So here’s the good news. After 15 long years of waiting, PlayStation 4|5 and Xbox One|Xbox Series owners can at long last rejoice as their respective platforms have finally been graced with a mainline entry in the Travis Touchdown saga, No More Heroes III. The bad news of course is that it’s already been confirmed by series’ creator Goichi Suda (a.k.a. Suda 51) that this third official chapter is also the conclusion of the series.
No definitive collection for the franchise is known to be in the works, so Xbox and PlayStation newcomers that like what they see here will need to look to other platforms (namely PC, Amazon Luna and Wii) in order to experience the entire quadrilogy. Naturally, one should never say never in videogames; I imagine that even as Suda 51 made the above declaration that he had his fingers crossed behind his back, but for now, we simply have to take him at his word that No More Heroes III is indeed Travis’ final swansong.
So how does No More Heroes III fare on current gen (Gen 9) consoles as opposed to the original Nintendo Switch version released a year ago? Well, since its inception, the No More Heroes series has been a predominantly Nintendo console-exclusive experience due to several of its key gameplay design elements being built around the Nintendo Wii controller, such as the speaker in the Wiimote acting as a cellphone receiver when Travis receives a call, or furiously “waggling” the Wiimote or Switch Joycons to charge up Travis’ signature beam katana (to comedic effect) when its battery runs low.
“…The main draw of picking up No More Heroes III on current gen consoles is the expected jump in resolution, framerate and overall visual performance.”
Unsurprisingly, these novelties have been significantly pared back on current gen Xbox and PlayStation platforms, especially on Xbox, which doesn’t feature any motion controls in its gamepads. Instead, recharging the beam katana is achieved by holding down the Right Bumper button (RB) and quickly “waggling” the Right Analog stick (RS) up and down. It’s not quite as satisfying as shaking the entire controller, but considering how expensive Xbox and PS5 DualSense controllers are these days and that unlike Wiimotes they don’t come with wrist straps, this seems to be a reasonable and prudent alternative.
The PS5 version of No More Heroes III apparently features some superficial DualSense features such as adaptive triggers for when Travis is riding his motorcycle or tactile feedback during some activities, but nothing as bold as what was offered in past games on Wii or more recently with this game on Switch, despite the DualSense having a built-in speaker, microphone and accelerometers.
All that notwithstanding, the main draw of picking up No More Heroes III on current gen consoles is the expected jump in resolution, framerate and overall visual performance. In this respect the game should satisfy all but the most discerning of scrutinisers, particularly when compared to last year’s Switch version, which suffered from noticeable sub-30fps framerates, jittery frame pacing, aggressive texture and object pop-in during its open world segments, and inconsistent, uncapped framerates during arena battles and boss fights (whether in handheld mode or docked).
By contrast, on Xbox Series X, No More Heroes III offers up a full 4K, 60fps presentation in all modes including cutscenes, and, at least to my eyes, appears to maintain that performance regardless of how hectic the action gets on screen. This makes a huge difference in the open-world sequences, where players spend a significant amount of time exploring either on foot or behind the wheels of Travis’s redesigned and Akira-inspired motorcycle, the Demzamtiger.
“…No More Heroes III feels extremely responsive on Xbox Series X.”
The bump-up to 4K60 from the Switch’s choppy 720p makes it far easier to discern distant objects faster and more easily, such as pedestrians, public washrooms (save points), sushi stands, quest-giver NPCs, and collectibles hidden around and about Santa Destroy and its neighbouring islands. Character and background object details have also been noticeably improved.
It should hardly come as a surprise then that the buttery-smooth framerate and enhanced visuals serve to amplify No More Heroes III’s most compelling aspect, which of course is its hack-and-slash-heavy combat. Despite being somewhat repetitive, even the most pedestrian of battles are filled with many acrobatic flourishes on the part of Travis (as well as some of his bizarre enemies) as well as dazzling particle effects and spraying blood, and it’s extremely satisfying to finally see all of these effects running at full tilt as they were meant to be seen, and not held back by the Switch’s outdated Tegra graphics hardware.
Having only seen but not played the Switch version of this game I can’t speak to whether input lag has been reduced by any degree, but given the overall low bar for performance on that platform it seems to be a safe assumption. At the very least, when fighting as Travis in the game’s many arena battles, including its many engaging boss encounters and wave after wave of Defense Missions, No More Heroes III feels extremely responsive on Xbox Series X.
Disappointingly, beyond the above visual enhancements, there really aren’t any other notable improvements to speak of with this Xbox port of No More Heroes III. The open world environments are largely barren of life and rarely have more than one or two pedestrians and/or vehicles on screen at any given time. Draw distances extend much farther than those on Switch, but for some reason, Grasshopper has elected to keep the pop-up of select elements, such as pedestrians, NPCs, sushi stands, etc., almost the exact same as those on Switch, so it’s still not uncommon to be blazing down a completely open road in the Demzamtiger only to have to swerve out of the way at the last second to avoid an NPC that suddenly appears in front of you only a second earlier.
The Demzamtiger is also a bit unwieldly to control, and players who choose to ride it recklessly at high speeds are bound to crash into and even be ejected by collisions with No More Heroes III’s many invisible walls, exposing the many limitations of No More Heroes III’s “not-so-open” open world. It would have been nice to see Grasshopper utilize the added horsepower of Xbox One|Xbox Series (and by extension PlayStation 4|5 and PC) to allow players to smash through some of the less “impervious-looking” objects in the environment, like wooden, metal or chain-link fences, which would have at least made the Demzamtiger’s poor driving model a bit more fun to control.
Understandably though, the addition of destructible objects in the environment would likely have broken the game’s exploration if players could simply smash and shortcut their way to the game’s hidden collectibles and side missions. Still, even some limited, cosmetic destruction would have been appreciated.
In the end, what we are getting with this Xbox port of No More Heroes III is the proper, definitive version of last year’s Switch release, obviously sans Joycon motion controls but incorporating all the basic, visual improvements one would expect from current gen hardware. No more, no less. Thankfully however, that means that we also get the fantastically over-the-top, pop-culture/film/videogame reference-laden, fourth wall-breaking madness that is Travis Touchdown’s official curtain call completely intact, with the entirety of what I like to call Suda 51’s “auteur interference” in tow.
Similar to Travis’s favourite, real-life Japanese film director, Takashi Miike, Suda enjoys disruptively turning gaming conventions on their head and shaking up any player expectations (often with shocking amounts of violence). Accordingly, players that manage to persevere through the occasionally repetitive combat and lacklustre open-world exploration will be rewarded with many thrilling boss battles, bizarre cutscenes and a hilarious finale that they literally have no way in hell of anticipating.
Admittedly, the cost of admission for this current gen remaster begins at $74.99 which isn’t cheap, but long-time NMH devotees who are likely fans of not just one but all three of the names I just uttered and for one reason or another have held out to play No More Heroes III on a platform other than Switch will likely have few issues paying that price (all versions are currently on a launch promo discount, by the way).
Otherwise, if you’re a curious newcomer to Travis Touchdown’s adventures (as I am), I still happily encourage you to take up your beam katana, leave your brain at the door, and get ready to enjoy slaying some “GODDAMN SUPERHEROES!!!” You won’t regret it.