This game should’ve been out in 2015 at the height of One Punch Man Season 1’s popularity, plain and simple. Even then, it would be hard to recommend this game even if we got it five years ago.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is Spike Chunsoft’s much-belated tie-in game based on ONE and Yusuke Murata’s wildly popular webcomic-turned-manga-turned-anime. When it was first revealed, it wouldn’t be too far-off to expect an arena fighter, given that it’s the treatment most licensed games based on anime get these days, especially shonen anime. The burning question in all of our minds was how they were going to implement series protagonist Saitama’s unique ability, the main hook the show is built around, in an arena fighter? Well, Spike Chunsoft managed to partially handle it, while spectacularly botching the landing.
As it turns out, the game isn’t purely a 3D arena fighter. Well, it is at its core, but the main story, which you’ll be spending most of your time in, plays out like an RPG, what with its semi-open world, NPCs, and hubs that assign you missions. This also finds its way into character progression, with the way you build your character up with passive and active abilities and special move loadouts.
You read that right. In A Hero Nobody Knows, you’ll be taking control of your own original character as you experience the events of the series from their perspective. One of the earliest examples in the game is the encounter against Vaccine Man where you hold him off until Saitama arrives on the scene. Once he gets to the fight, just press square to win. Saitama in story mode is as ludicrously overpowered as he is in the source material, and we appreciate that touch. Outside of these familiar scenarios, the majority of the game’s story missions will have you taking on requests from the Hero Association in order to rise through the ranks and bolster your abilities. Rinse, and repeat.
Character creation options at the outset are slim at best, but open up along the way as you unlock shops and more items to purchase. There’s a certain low budget charm to how barely tacked together you can make your personal avatar if you try really hard, but beyond that, don’t expect something on the level of say, Code Vein when it comes to flexibility.
There’s no other way to go about it. The combat in A Hero Nobody Knows does a pretty huge disservice to its source material. There’s no weight, heft, or power behind the proceedings. You get a couple of defensive and movement options and a laughably small range of offensive tools despite the selection of fighting styles at your disposal. Environmental hazards also come into play but are also pretty bland in terms of execution. Simply put, the fighting here feels lifeless enough to turn away even casual fans looking to throw down with their favorite characters from the show.
Speaking of characters, you’ll have to unlock them for versus mode/free battle by way of encountering them in story mode. Sure, it’s time-consuming, but it still looks fair enough. What really confuses us, though, is the decision to hide the game’s versus mode behind a few hours of gameplay and not have it ready out of the box. What if I have a couple of friends over right after I just finished installing the game? Why not have us unlock characters for use in versus mode/free battle by just continuously playing the mode? We’ll probably never know, but it’s a pretty frustrating decision nonetheless.
One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is a baffling release. It’s a couple of years too late to the party, and still feels terribly rushed even after all that. And to think that we got Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a game with a modicum of care put into its development, just about a month earlier. I hate to say this, but Saitama and crew deserve better.