A B-Class hero (game) at best.
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: A-Class For Effort 3D Fighting Game
One Punch Man is one of those anime/manga that’s meant to be both a celebration and satire on the western idea of superheroes. Compared to My Hero Academia, it’s much more of the latter. I’ve never read the manga/webcomic, nor have I watched the anime, but after playing One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, I’m definitely checking them out now.
However, that doesn’t mean that the game is actually good, and the bigger question remains: How do you make a decent game when the source material features a comically overpowered hero who can defeat anything with a single hit? The answer is to go the Dragon Ball Xenoverse route.
One Hit Wonder
What I mean by that is developer Spike Chunsoft has made a single-player action RPG fighting game hybrid, where you don’t actually play as Saitama himself. Instead, players create custom characters and take them on a journey to become a superhero licensed by the Hero Association while encountering and interacting with familiar faces along the way.
This premise sounds way more exciting than it is in execution because what I did most of the time was run around doing errands and side quests for random NPCs in order to make my hero stronger and unlock more missions to progress the main story. I did this by increasing my Contribution and Hero Ranking levels.
I started the game by doing side quests and missions to increase my Contribution levels, which in turn unlocks the main story missions and quests required to increase my Hero Ranking levels. Rinse and repeat, because that’s all you’ll be doing in this game. Oh, there’s the fighting, of course, but I’ll get to that later.
The biggest and most frustrating problem is that simply walking around in the hub world will cause the framerate to plummet, which is incredible considering that you’ll be exploring this one boring and uninspired hub world from the beginning to the end of the game. Unlike Dragon Ball Z Kakarot, there’s no variety of hub levels or different worlds to visit in this game.
To make matters worse, the NPCs in the game (from whom you get side quests from) don’t immediately load when I went to them. This is extremely frustrating because it means that I’ll be waiting there for more than ten seconds before the NPC would even pop up and enable me to finally activate the side quest I wanted.
The visuals are nothing special, looking like any other anime-based Bandai Namco game out there. When battles get hectic, the framerate drops, which decreases the value of the flashy-looking attacks. The facial animations and movements in the game are mostly weak and look cheap, with the exception of named characters from the anime/manga.
One Punch Out
Thankfully, the meat of the game lies in its combat. Like I previously mentioned above, you will be using a custom character, who can be customized not only with cosmetics but with different fighting styles that actually do feel different. That’s good because it spices up the core gameplay, which unfortunately isn’t that great on its own.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is essentially a 3v3 3D arena brawler, which is a common genre for anime-based games. If you’re familiar with these type of games, you’d know that they are often simplistic in nature and flashy enough to try making up for that lack of complexity. This game is no different.
The fighting in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows feels clunky, imprecise, and not as responsive as it should be. These are all elements typically found in similar anime-based 3D arena brawlers. Square is for light attacks, Triangle is for heavy attacks, Circle is for guarding, and you have special attacks assigned to a combination of buttons.
Although I admittedly hated the gameplay at the beginning, that was mostly due to both the problems I stated above and the lack of variety or options. The former issues never really go away but the game opens up several hours in, giving me more Fighting Styles to experiment, each of which had their own advantages and disadvantages.
The fights still feel generic to play for the most part, but somehow I grew to like grinding my fighting styles and improving them. You get these fighting styles from famous established characters like Mumen Rider, Metal Bat, Terrible Tornado, Genos, and more, by building sort of simplistic Persona-style social links with them.
For instance, Metal Bat will teach you Killer Moves (what the powerful and flashy assigned special attacks are called in the game) for the Weapon Type, while Terrible Tornado will teach you Psychic Type ones. Be that as it may, some of these fighting styles are more overpowered than others, causing an imbalance between them.
Despite not recognising any of these characters beforehand, it’s a testament to how good the source material is that I still feel invested in them, in spite of the game’s flaws. Oh, and these heroes will even help you in battle via the Hero Arrival System.
How this works is that once a battle starts, a counter will often begin on the corner of the screen, depicting a TV news channel that is showing them sprinting to your aid. Once they arrive, you could actually switch to them during battle.
These are random, but if you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll get Saitama, which automatically spells victory for you since he can end fights in literally one punch (though his timer for arrival is often much longer than others, which is a small price to pay for his power).
That’s not the only time you’ll be using Saitama, though, since he will still appear during story missions. In One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, the player will take part in moments and story arcs adapted from the anime/manga. It’s always the same situation during the climax of each chapter, as you’ll encounter a monster that’s too strong for you, and Saitama will come in as a playable character and finish the job in one punch.
It’s a smart way of incorporating the OP character into the game, though it also means that he basically amounts to being a gag or gimmick character instead of an actual playable roster choice. The developers must have realised this, so they included a playable version of Saitama (a dream version) that is on equal footing in terms of power with everyone else in the game.
I do have to warn you that One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows tends to become a slave to repetition. You’ll be repeating the same cycle of doing side quests to get to the main story segments, and things will get extremely grindy in nature.
You’re forced to grind to keep up with the weird difficulty spikes, so much so that some battles become those of attrition, where you’ll be spamming the same Killer Moves to take chunks of the enemy’s health bar.
Only For Fans
Despite the game’s shortcomings and issues, I surprisingly enjoyed my time with One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, even though I’m not a fan. I actually feel compelled to check out the source material after finishing the game, though that should be rightly be attributed more to the quality of the characters and story, instead of the game itself.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a serviceable 3D anime brawler. You don’t need to be a fan to like this game, but I’d still recommend it to fans first and foremost since they’ll be more likely to forgive the game’s faults and appreciate the fan service.
- A smart way of incorporating comically overpowered Saitama.
- Variety of Battle Styles to experiment with.
- Fan service and easter eggs for fans of the source material.
- Choppy framerates even when exploring the hub world.
- NPCs take a while to load even when you’re there.
- Clunky and unrefined combat.
- Grindy near the end, with difficulty spikes.
- Bland visuals and weak animated cutscenes.
FINAL SCORE: 50/100