One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4 and PC
I’m going to do something different for not only this review but two others, and that is simply to purposefully commit the most heinous of writing-based crimes. This literary faux pass is one often seen as pure laziness to the nth degree but, and if you’ll allow me to explain, I can’t think of three reviews more deserving - or rather understanding - to bestow said sin upon. What I’m specifically talking about, then, is one of copying text, like for like, across three separate reviews. It shan’t be the whole review, mind, as that simply wouldn’t make sense. Nay, the first two paragraphs will be, for the most part, identical to the other chosen pieces of work.
Now, allow me to explain myself before your collective pitchforks be elevated too high and before the embers of your village pyre cast a sweat upon your brow. The three titles that share said words are this one, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, and both My Hero One’s Justice 2 and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4, linked appropriately. All three, should the connection not be immediately obvious, are all anime-based games and, importantly, published by Bandai Namco. For anyone that has experienced such a title, a certain cognitive image of the game, both on a quality and appearance-based level, forms within one's psyche; Usually one of middling to high quality, but certainly approachable for all players nonetheless. Having three similar titles all launch within a 29-day timeframe certainly raises questions surrounding the thought behind such releases and, as a result, the quality, but the differences between the titles couldn’t be more night and day if they’d tried.
One-Punch Man is, arguably, the lesser-known of the three aforementioned titles, and would naturally be a harder sell for those not in the know. That’s not to say that One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is an easy sell for fans, however, as the premise of the series argues against any potential lasting enjoyment. For those unfamiliar with the source material, the titular protagonist is able to effortlessly eliminate enemies with, you guessed it, one punch. Translating this into a captivating game shouldn’t work, but by taking the same steps as the popular anime and filling it with humour, the perceivable downfalls are worked around to positive results. Humour doesn’t make a mechanically-dull game enjoyable, though, and thus shows an established and appreciated premise doesn’t equate to a game deserving of the same praise.
Showing all the facets of a B-tier anime game, One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows features a mostly-canon story presented in a bland and uninspiring format. From an uninspired presentation to downright shoddy animations outside of combat, it’s difficult to find yourself excited to delve deeper into the expected entity that is this game. Naturally, combat is the star of the show and is both simple and dynamic enough for everyone to enjoy, yet too shallow to find a deeper appreciation buried underneath. I still hold the combat system found in the Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm series - first released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3 - as the gold-standard for 3D anime-based fighting games, and that remains confidently uncontested here.
Naturally, being able to defeat the multiple adversaries you find yourself coming up against in just one hit wouldn’t make for a game worthy of your time, let alone money, and so developers Spike Chunsoft opted to have you only control One-Punch Man, otherwise known as Saitama, a fraction of the time. Instead, you control your previously mentioned custom character, trying to become a professional hero themselves in the same timeframe as the popular anime. Again, opting to control an otherwise unknown character seems the only viable way of sticking with the canon whilst still allowing the fun and challenge that would otherwise be lost when following the primary protagonist, but in doing so you lose the connection that fans have with known characters from the offset. These diminishing returns are felt immediately, leaving you feeling like a cheap imitation hero - which you are - but maybe not in the way that was first envisioned. It’s more disappointing, much in the same way that Dragonball Xenoverse had me feeling; Whilst you can imitate established characters' move sets, you’re not them, and you certainly don’t get that same enjoyment from pulling off the otherwise iconic moves.
By performing well in said fights, however, you’re able to receive back-up from other established fighters - including Saitama - who act as you would expect. Again, however, this works both for and against itself. You’ve got that all-important “cool” factor of having a character you appreciate join the fray, pulling off their iconic moves and signature quips yet, on the other hand, your custom character that was deemed necessary for long-term enjoyment feels like you’re playing as the ever-useless first responder, always awaiting backup. Having specific fights where you need only to survive until Saitama turns up to obliterate in one punch does little to alleviate this feeling, leaving you feeling like the Krillin of the story, always waiting for your Goku.
It’s this disconnect between the mechanics and the story that seemingly caused the many grievances I had, at least outside of the presentation and uninspired story design. I found an awkward charm in the lifeless cutscenes, as character poses are swapped from one to another with nothing in between. The regular distortion found on voices had their own rough, B-tier charm on them, convincing me this isn’t a game I should take seriously and enjoy it for what it is. But, as mentioned, having a game fight itself at its very core was whiplash-inducing, and caused one too many literal eye-rolls for my liking. With each mission, mandatory or otherwise, often awarding cosmetics for your ever-so-important hero, only for them to be thrown aside mere moments later, it was never clear what was important: story or gameplay. Ultimately, I think the story told was the primary focus for the developers and, in that case, I think it’s safer to watch the anime, or indeed read the manga. You’re less likely to get annoyed, and indeed see the material through both the medium it was designed for, and with the respect that is so desperately deserved.