Xbox One, PS4, PC
February 28, 2020
Bandai Namco Entertainment
He stands, cape flapping in the wind amidst a violent red backdrop, the city’s buildings in silhouette around him, white embers filling the atmosphere. He then turns, his face only in view for a second before his red gloved fist is the focus. These are the opening credits for One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows. The rest of the nearly two minute scene is dark and edgy, filled with One Punch heroes, a mega monster with a smile of sharp fangs, and One Punch man finishing him…with one punch. The soundtrack is Japanese pop-metal, chaotic and energising. I’m liking the intensity this game is giving off.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is an action fighting game based on the manga web series, One Punch Man, that was created by artist ONE in 2009. It instantly garnered a cult following due to the backstory of the title character. One Punch Man, or Saitama, decides he must train as hard as he can to become a superhero. Therefore, for three years straight he completes 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats and a 10km run. Every. Single. Day. He trains SO hard that all his hair falls out…and yeah his training also makes him strong enough to take out any enemy with just one punch.
However, no hero can defeat all the world’s enemies by oneself, so One Punch and his prodigy, a cyborg named Genos, create The Hero Association, which quickly fills with like minded heroes ready to defeat all the monsters in town! Heroes rank from Class C (the newbies) all the way up to class S (the top tier superheros).
One Punch Man: The Hero Nobody Knows is all about ranking your created character to the top tier, Class S, by completing missions and helping out citizens around town. Your first step is creating your character via the Hero Creation screen. As a big RPG fan, I usually love putting energy into making my character unique. However, I found Hero Creation tedious. This may have been due to the looping backtrack that reminded me of a mixture of elevator music and the songs sung off-key in Playschool.
It also didn’t help that though the creator looks like it has a lot to offer at first glance, it is actually quite limiting. It also includes useless elements, such as the Accessories tab where you can equip your Hero with a face mask, party hat, or a bulging red circle that looks like a pimple that’s about to explode. Later more accessories unlock, but they seem just as pointless – a ring floaty, a teddy bear and a…cardboard box can all be equipped to your Hero’s face, arms or legs.
Once your Hero is complete, the game generates a Hero Name for you, even though it’s already asked you to pick your own Hero Name. The Hero Name I’m given is “Ponytailer” because… my Hero has a ponytail. Do I want to change the name? Noooo I do not want to be called Ponytailer, thank you! But for some reason… the name sticks. So my name is Ponytailer now. Ugh. At least she has a bad ass grey streak through her hair and is decked out in a red Adidas style tracksuit.
Ponytailer *cringe* is now ready to kick some butt! But hang on, Lecture Man, a C Class Hero, has to tell you a bunch of stuff first. This is where the game starts throwing information at you. This information comes in the form of pop-up boxes that contain paragraphs of text. Reading is one of my favourite hobbies… reading books that is… not long winded explanations about gameplay. After the fourth group of text boxes I began to think that the game had a crush on me. Because it likes holding my hand… a lot. This is where the game again becomes tedious. It doesn’t trust that its players will learn from doing rather than reading about doing. It’s treating me like a fourth grader and I’m a grown woman dammit!
There is A LOT going on in this game. So much that even five hours in and I’m still getting characters coming up to me and giving me new information about special events, how to achieve skill points and how to use the various shops.
This is where the game ultimately fails – it embodies the Elizabeth English idiom, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It’s semi open world but there’s not much to explore. There are side missions that count towards gaining HP for “being a good citizen” but the handful I’ve done so far are all errand based. You get your own room that you can decorate, but I’m still not sure how to buy items.
Also, who are all these characters that surround me giving me directions and why should I care about them? The game with all its hand holding isn’t kind to players who have little to no knowledge about the One Punch world. As a player that is a part of The Hero Association’s universe, it would have been nice to know some of their backstories so that I would actually care and want to hang out with them.
Of course One Punch Man is basically a fighting game. The loose narratives, such as an old guy being surrounded by three hooligans, or Mumen Rider (basically a superhero cyclist) telling you about a purse snatcher who then magically appears in front of you, all lead to a fight scene. You can start these fights by finding them on the town map, or by either travelling to the Branch Office or The Association HQ.
Fighting consists of your basic kick, punch and jump moves but also a special “Killer Move” that you learn from other One Punch characters once you increase your friendship with them. These include the Tank-topper’s (beefy dudes in tank tops) “Tiger-like Rush Attack” where you can “move like a tiger and perform several successive strikes.” And Silverfang’s (an elderly white haired martial arts expert) “Fang Interpolation” which is basically a sharp thrust. The battles are the most exciting part of the game, as it’s pretty straight forward and it teaches you all the moves through battling a bot rather than reading those nasty pop-up boxes. Your interactions with these cheesy superheroes can be kind of fun too, with their exaggerated movements and cringy one-liners.
Another interesting part of fighting is the “request back-up” feature. Some fights automatically request a One Punch character to come to your rescue. An animation shows them running towards you with a count down timer that shows how far away they are from assisting you. This is a cute and fun addition to an otherwise lacklustre world.
The fights themselves are very repetitive. Looking at my missions I notice that the majority of them are fighting monsters that are wrecking havoc on the city. Most of these monsters are ripped, have weird phallic antlers and wear barely any clothes to hide their green/blue/purple muscular bodies.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is different to the majority of other Superhero games because you don’t play as the title’s hero. It would be a pretty boring game if you did in fact have the ability to play as a hero who could take down anyone with one punch. Instead, you make up your own hero that is involved in the world of the minor characters in the One Punch universe. I think that the developers should have tried to incorporate Saitama more into the game. Maybe made him the mentor to your character, showing them the ropes and indulging the player in some of the inner turmoil that comes from being so strong that no opponent is truly worthy.
- Fighting sequences can be fun
- Lots of playable characters from the One Punch franchise
- Trying to do too much
- Repetitive fights
- Barely existent story-line
- No context for new players
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a game that was obviously made for true fans of the franchise. It’s for the players who don’t mind being apart of the universe and are happy to not actually have much interaction with the world’s main hero.
For those who don’t have much knowledge of the One Punch Man universe you will have to take some time out to learn about the series, as the game does not provide any back story to non fans. Therefore, for those who are familiar with One Punch, this may be a treat. But for those like myself who don’t know much about this world, I’d say it won’t pack enough punch for you to commit.