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October 2022

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: Feb. 28, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows'

by Cody Medellin on March 25, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a 3 vs. 3 action-fighting game, where players can form powerful teams using their favorite characters as they fight in a universe where attacks from powerful villains are the norm.

Buy One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows

One Punch Man was a great concept: Take an average person, have him want to be a hero, and let him train endlessly to achieve his goal. He becomes so powerful that he can kill every enemy in one punch. Both the anime and manga are entertaining due to the blend of comedy and action in each story, but it's trickier to turn the experience into a video game. Do you dial down Saitama so the game becomes challenging and fair while also breaking canon? Do you give everyone the chance to play as the protagonist and have him wreck everyone in one blow? If you're Spike Chunsoft, developers of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, you go the route of the previous game, Jump Force, and don't focus on him or his cohorts.

After the title screen, you're thrust into the character creator. For the most part, the system is pretty basic, with the expected sliders for body and face types and a decent number of voice types per gender. Skin colors are also varied, but the fun is in the clothes and accessories that you can equip on your hero. The initial set is basic, except for things like a party hat and a Saitama mask, but it gets stranger when horse heads and cardboard boxes enter the mix. You're never going to create someone who looks completely awesome, but that's perfectly fine when you consider the cast of characters.

Finish with your character, and you'll jump into the story mode, which sees your newly created hero stand up to the invading demon — but it's not going well. Just as you're about to perish, Saitama saves you by killing the demon in one punch. Fast-forward a few months later, and you are joining the Hero Association, where you start off at rank C and work your way up until you become a top-ranking hero. This plays out alongside some of the major events from the anime's first season.

The conceit is fine, but your character never says a thing. Despite having a variety of voice types at your disposal, you only say anything during pre-fight opening scenes. Every interaction is done with your character being mute, and somehow everyone else understands you via gestures, such as rubbing your neck. This is pretty much like Jump Force, where your character is somehow important but uninteresting due to a lack of personality.

Once you finish the tutorials, which can take a little over a half-hour to do if you speed through the dialogue, you'll discover that the game plays much like the first Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm on the PS3. You essentially run around the city taking on missions to progress through the story. Most of the time, your access to the missions is blocked, so you'll be forced into one of two common activities. Delivery missions have you helping out random folks in the city as you essentially become their courier by delivering items or locating things for them. Battle missions have you fighting against random thugs or monsters, all of which are random character creations instead of characters from the anime or manga. In story missions, you can fight against the more recognizable names in the series. In all cases, successful fights net you coins, which can be used to get costume pieces and XP to power up your character stats. In some cases, you'll learn fighting styles or special moves for your hero.

This sounds fine on paper, since you'll go through the world to get everything done rather than a static set of menus. Even though the world is small, there's a thrill to unlocking a new area, even if nothing interesting happens. The ability to raise your friendship levels with the major heroes in the world is an odd thing to have, but you kind of roll with it. The same goes for the ability to furnish and arrange your apartment. It serves no real purpose whatsoever, but there are times when it's a nice break from the monotony of the missions and the fighting.

That is an odd thing to say for a game that's classified in the fighting genre, but the fighting is rather perfunctory. There are the expected light and heavy attacks, along with a set of special moves that delivers flash and decent damage, but you only learn a limited number of combos. Compared to other titles that use a small assortment of attack buttons, there's so little variety here that you can reuse the same combo and be fine. The fights are in arenas, but the camera can sometimes get so unruly that you can't appreciate the action. Knockbacks are quite far away, and using the dash move places your camera so close to the ground that you'll seldom use it. The fighting gets boring very quickly, to the point that A Hero Nobody Knows becomes one of the least interesting anime fighting games in recent memory.

There is one mechanic that makes the game distinct; despite the title being a 3v3 fighter most of the time, your allies aren't there from the get-go. Instead, they come in late, and there's a timer that shows how much time remains before they arrive and become selectable. Sometimes, you'll have multiple player-created characters fighting alongside you. Other times, you'll have the likes of Mumen Rider or Silverfang lending a hand in battle. The most exciting prospect is having Saitama come along. Even though he has the longest timer of all, good combos from you will lessen the time he takes to arrive, and no matter how many times you see it, it's fun to have him arrive at the scene and end everything in one blow.

A decent lite-RPG setting with a mediocre fighting system would be fine if the mode were short. Alas, this mode seems to go on forever; the side-quests endlessly pile up, and like most RPGs, grinding to reach high levels becomes a chore, since the leveling slows to a crawl. You have to come in with the mindset that this is a solo adventure first, or you'll be disappointed if you expected to invite people to duels to see who can summon their copy of Saitama first to end it all.

Both the local and online versus modes seem like afterthoughts, since you have to travel around the world map to access them like any other mission in the game. It also doesn't help that the roster is tiny enough that your first match is likely to be a clone match. Considering the length of the main game, it takes a long time to amass a decent roster for a proper match, and the drawback is that the time spent unlocking the roster results in a drastically lessened desire to play. If you decide to give it a shot, you'll find the 3v3 matches to be fine if you don't mind the simplified fighting system. Online matches feel lag-free, but finding a match is difficult due to the tiny online community that's willing to engage in a skirmish.

The presentation is problematic. The music is fine, and the rock soundtrack fits well with the over-the-top premise. The voice acting is good enough, considering you have both the English and Japanese casts, but you'll feel shortchanged since most of the game plays without voices, and the intro scenes before every fight only have one line for each character, which makes some of the jokes get stale very quickly. Graphically, the overworld does a decent job of looking like almost every other anime fighting game, but there's a lot of pop-in while traversing the world. This is especially true when quest-givers and other important people pop in out of nowhere when you're so close to them. The animations for each character are stilted in cut scenes and almost gone during certain moves. Seeing every fighter float up after being knocked down is laughable yet sad. Hurting all of this is the extremely unstable frame rate, which can make moving through the world and fighting feel uneven.

Much like Jump Force, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a game with a decent premise but lackluster execution. The idea of building a new hero from scratch is fun, even if you're just a side character in the overall scheme of things, but the grind from beginning to end makes you lose interest quickly. The fights become boring due to their simplicity, enough so that the appearance of the famous named characters doesn't improve things, and the presentation is far from impressive this late in the console cycle. Perhaps the hardcore fans may find fun in A Hero Nobody Knows for an afternoon, but for those who are looking for a substantial adventure or a good anime fighting game, this is not it.

Score: 5.0/10

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