2020 has just been spoiling me with games based on my favourite anime shows so far that is feels like Christmas. It kicked off with the excellent ‘Dragon Ball Z : Kakarot’ enabling me to relive the incredible sagas I watched over the years in such a brilliant and immersive experience and now I was excited to have a similar experience with ‘One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows’ but I was a little intrigued by how the world of Saitama could be recreated in the game considering that the main hero is so powerful he just wins every single fight…with one punch, the question is, did they manage it?
The biggest issue the team behind this game had is pretty much the same issue that troubles anyone trying to make an authentic Superman game, how do you make a game challenging when you are playing as a god with practically no weaknesses. Well the short answer is rather simple; you do not play as Saitama. One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows does the very clever thing of placing the player in the world of Saitama as a new fledgling Class C Hero and puts you on the journey of reaching Class S Hero rating with the Hero Association during the same time that Saitama is doing the same. I had a real buzz from creating my own character and seeing him encountering the same heroes and characters I loved from the anime show as well as fighting the same iconic monsters and villains from the show…or I hoped I would be at least, but more on that a bit later on.
Starting off you have only the very basic of cosmetic options in creating your hero especially in the “costume” you start fighting crime wearing. The strength of this game is mostly certainly born from the ability to let the player become a part of this world and to feel like they are an active participant in everything going on big or small and to be frank, I am actually glad not to be playing as Saitama or Genos or any of the other heroes which is the opposite to the way I felt about Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, as a fan of One Punch Man, I would rather share the world with the heroes of the show than playing as them and a lot of my enjoyment comes from this element to the game but also has a downside as well.
One Punch Man is known for the ridiculous over the top battles that the heroes have with the villains and monsters that frequently pop up to threaten the good people of the city and the fighting is definitely the focus of this 3D fighter. The combat system is quite simple with X for normal melee attacks and Y serving as the heavy melee and doing a combination of those will form your normal attacks and you can block with B and even parry an attack with the right timing of hitting B. Where the fighting gets interesting comes in the form of the different Battle types and the Killer Moves that they bring to the party. The Battle types are simply the “power” of the heroes you know from the anime and show such as “Normal” which is your basic more fist fighting style move set to Psychic allows you to use more telekinesis attacks like Terrible Tornado and even Machine style which is based on Genos and his cyborg attacks and so on. As you progress and raise your Hero Ranking, more Battle types will unlock.
Each battle type can be upgraded through 5 levels, with each level opening up an extra Killer Move slow to adding more normal attack combination moves. Every battle you win will earn you XP that raises your own player level and XP for your battle type. Killer Moves are powerful moves that are triggered by using Left Trigger and pressing the corresponding face button and each one has a cost of energy bars which gauge builds during the fight to a maximum of 9. When you use a Killer move is can cost anything from low energy number to requiring using more depending on how powerful the Killer Move is. Killer Moves are learned by doing side missions with the various heroes who inspired the battle mode so a you grow your battle type to the maximum 5th level, you should learn enough killer Moves to fill your slots. Reaching Max level of the Battle type will unlock the Mode Change for that type which gives access to the Super Killer Move, a massive animated power move that if it lands will do incredible damage. Best way to describe Mode Change is to think of how Goku can go Super Saiyan but here it enables you to enter Change mode which for a very short window allows you to trigger your Super Killer Move if you have one or just do more attack damage until the Mode change energy is used up, which is a relatively short space of time.
Mode change also allows your hero to switch to their “Mode Change Costume and appearance” for the time that they are in that mode. More and more cosmetic items are unlocked by completing side missions and story missions so whilst you may start off just wearing a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, after some time you will soon be dressing like a real hero and literally in some cases as you unlock costume items by the iconic main roster of characters themselves such as Saitama’s costume and having Genos’ cyborg arms for the Machine A battle type. Now for me, I made and saved a different look for each Battle type just to keep it nice and fresh but you can change Battle type at any time outside of battle just by using the game menu. Sadly, you can only have a single “Mode Change” look which is shared throughout every battle type so of course I set it to Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and had zero regrets.
Main Story missions are given out by the Hero Association and follow the same path of the anime show, most will simply have you share in the action until the moment Saitama shows up to just…one punch them for the victory but this is where I have my first disappointment with the game as not all the iconic fights from the show are fully recreated. For example, when experiencing the House of Evolution, the story will jump straight to the final fight against Carnage Kabuto with only a very short fight against Mosquito Girl that skipped her initial fight with Genos. Where in Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot they recreated almost every detail of the show and battle, a lot of the time the sequences are cut down to the bare minimum dialogue exchange and a short battle which robs what made the show bringing them to life so awesome.
Side missions pretty much come down to doing fights against randomly generated monsters with modifiers to change up the battle so you may have to defeat an enemy or enemy team in a certain amount of time in order to claim victory. The battle environment can also play a factor in the fight as item drops will be flown in by drones which can be picked up by the player or the AI enemy to give them a short boost of attack or defence power or even to replenish some health. You can also get help or partners from either randomly created heroes or established story heroes depending on how the random lottery goes. A lot of this game requires grinding through a multitude of these Side missions which can become tedious sadly especially when at points, you will need to earn enough “community helped” points in order to open the next main story mission. You also need to plough through a lot of these in order to maximise each battle types and to learn more killer moves as more are unlocked by doing side missions with the main hero of that power type.
The grind does make me put the game down for a break as it can get a bit samey once you have put together your own combinations of attacks and every fight just becomes rinse and repeat. The fights will get a lot tougher and they are tiered so you know which would be too easy or too difficult depending on where you feel your hero is but the rewards also increase so more money and experience will be earned by completing the tougher fights. The grind does allow you to build up your hero though and work on your battle types to find the one that suits you best, but it would have been more fun to have more story missions mixed in along with the Hero Association missions as you can only earn Hero Class Ranking points from main story and Hero Association missions which can feel like another grind task amongst all the others.
The combat system itself can also be fiddly as well with hit detection around killer moves and especially blocking and countering often falling foul of being based on animation rather than input based reactions. Learning the range of a Killer Move is vital as you can believe you are about to extend or complete a combo with a flashy Killer Move only to see it miss completely and end up feeling rather flat. I found the countering system very clumsy as well and it can be frustrating to just get punched to the sky when you know you have timed your counter perfectly.
I really do like the combat in the game however, and building my own battle type setup is huge fun and creating combinations that do big damage is immensely satisfying. I love interacting with Saitama and friends in the world and I even quite like the “online mode” which is one big shared mode with other players of the game and you can see their own hero’s in the world but I do wish that visiting the Hero Association HQ was less crowded with other players all running about or standing where you need to access a mission point. There is also an online Ranked Team battle mode where you and the heroes you have met and unlocked can go up against other players but I really found this to be clunky at times with many disconnections and rage quitting so I tended to focus on the Single player content and RPG elements like decorating my in game room and I am not kidding!
Ultimately Saitama is just a hero for fun which is exactly what this game is, fun. With refinements and updates I feel the fighting system can be polished a little more going forward and it really never stops being fun to take control of Saitama for the brief missions you can and just ending everything with one punch. There is certainly more than enough to immerse yourself in if you are a fan of the show or the anime but the game relies a lot on your assumed fandom to make it through all the grind the game will expect and make players do to get through the game.
This is a great way to enjoy One Punch Man universe and whilst it doesn’t have the same depth of say Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, there is certainly enough here to give fans hours of enjoyment as they make their journey towards Class S hero and it is always fun getting told off by Terrible Tornado!