The world’s most famous Beam Katana-wielders is back. And, well, No More Heroes 3 is exactly what you expect it to be. It is equal parts garish and gory. There are lots of people with questionable moral compasses. It can demand precision, whether you’re cutting down aliens or plunging a toilet. Even some heartfelt moments sneak their way into it. In short, No More Heroes 3 is a lot and has a very distinct sense of style, which I think is exactly what people coming to it will want and expect.
The abilities of Travis Touchdown and other United Assassins Associations members may have seemed supernatural in past No More Heroes games, but No More Heroes 3 kicks things up a notch. 20 years prior to the game, a man named Damon met and befriended an alien named FU, a la E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. When FU left, he bestowed Damon with abilities he’d use to build an empire and promised to return.
Well, FU makes good on that promise. Except he’s actually Prince Jess Baptiste VI and just broke out of Black Hole Prison with his buddies. He’s incredibly strong and ready to dominate and destroy parts of the Earth.
Said destruction catches the attention of Travis and his disciples/allies Shinobu and Bad Girl. He ends up getting caught up in the fight as Santa Destroy falls under the shadow of the aliens and, after defeating its assailant, finds himself climbing the top 10 Galactic Rankings to reach FU and save the world.
For the most part, it is brash, filled with harsh language, and doesn’t pull punches. Even when someone is displaying heroic tendencies, there are elements that highlight their flaws or skewed moral compasses. But what No More Heroes 3 nails is that the series can also have its serious moments interspersed with the levity or outrageousness. The silly situations are there, sure. But it also highlights how even incredibly terrible people can have loved ones. That there can be downtime where Travis chills with Jeane in his lap or FU takes a moment with an ally before they head to a fight.
As you might expect, said fights tend to be the highlight of No More Heroes 3. They can be as over the top as everything else here. When roaming around Santa Destroy or the other city environments, you might come across smaller Designated Matches against opponents or Defense Missions where you face hordes of smaller enemies. The Ranked Matches against FU and his minions are more elaborate and even multi-stage affairs.
In most situations, Travis will be in an area where he’ll wield his Beam Katana against foes. As with any beat’em up, your goal is to chain together combos with light and heavy attacks. You occasionally perform Death Blows to end an opponent. Throws are around. The Death Glove and its chips offer new challenges and attacks. You also have a the Slash Reel showing up after successful major hits or kills, which can power Travis up. While brute force can be an option with lesser enemies, FU’s allies gradually require more and more thought, to the point where dodging and knowing how to perfectly evade to trigger the brief slowdown of time to counter or breaking their guard is necessary to survive. Especially since you also occasionally have to charge your Beam Katana to continue to deal damage.
Though as accurate as those moments are, I felt like the times at which Travis suits up to head into space and attack enemies with different sorts of shots is at odds with that. During normal No More Heroes 3 encounters, your sword-fighting and abilities to manage fighting foes is put to the test. When Travis shouts “Henshin!” and dons his Full Armor, it had the opposite effect. Instead, it was as if I was moving around until I saw the locked-on symbols, button mashed when I could to send out bullets and beams, and didn’t always need to be at my best.
When you’re not fighting, well, you’re usually riding around so you can do more battling. The free map element returns in No More Heroes 3 and is something of a mixed bag. I suppose it adds to the ambiance and I think Travis’ bike is cool, but it isn’t very fleshed out. Even if you do try to explain away the emptiness by suggesting it is due to the alien attacks and threats, it comes across as hollow. Considering the size of the maps, the way that buildings, cars, and people look, and the lack of activities and things to do, it isn’t very effective. But then, this issue came up in the original No More Heroes as well. And while there could be more to do, it also very much feels like a tribute to its roots.
What I appreciated more is how it included the ability to explore Travis’ hotel room again. You can access all three floors, each with their own points of interest. I always made sure to interact with Jeane between ranked fights, since the situations would change. And the first floor is great for building up Travis’ stats and Death Glove chips. Both of which can help make the combat more interesting, which is clearly the best part of the game.
But I think what No More Heroes 3 does best is completely and wholeheartedly embrace its aesthetic. The introduction plays out as a detailed, coming of age anime about friendship, before completely turning the tropes and expectations on their head. Elements of the video game scene, both retro and modern, invade every element. Whether they’re pixelated pop-ins and UI elements, encounters with NPCs for minigames that made me feel like they came from an N64 or PS1 game, or copying of streamer and influencer’s tricks. Pop culture is pervasive, but not in a way that cheapens or dates the experience. (For example, heading into a Designated Match triggers a jingle with shades of the X-Files theme.) Volunteer Mission minigames range from extremely ordinary, like mowing a lawn, to digging out strange glowing ore in an underground space filled with magma and enemies. It is unabashed and uncensored in a way that perfectly suits it.
If someone hasn’t kept up with Travis over the years, I’m not quite sure No More Heroes 3 would be the game to introduce a newcomer to the saga. However, it does feel designed with those familiar with the series in mind. The character direction, humor, style, combat, minigames, and even free map all call back to things that made the last few games stand out. Past UAA members will likely relish this new opportunity to rise through the Galactic Rankings.
No More Heroes 3 is available for the Nintendo Switch.