One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows’s announcement earlier this year was understandably met with a bit of skepticism among fans of anime fighting games. How would the titular character, otherwise known as Saitama, be implemented considering his power to defeat anything with just one punch? If the demo I played Anime NYC 2019 serves any indication, developer Spike Chunsoft’s answer to this question leaves a little to be desired. This being said, One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows may still end up being worth a preview by fans of the franchise, if only to witness what would happen if Mumen Rider ever got on Genos’ bad side.
Anime aficionados – especially those who’ve played other Bandai Namco titles like My Hero One’s Justice and Jump Force – may already have a good idea of what One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows will offer. Put simply, the game pits two groups of three fighters against one another and tasks each side with being the first to knock out all of his or her opponents. Moves and controls are fairly standard, as each face button is mapped to a light attack, a heavy attack, a block command, and a jump command. Fans can switch characters on the fly, dash, or unleash Killer Moves via the shoulder buttons, while a fighter’s Finishing Move can be triggered by pressing down on the right thumbstick.
Of course, as with most fighting games, each character has unique attributes that set him or her apart from the rest of the roster. Genos can blast foes away from afar with his robotic arms while Speed O-Sound Sonic can quickly chain together combos thanks to his signature agility. Bang can rushdown his opponents up close and Tatsumaki can pummel her adversaries with an avalanche of boulders from across the battlefield.
From what I’ve witnessed during my time with A Hero Nobody Knows, its best aspect lies in how simple each character is to use. Executing a combo is straightforward, as is learning how to dodge properly and build one’s special move gauge. Best yet, movements are incredibly fluid and there are hardly any noticeable obstructions. Fans of the franchise who’ve never played a fighting game have no need to worry, as A Hero Nobody Knows’ mechanics seem simple enough for anyone to master.
The game’s biggest weakness, then, lies in Saitama. The One-Punch Man cannot be chosen to lead a match. Rather, he can only be placed in a player’s third fighter slot. Those who choose Saitama will have to fight the opposing team with only two characters until the titular hero arrives from across town. The person with three characters on his or her team must defeat their foe before a countdown timer hits zero. The match is more or less over when Saitama bursts onto the scene, as the hero retains the overpowered moves he has in the anime and manga. Thus, he can eliminate virtually anyone with a few measly punches.
As one may be able to surmise, players who have chosen Saitama can simply run around the battlefield to run down the timer. When the hero arrives, they’ll be able to knock out all of their foe’s characters in a matter of seconds. It’s clear that Spike Chunsoft has already thought of this problem, as the timer runs for a beefy 200 seconds, but this doesn’t entirely prevent players from running down the clock. Given the name of the game and the property it’s based on, it’s only natural for players to want to play as One-Punch Man, no matter the restrictions placed against them.
Another worrying aspect of the title is its in-game aesthetics. Though the One-Punch Man universe isn’t exactly known for its fantastical elements, the game could use a brighter color palette before release. Character models are great, but the environments these fighters are placed in are barren and lifeless. Stages set in the middle of some catastrophic event or alien invasion could remedy this problem, though unfortunately I didn’t get to witness any of these phenomena during my time with the title.
One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows probably won’t be a part of many tournament circuits when it releases next year, as Saitama’s implementation alone is cause for concern. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the title will be a dud, as it pays great homage to the property it’s based on. Saitama may be a big part of One-Punch Man, but he isn’t the only character that makes the franchise worthwhile.