Tuesday, 17 March 2020

One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows ★★☆☆☆

A One-Punch Man arena fighting game doesn’t make much sense conceptually. After all, Saitama should be able to beat anyone with a single blow, so how do they get around that tricky hurdle? Cleverly, he’s used as a timed limit-break, popping into the fray after a minute or so to deliver a tried-and-tested Normal Punch that will instantly KO any other fighter.

Drawing from the popular anime and manga series, you create your own hero as you attempt to move up the ranks to S-Class. The story sees you join the Hero Association after being saved by Saitama in the intro, so you set about completing quests and main missions to earn XP, coins, and additional teammates while travelling across the city. The combat allows players to choose from a team of up to three heroes, including many popular options like Garou and Mumen Rider. Characters recover HP while they’re switched out, and can perform powerful group attacks when they make their entrance. In principle, it sounds like a sweet deal.

In practice, One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is much like any other game in the genre, especially ones that have incorporated team elements in the past like Tekken Tag or Dead or Alive. However, the fighting itself isn’t the smoothest, more akin to the worst parts of the Yakuza series rather than a traditional entry, and that’s hardly a positive considering the majority of the action is 1v1. It’s just so simple, with a couple of basic punches and kicks along with a special attack, and sluggish movement makes it a torrid affair. The online portions are just as stodgy, so expect an unpolished package when it comes to the actual gameplay.

It's a colourful title that doesn’t push the PS4 by any means, and while it's a bit of a stretch to say it belongs on the previous generation of consoles, it’s not a looker by any means. In its defence, the main heroes have been recreated faithfully, but it’s painful to move between areas, and many quest givers have been animated poorly. The voice acting is also sub-par, at least when it comes to the English dub. Half of the time, you’ll be reading subtitles, and your hero doesn’t even speak in cutscenes despite the ability to assign a voice in the character creator.

As Saitama notes, “having overwhelming strength is pretty boring”. For fans of the series and the characters, it’s a chance to delve into the universe in the best way possible barring a true open-world RPG, which would come with further problems surrounding the invulnerability of the main man. At best, this is an RPG-lite, offering the player the chance to jog around a mostly empty city while fighting with some of the better-known heroes. At worst, it’s a boring cash-grab that fails to recreate the pathos and humour found in the anime, and a waste of time to play. Far from unmissable, it doesn’t seem fair when you consider it’s being released at full-price, especially as they’ve obviously cut corners along the way. 

James Millin-Ashmore

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