In a world of heroes and villains, one hero stands above the rest. With just one punch he’ll decimate everything and everyone that gets in his way, and he’ll disappear without a trace. And that’s just because he’s rushing to the next time limited supermarket sale and he just doesn’t stand out too much. This is the world of One Punch Man, where crime and world level threats are a norm and heroism is a celebrated profession.
The manga and anime series follows the exploits of Saitama, the titular One Punch Man. In this world heroism is a job you apply for like any other profession. You take and pass exams, get approved by a central organization managing heroes, get a hero name, and begin your life helping stop crime, fighting evil monsters, and doing good deeds for the people. Naturally, the series has become really popular so it eventually spawned a video game like most Japanese anime and manga series. So how do you make a video game around a character that’s so overpowered that he’s practically a walking cheat code? Let’s find out in our review of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows.
One Punch Man A Hero Nobody Knows is part sandbox and part arena fighter, and you will be required to play the sandbox part first before accessing the multiplayer arena fighting part of the game, which is where most of the frantic action will take place. But that comes later!
You will first be making your hero avatar using a limited number of items like clothes, hair, faces, and accessories, of which the selection grows as you play. It’s really nothing out of the ordinary like Code Vein, another Bandai Namco title, but the choices are enough to make your character stand out.
You will then be sent to a sandbox city, but don’t expect something on the scale of Grand Theft Auto! There will be a handful of NPCs within the city like civilians and other heroes, but most of the time you will be going to the Branch offices of the Hero Association for your hero jobs, basically your Quests in layman’s terms.
Branch offices give you different tasks like stopping a rampaging monster or catching an armed robber, though there really isn’t much variety to them as they’re mostly fighting computer AIs and most objectives are just beating your opponents. Completing these jobs will earn you experience and contribution points, which respectively are used to level up your character and give you access to Hero Association jobs.
Occasionally, you won’t be fighting alone as there are times when AI heroes will join you during these jobs, sometimes by characters from the series. You can also earn contribution points from NPCs in the city that you can talk to and they’ll usually have jobs for you to do, either passing some items to another NPC or having to stop a holdup (which is again fighting some AI opponent).
All in all the “Quest” system as you may put it seems very straightforward and simple to do and understand but the main gripe here is that it clearly lacks variety and inspiration, overall feeling like a tack on rather than a main feature of the game. Especially since you are REQUIRED to actually go through this before jumping into the fight.
Styling and profiling
As you progress through the game, more of the city will be unlocked and eventually will be get access to different shops and even your personal room. It’s from these shops that you can buy items, new clothes and accessories for your hero avatar, furniture to decorate your room, and even books that serve as item buffs you can equip. The game is pretty generous with the money you earn from completing hero jobs so don’t worry about overspending. There is however a unique store called the Appraisal where you use chips earned from completing jobs as currency, and they offer more unique selections not found in the normal shops.
Progression in the game is not a complex matter at all. Completing jobs will net you experience and there are points that you distribute to your different attributes like HP, Attack (damage), Killer Moves (Killer move damage), or Appeal (chances of a high rank hero joining your fights).
Your hero avatar will meet different characters from One Punch Man throughout the game (yes even Saitama), either through the main story or talking to them in the city. After helping these heroes you’ll raise your social strength with them and this is what you should be aiming to do as aside from making them playable in the VS Modes, you’ll occasionally get to choose their fighting styles.
You’ll start with a hand-to-hand fighting style like Mumen Rider, but later on if you want to you will get to use Metal Bat’s weapon fighting style or Hellish Blizzard’s psychic style as well as their individual killer moves the higher your social strength with them is, and as you level up your preferred fighting style you will get more slots for Killer Moves. How your hero fights will really depend on you so there is some level of choice in the game. Villains you encounter in the story will also be added to the playable roster for VS.
100 button mashes as training
Now you know why you’ll need to play the sandbox part first, because this is how you’ll fill up the roster for the arena fighting aspect of the game. These are basically the same fights you go through in the campaign, the only difference is aside from your hero avatar you have your pick of One Punch Man’s cast of heroes and villains.
As the main story follows the anime’s first season, expect a roster of known One Punch Man characters even up to the alien boss Boros. The VS option will be accessible from the main Association HQ and from here you fight in teams of 3 either vs the CPU or other players, either local or online.
The controls are actually pretty simple. You have 2 attacks buttons, a jump, and a block button. The shoulder buttons are used for tagging, dashes, and killer moves. Pressing the right joystick will trigger a cinematic dash where your fighter rushes towards your opponent and it actually looks pretty cool!
You will also need to manage your stamina and power gauges, which fill up naturally. Stamina is used up when you dash and the power gauge is for your Killer Moves. Let your power level go high enough and you can do a mode change by clicking the right stick, which this puts you in powered mode where you can unleash your characters’s cinematic and very damaging Super Killer Move.
Arenas have very limited variety as you’re left choosing between cities, forests, or ruins which is rather disappointing. What normally breaks the monotony is if you enable arena hazards, where occasionally you’ll get news prompts saying if there’s an incoming meteor shower or if there are S class heroes fighting in the area that will sometimes assist you with a quick hit. Items will also come out sometimes offering buffs like added defense or reducing arrival time (more on that later).
You can fight using the standard 3-on-3 or you can use the game’s unique Arrival twist which, like the arena hazards, makes it rather faithful to the series. If you opt to use Arrival, you will have to take the order of your team into consideration because you will start with your first fighter and one by one your partners will arrive at the scene shown via a television prompt and timer. Now there are ways to reduce this time like the mentioned item drops, or by performing combos, which aren’t so hard as they’re the one button variety.
Saitama joins the fight
So where does Saitama factor into all of this? Being the most powerful character in the game, there is an option in VS that focuses mainly on whether or not you want Saitama to be selectable in a fight. Not doing so will give you the normal 3 vs 3 fights, but you may also want to enable him for the sheer fun of it.
Enabling Saitama will make him selectable only as the third fighter in your team. And whether or not you enable the Arrival feature, the time it takes before he arrives will be significantly longer, at more or less 5 minutes. This means any team with Saitama will have to manage with just 2 fighters until the “hero nobody knows” arrives.
If by any chance you manage to hold out long enough for our bald headed friend to arrive to the scene, well then it’s basically what you can expect with Saitama – an invincible one man wrecking machine. True to his nature, he cannot be damaged and he can really KO an opponent with literally one punch. He even has a mode change where he’ll change from his goofy appearance to the one mostly seen when he’s serious and his Super Killer Move is the serious punch he used against Boros in the anime.
I did mention “cannot be damaged” but in fact, the only other person who can stand at odds with Saitama is… another Saitama! And once again, staying true to the anime, after one Saitama gets beaten, he won’t fall but simply run away to catch the next time limited sale. For One Punch Man’s first foray into games, this is a really clever way to incorporate his overpowered nature into a game, making for a very fun and unpredictable mechanic that lends itself quite well.
Not all fun and games
The buck stops with Saitama, unfortunately, as the rest of the game sadly suffers the fate of his poor opponents. First off, the graphics look really outdated, considering the power of current generation consoles. Draw distance is an issue, and even the overall look and feel of the game looks as if it’s from 5-10 years ago.
It doesn’t help too that the visual quality during a fight don’t look as eye catching compared to most major fighters out there. Capcom’s Power Stone was made on a previous generation’s console but, and it hurts me to say this, it looks more appealing than this game. Movement looks really stiff too and it’s quite noticeable when your fighter gets knocked down, as their falling and getting up animation really look clunky.
The multiplayer aspect can also be fun for a while because of its simple fighting system and the stylish cinematic Killer Moves, although more variety in fighting styles would have been nice. Whether your avatar is holding a bat, sword, or steel pipe it’s all the same when using the weapon fighting style. And that’s even when using Spring Mustachio’s saber which is a fencing weapon.
There is potential for it to be a really nice party game, especially with a group familiar with the series. That’s why it would’ve been nice to make the VS aspect of the game separate from the sandbox. Hey, ain’t nobody have time for unlocking everyone, sometimes we all just want to jump right into the action!
What we liked:
- Clever incorporation of Saitama into the game mechanics
- Faithful representation of the Anime / Manga
What we didn’t like:
- Outdated graphics and stiff animation
- Lack of enemy variety and battle conditions
- Overall production quality is a bit lacking
- Requiring the Sandbox mode
To say that One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows has wasted potential is a massive understatement. Production quality could be way better, and the execution just feels really lazy with the repetitive missions and outdated graphics. If you’re a fan of the series, it may work as a party game but for the price of a brand new triple A game, there are other titles out there more worthy of your cash.
It’s a shame because the way Saitama was incorporated into the game is extremely clever and the fact they tried to be faithful to the series like the Arrival feature and Arena hazards are a nice touch, if only they looked better. Sometimes you’ll find yourself asking if you’re playing an actual PS4 game!
I’m holding out for a redemption arc here, as Bandai Namco may have stumbled upon a great mechanic that is fresh and unique. Only question is, just like Saitama, how long before the redemption arc arrives?
*One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher.