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The humor from the anime isn’t present in the game, and most of the characters lose their charm with poorly written dialogue.

“One-Punch Man” focuses on the hilarious absurdity of living in a world with overpowered heroes and villains and, more importantly, a hero who can defeat anybody with a single punch.  

A fighting game based on a character who defeats his enemies with one punch might seem a bit redundant and, in theory, shouldn’t work. That being said, I still had high hopes going into “One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows.” Sadly, for fans, this satirical manga-turned-fighting game lets this concept ruin most of the joy for other less-talented heroes.

The game starts with the customization of the player’s individual hero. The options are limited at first, as I found myself struggling to make my character stand out in any shape or form. The player can change the hero’s face, hair, clothes and weapon type if they use one, but weapons aren’t unlocked until later. 

As the story progresses, more apparel and in-game items become available to the player’s hero. However, all clothing or armor is taken from other heroes that already exist in the manga. This was a huge let down for me, as I constantly felt my character was a weird knock-off version of Genos, Saitama’s apprentice or Mumen Rider, a C-Class hero in the “One-Punch” manga.

This problem becomes less relevant as the player continues to progress further into the story, but I would've preferred to not have to beat the game just to unlock some clothes that only sort of made my character look like a hero. 

After the brief let down of customization, I was thrown into the “One-Punch” universe without much direction regarding what was happening in the world around me. The player spawns in a social hub where they can find other online players, shops and side missions while having random encounters with villains that all happen to look like Piccolo from “Dragon Ball Z.”

The story missions are bland, and the voice acting is atrocious in parts of the game. I’ve never had to turn down a game’s volume so many times before in a playthrough. I wasn’t sure if it was the actual voice actors’ fault or if BANDAI NAMCO just used the worst audio recording equipment out there. I would’ve preferred for the original voice actors to return with English subtitles accompanying them. 

Besides the distracting audio mishaps, the story of “One-Punch” never seems to figure out what it’s trying to do. In the beginning, the player goes on main missions to increase their overall Hero Rank and participate in side missions to raise their contribution to the Hero Association. However, the main missions don’t make it very clear on where the story is headed or what exactly is happening in the moment.

I’d go to some park and fight a weird version of Piccolo, and after that, I’d go to another random location and fight yet another off-brand version of Piccolo. Don’t get me wrong, this is funny at first and fitting for a “One Punch Man” game, but after a while, it just struck me as lazy design. If I hadn’t read the manga or watched the anime, I’d truly think this story had no structure or purpose at all besides fighting random villains.

Eventually, the player is able to fight popular enemies in the series like Carnage Kabuto or Boros, but sadly, these missions are always a buzzkill. My player would begin the fight only to lose and let Saitama come in and win with one punch. I understand it’s tricky to get around this, but perhaps it may have been a better idea to go in a different direction than just inserting my character into random scenes with Saitama from the manga. 

The side missions also became quite a grind toward the end of the game. At first, they’re fun distractions from the struggling main story and helped me level up my hero and gain new moves. However, toward the end of the game, the story demands the player to have a certain level of hero contribution to the Hero Association. This results in the player having to grind out around 10 side missions in between the last couple story missions in the game. It’s an unusual and obvious change in pacing that makes side missions less enjoyable as they become mandatory. 

It also doesn’t help that all combat moves the player can learn are stolen from other heroes in the Hero Association. Still, the combat and customization of my hero’s battle type was definitely the best part of my experience with this game. Heroes are ranked by strength on a grade scale ranging from Class C to Class S. Every battle type available to the player is based off a current A-or S-Class hero. 

The types can vary from the standard fighting style to a psychic type and variations of a weapon type. The game even allows the customization of a monster type after beating the story. While this definitely piqued my interest as a “One-Punch” nerd, it eventually lost its appeal after all my moves were just replications of the other heroes I was playing or facing.

The most fun I had while playing “One-Punch Man” was most certainly the online aspect of the game. As previously mentioned, the player is always in an online social hub and can face off against friends or team up with others in missions. Fighting with the 28-character roster is a blast even if the game doesn’t offer the best combat system.

The game has a three character team setup similar to “Marvel vs Capcom,” and the player can swap between them freely mid-fight. The player can use Killer moves to do unique character abilities and can also change into an ultimate mode with each fighter. Not only does this mode increase the player’s stats, but it also unlocks a new Super Killer move. 

Besides the Killer moves, the combat is pretty simple. All characters have standard and heavy attacks that can be linked into combos with a simple press of three to four buttons. Each character can block or parry and, of course, there’s a grapple move to break any block spammers. This combat is basic and can be tedious against computer players, but once I got online, most of my complaints about the combat system went away.

Overall, “One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows” is an empty shell of what it could’ve been. The humor in the anime just isn’t present in the game, and most of the characters lose their charm with poorly written dialogue or straight up laughable voice acting. The customization is a let down, and the online fighting just simply isn’t enough to make this game more than mediocre. Not even the strongest hero in the world could save this game with one punch.

Contact Daniel Carter at carte3dt@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.