>> No More Heroes 3

Like its prior games, No More Heroes 3 is the story of a top-ranked assassin saving Earth from an invading alien gang through an interplanetary assassin ranking competition. The joy of the game and the whole series is its unpredictable yet grounded characters while the combat system is competent enough to support it. Although this game has a bigger scope and several improvements, it feels messy and less meaningful to play. This is still personally a good game with interesting boss fights and clever twists, but its negative aspects severely pull it down from being a recommendable game for non-fans.

>> Quick Thoughts

Let me begin with the things I like which is mostly a return to the style of the first game. First of is the combat system which is more fluid and now has potentially modifiable skills via death chips. To keep up with those changes, the enemies and bosses are more varied and challenging. The new mini-games are quirky and enjoyable specially the robot shooter battles. Lastly, the story of the alien leader as he loses his friends and control is a good narrative choice. Overall, the game still has its charm and style which I appreciate; however, its issues severely impact those good qualities that make the game a chore to play.

Since this game follows its ranking format of fighting ten ranked, the worst issue is the required entry fights for each rank. Early on, they are challenging and introduce new enemies which make each rank fight a real accomplishment; however in the late game, they stop being distinct and merely repeating formations with stronger variants which becomes drawn-out fights. This is compounded with every fight not offering any details such as enemy composition and its unpredictable or random placement in the map makes it hard to know whether a fight is difficult or worth taking. As a completionist I took every fight, and they are really tiring and tedious overtime which feels more padding than player choice. Perhaps the game had fewer entry fights and possibly spaced the enemy varieties closer to the end, the flow and difficulty will feel faster and better.

While the combat system feels better to play than the first, the issue is its progression that is a straightforward point system. The first half of the issue is acquiring those skill points which is acquired through fights. The problem is that it can be easily broken by redoing boss fights at an easier difficulty and skill points are rewarded based on performance rather than difficulty. This is a non-issue in the first game as skill or stat progression was gated off by mini-games or exploration and would feel much more rewarding and interesting.

The other half is the combat balance and customization via gauntlet chips. The biggest issue here is once the player acquires the rapid thrust skill, enemies and even bosses can be trivially controlled and becomes a fast and safe method which becomes boring over time. Without other viable combat skills, the many entry fights feel longer and more procedural than fluid or expressive. This also applies to the limited gauntlet skills that is ironic as creating chips could have imbued different skills rather than simply percentage attribute bonuses. Attribute percentage bonuses is the least interesting way to provide progression and balance, so just providing more varied skills can give the depth and creativity the combat deserves.

The reintroduction of an open world is much appreciated, but the implementation feels hollow or empty. While the space is larger, navigating through it specially with the bike is often janky with unclear collisions or terrain causing motorcycle crashes making it feel unpolished. The new islands/regions are mostly wide empty spaces as if to hide the entry fights which feels uninteresting alongside the mini-map making it trivial to find. What is worse is that since the player is teleported to a different fight area, the space itself is less relevant to its purpose or meaning. Comparing with the first game, it does this so much better and simpler. Even if this game's world might serve an aesthetic or tonal function, it is severely underutilized and perhaps better more restrictive for its purpose.

Lastly, the story or continuity itself is confusing even for fans. While a game for fans is nice and a certain level of logical disbelief is needed, the tone feels less grounded and worth taking seriously. I do like the abstract aliens and design, the introductory television segments, game references and various boss gimmicks; however, time travel, resurrections, cameos, giant robots in the story begin to lose me. In particular, the alien leader does not change or inspire change by his presence except for his childhood friend. This is a waste as his eventual defeat does not inspire reflection or meaning. This is all subjective, but the prior games were able to tackle different themes much better and made me appreciate the game even if it was not perfect. If another sequel exists, I hope it has a better intriguing story.

Regardless of other minor issues, the game is still brimming with style and a good entry in the series. It is unavoidable to compare this with the prior games specially the first one as it still holds up today. After playing several games of the studio/director, padding and pacing seems to be an persistent issue I hope that will be addressed for future games.