As far as video games go, few stand out more than One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows. Of course, for anime fans, there’s a good chance that’s the reason for getting the controller in the first place. But for all the charm, silliness, and fan-service found within One Punch Man, there are an equal amount of flaws to drag it back down to earth.
The real beauty of One Punch Man is character customization, giving players control over both appearance and fighting style. While the options are limited at the beginning, making most of the appearance of an average NPC, the game adds a fair amount of variety in the early hours, leading to many different heroes in the wild. . Which leaves the heroes feeling a bit odd, almost as if they would naturally fit into an episode of One Punch Man, depending on how players choose to build their appearance.
Players are also free to change their fighting style at almost any point, with the only restriction being during the match. The styles vary quite a bit in terms of aesthetics, with some being a traditional form of foot and fist fighting, while others use psychic powers or machine blasts. However, they play the same game, with only slight differences in distance or timing.
While frustrating, this is all the more necessary, as A Hero Nobody Knows features a large and somewhat randomized roster– from S-Rank heroes to nobodies. Individual-specific Mortal Kombat 11-style combos are nearly impossible to master, though more diversity between fighting types would have gone a long way.
The lack of variety becomes a big problem, as the combat in A Hero Nobody Knows can get pretty stale pretty quickly. Plus, the combat itself often feels clunky and out of rhythm. Characters continue to fall, where they are, for the most part, immune to damage for about four seconds before jumping back up. That’s fine, but it seems to happen every ten seconds or so throughout a match, constantly interrupting the flow.
As players fight, they continue to generate action points, which allow them to use super moves. These moves can be tailored to the player’s own taste, and offer more variety than anything else in the game, even in terms of appearance. Some are simple damage buffs, while others are devastating power attacks, which can quickly whittle an opponent’s health bar down to nothing if done correctly. These attacks are usually pretty easy to block or dodge, which usually leads to some frustration, but when executed well they can make for some of the best moments of the One Punch Man anime.
Players will have the chance to fight some of the series’ iconic foes, with creatures like Carnage Kabuto and Vaccine Man making appearances. During these matches, players are regularly tasked with taking on the role of Saitama or some other powerful One Punch Man character. As his superhero name suggests, Saitama can defeat enemies in one hit, and A Hero Nobody Knows stays true to that. However, Saitama is not present in the story. He shows up for some important fights and cutscenes, but he doesn’t appear too often other than that.
After reaching a certain point in the story, players can unlock Saitama for free battles, which is one of the more entertaining aspects of the game. In addition to Saitama, other iconic One Punch Man characters join the roster, allowing for several different combo 3v3 battles.
Saitama is a special character, and players can choose whether to allow him to be chosen or not. Even then, Saitama has a very long countdown timer before actually participating in multiplayer matches, though this can be reduced by performing well during a match. However, that usually means the fight is over before Saitama even gets there.
There’s a healthy dose of absurdity sprinkled throughout One Punch Man’s battles, which is where the game’s most enjoyable aspects come from. Often, players will find themselves fighting humanoid horses with variations of bats, metal pipes, and other melee weapons while meteors or giants threaten the battlefield. It’s all very strange, but in many ways, that strangeness is what makes One Punch Man so fascinating.
The story itself is quite sad. This is mostly a way to sherpa the players between matches with some loose narrative sprinkled in between. There are some cool cutscenes and interesting moments, but it’s mostly stuff that fans have already seen in the anime. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice to see some more original bits of narrative scattered throughout.
More importantly, players will only be doing one of three things at any given time– fighting, customizing their hero, and undertaking NPC quests. NPC quests usually involve running around the city and talking to NPCs, which is about as boring as it gets. There will occasionally be some funny dialogue, but other than that, it just serves as an easy way for players to raise their contributions, helping them progress to the next story mission. The English voice acting is also a special kind of awful, and players will probably want to switch to the Japanese audio once they get through One Punch Man’s opening cutscene.
Without its unique charm, nothing would separate A Hero Nobody Knows from other fighting games. In fact, that charm is the main thing the game has going for it. There are other, better fighting games based on the anime, from the relatively poorly received Jump Force which at least boasts better fighting mechanics, to the more recent Dragon Ball Z Kakarot. But for all that One Punch Man lacks in fluidity and grace, being part of the One Punch Man universe makes the game worth experiencing for fans of the franchise.
The basis of a solid game is there– even if those roots mainly involve character customization and world design. Mechanically, the game isn’t anything special, far from it, in fact. But that may not be why players are here in the first place. For those who want to experience One Punch Man as part of the narrative, there’s no better alternative than A Hero Nobody Knows, though it would be lost if it weren’t for the recognizable One Punch Man heroes reminding players of which universe they’re in present
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is now available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.