Heroes III commits to throwing new stuff at you regularly. I can probably count around ten unique enemies in the game, but mixing those battle encounters with other activities keeps things fresh to the end. These other activities include collecting scorpions, shooting crocodiles off the coast, going into space to defeat flying space peacocks with a mech suit, and mowing the lawn. It’s a wide variety of activities that never force themselves onto the player excessively but never feels like grinding if you want to go for extra resources.
But what would a No More Heroes game be without boss battles? Absolutely nothing – so it’s a boon that pretty much every single one on offer here is fantastic. Where previous games would throw ten battles at you and rely on the uniqueness of each boss to shake things up, some of these battles can even be described as genre-bending. I’m not going to ruin any of them here – that would be cruel – but every one of them has a uniqueness to them that can’t be understated.
Regardless of which difficulty you play on (though I warn you – Spicy is HARD), using extra resources allows you to improve Travis and his abilities however you want. You can invest in some pretty standard upgrades to health, damage dealt, and the like. But you can also craft chips that will improve some aspects of Travis while reducing others. I favoured wrestling moves more during the later battles, so I equipped chips that would enhance my wrestling damage while dropping damage of moves I never used. It’s a system that never feels one hundred percent necessary but is there to tinker with to get that extra edge on harder difficulties.
Most players will get twelve or so hours out of No More Heroes III depending on how much you do, though my first run took around fourteen. But there’s so much more to it than running through and doing all the battles. All kinds of collectibles are strewn throughout the open world. While they’re unnecessary, they will help those who want to finish the more formidable difficulty modes on New Game Plus. There’s, of course, a bunch of shirts and collectibles to find too.
In my original review, I was a massive fan of the artistic direction of No More Heroes III. It’s a bright style that pops with vibrant and numerous colour, though different from the previous two games in the series. It’s never dull to look at, and the bump in both resolution and framerate with this updated port only helps the game’s presentation. Where the original Switch version performed well during battles, there were still some pretty noticeable framerate drops during more intense battles and when exploring the game’s open world. Thankfully, with these ports, these performance issues are almost non-existent. They’re not rock solid, mind you, but the faster load times and better performance make this version of No More Heroes III the best you can buy.
The soundtrack is bold, brash, and vibrant on the other side of the presentation coin. An eclectic mix of electronic, industrial, and even some reggae-tinged pieces permeate every battle and every menu to give the game a vibe like no other. The voice work is similarly fantastic – and it’s such a joy to see everyone return to voice their respective characters, no matter how small their roles might be. As expected, Robin Atkin Downes is the standout here, lending Travis a cocky bravado like never before. Other highlights include Noshir Dalal, who voices FU with so much charm and intensity that I want to be mates with him, even if he wants to conquer my planet.
As I played No More Heroes III again, I continued to be enamoured with just how engaging an experience it is. At first glance, it looks like a retread of the things that No More Heroes has done before – a bunch of boss battles with some kooky direction and a cringe-worthy protagonist. But No More Heroes III is so much more than that – it subverts all your expectations to offer some of Suda’s best work. And this updated port makes things only better.
THE XBOX SERIES X|S VERSION WAS PLAYED ON A XBOX SERIES X FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL COPY OF THE GAME WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
No More Heroes III is one of my favourites in the series so far. A streamlined structure, some fantastic writing, and direction from Goichi Suda and some of the tightest combat the series has ever seen make No More Heroes III one of the best. The latest ports rectify most of the performance problems seen in last year's Switch debut, remedying some minor blemishes on an otherwise remarkable artistic achievement. This is, without a doubt, the best way to experience No More Heroes III.