With streaming services like Crunchyroll and Funimation you no longer need to wait until Saturday mornings to get a good helping of Anime. This also means more of the strange and fantastic series are able to make it around the world. One of the recent big hits is One Punch Man, a story about a man being a hero for fun. Subverting the shonen genre of series like Dragon Ball Z and Hunter X Hunter where power creep is all too present series protagonist Saitama begins as the most overpowered human and stays that way. When you have a series about a character that is too overpowered though, then how does One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows build a fighting game around that?
The easy response is that, like in the source material, they leave Saitama out of fights as much as possible. Instead of getting to play through the story as Saitama you instead play as, much like the title suggests, a hero nobody knows. Players will create their own OC character to play as through the story of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows. Character customization is as wild as you can expect when you see the source material. You can change the character's clothes and skin color, all the way to what item is on their left knee cap. Don't expect any of the props you attach to give any in-game bonuses, but you can create some pretty wild looking abominations.
Character Stats in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows
The plotline of the story runs parallel to the story that fans of the franchise know. A new and upcoming hero, inspired after Saitama saved them, joins the Hero Association. You begin at the bottom of C-class and engage in battles to raise your rank. You can earn reputation with both the Hero Association and the people of the city. Both go towards the types of missions unlocked for plot progression, or leveling up. Exploring the world you'll run into side quests and pro heroes out and about. While most missions are more battles some are fetch quests for monetary rewards and cosmetics.
The story is about your hero, but at any important moment, it will be One Punch Man himself that will actually get anything done. Whenever you do link up with Saitama and Genos as they encounter major arc villains the player character never gets their chance to shine. In these encounters, your aim is to wait for Saitama to show up. Normally you're required to just survive in the ring for 30 seconds before there's a cutscene showing that your character has given it their all. Saitama then swoops in and performs his one punch, dealing 99999 damage, obliterating his foe.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Dealing with Saitama's One Punch
The times that you do get to play as Saitama in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows are enjoyable. You're practically cheating as your enemies do no damage and you know you can end it at any moment. Even seeing them go flying as you One Punch them is great, but your creation gets left as an afterthought. For your character, the up and coming star, to never get a moment to shine does leave a bit of a bad taste. There are easy ways to allow for the main character to get a chance to do "their best" even if they're not the ones to win in the end. By beating the monster and then have a reversal in a cutscene before Saitama appears but this trend continues throughout the entire game.
Progress through the story is quite on pace as you go from main mission to main mission building up your reputation. Around the 3-4th chapter mark though to progress through the story you need to gain a certain amount of reputation. This slows the flow of the story to a standstill. You go from fighting known characters like Kabuto or Speed o' Sound Sonic, to pre-generated monsters.
How customizable are characters in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows?
Underwhelming elements don't stop at the story, combat also leaves a lot to be desired. Your OC hero works as a blank slate, you can equip to them any of the 5 different battle types. They can then be given any of the special attacks that are within that same type. The types are Standard, Power, Psychic, Weapon Type A, and Machine Type C. Each of these fighting types are what determines how your character moves and what light/heavy attacks they use. As you progress through One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows you'll be able to select which special attacks, from the available cast of characters, you let your OC use. Getting to mix and match your special attacks is a lot of fun, and you can create some interesting combinations. Each base fighter is always those same five character types leaving little to work with. There are a little over 25 characters to unlock in the game, but when you know it's really 5 unique characters with different skins the roster is lackluster.
The battles you fight in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows are up to 3v3 3D arena battles. The combat is all very simple, combos made of light to heavy attacks and specials moves. The balance between the characters is honestly very good, but when there are only 5 character types that's not too big a boast. With a preference for faster fighters, I found the Standard and Psychic fighters more preferable. If you want to make sure when an attack connects you get in some good damage then a slow swing with a baseball bat can be just as good. The most unique part of A Hero Nobody Knows is the team arrival mechanic.
Gameplay Mechanics in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows
Instead of having access to all of your team members from the beginning on a match there is a set amount of time until they arrive. Underneath the player's health, you'll see them running towards the battle with a timer under them. As you pull off successful combos and special attacks you'll even see that timer begins to drop. Your fighter is on their own until your teammate arrives, when they do arrive they'll appear onscreen and attack before becoming playable. You can use this arrival to your favor if your opponents backup hasn't arrived yet and you end the battle that's one less enemy to face.
The Arrival mechanic of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is also how Saitama is worked into competitive battles. You can select him as your third character but he has a higher than usual time until he arrives. Through playing the game competently you need to get your Saitama faster than your opponent would be able to. If you happen to end up with Saitama vs Saitama then they treat each other like a normal fighter. This approach does a good job of forcing players to not only experiment with the other characters but also to play well. Players get encouraged to do their best to chain combos and stay out of their opponent's reach. It's a shame that such a unique mechanic will probably live and die with this game.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows Forces Pulled Punches
Overall One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a pretty standard fighting game. Unfortunately, it gets bogged down in not knowing what it wants to be; a game for the player or a game about Saitama. As much as it wants to give players the chance to create their own unique hero instead it's Saitama that gets to show off how amazing he is. The combat is nothing special and while there's a lot of flash on the surface once you realize it boils down to so few characters there's little room for development. There are some interesting elements here among the predictability but not nearly enough to be able to hold weight on its own. If you're a fan of One Punch Man you'll get a bit of enjoyment from this title but unfortunately, it's just another game on the anime fighting pile.
TechRaptor reviewed One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer.
- Arrival System Is Unique and Fun
- Actually Playing as Saitama
- Story Slowdowns
- 5 Base Character Types
- Player Character isn't Main Character