The premise of One-Punch Man shouldn’t work. If the main protagonist has infinite power and can defeat any enemy in one punch, how can that create a compelling story with stakes and danger? Where is the drama? And how can that possibly translate to a video game? Power fantasies are fun to control, but doesn’t absolute power get boring? The answer in the source material is to turn the whole story into a comedy that plays with the cliches established by decades of action anime, and it works well. The answer in One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is to let you control Saitama, the titular One-Punch Man, only sparingly, and it does not work as well. But there are still some fun ideas peppered throughout.
One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is developed by Spike Chunsoft, the studio behind Jump Force, and it apes that 2019 Shonen universe mash-up to a fault. The camera-over-the-shoulder combat with simple combos and easy-to-execute special moves feels nearly identical, the similarly lackluster story presentation is here, and the repetitive, mission-based gameplay is… well, repeated. In some areas, however, One-Punch Man has the advantage of being second to bat and there are small improvements and new elements over the previous effort, like being able to arrange your own apartment.
One-Punch Man looks good when you’re in the action. The combat is flashy and well-animated but when it comes to cutscenes characters move with stilted, uncomfortable animation or bounce awkwardly with overt idle animations while waiting for the right moment to activate their angry pose. In screenshots, however, A Hero Nobody Knows looks remarkably close to the show and even emulates Saitama’s penchant for changing his face completely depending on how he’s feeling. The sound, meanwhile, is weirdly bad despite featuring the English voice cast of the show. The performances are fine, but when characters yell (and they yell a lot) the audio peaks to the point of sounding fuzzy and just sounds distractingly low quality.
Most of the time you’re playing as a custom character created at the start who is trying to become a professional hero and whose path happens to cross with the main events of the anime’s story. Early customization options are disappointingly limited in terms of making your hero look how you want them to look, but stores frequently update with new items as you progress and the available clothing and add-ons get stranger and stranger, allowing you to wear the costumes of your favorite heroes from the anime or make your own absurd hero outfit with things like horse masks. I appreciate how willing A Hero Nobody Knows is to let you make yourself look like an absolute fool. Completing missions nets you points that can be applied to things like health and power. I enjoyed tracking my character’s growth, but upgrades are incremental and feel less and less substantial as you move deeper into the story.
Combat is arguably the highlight of A Hero Nobody Knows. Pulling off powerful combos and ending a barrage with a flashy special move to eviscerate your opponent is satisfying and I found a mild challenge in figuring out the best combination of special abilities. It is a fighting game, but it is not as deep as games that fully embrace the genre like Street Fighter V or Dragon Ball FighterZ. With its RPG elements and focus on discovering and equipping moves that can be mapped to a quick-select menu, it walks a middle ground between an action game and a fighting game without ever landing confidently on either side. That makes fights inconsistent as strategies don’t necessarily carry over from scenario to scenario. One fight feels like you should be using the fighting game side of your brain while the next feels like you should be using the stylish action side, and the back and forth is frustrating.
One of the unique elements of fights is holding out while you wait for a back-up hero to show up. Against especially powerful enemies, I liked trying to stay alive as long as I could while picture-in-picture video showed heroes like Mumen Rider on the way to help. Fighting well reduces the wait time for reinforcements to arrive, which is a smart mechanic that I got a kick out of exploiting. The most exciting hero to show up is, without a doubt, Saitama. As a fan of the source material, I would have felt cheated if he did not function the way he does in the anime and manga, and thankfully Spike Chunsoft has fully embraced his absurd power. He can, indeed, defeat every enemy in one punch, and it’s always satisfying and funny. On some occasions full cutscenes will play out, only to conclude with a fight that lasts as long as it takes to hit the light punch button, and it is great.
Anime Expo One Punch Man Cosplay
In local multiplayer you can set the rules for how Saitama appears, which is smart. At the time of writing this review (which is after A Hero Nobody Knows came out on February 27), it took a fairly significant amount of time to connect to online matches, even when there were collections of other players waiting around the online versus desk. But when I did get into matches I had good experiences with very little lag, so it’s not too big a knock. Online multiplayer is ultimately a small piece of the larger game, though – the focus is primarily on its approximately 10-hour single-player campaign.