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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Ranking the No More Heroes 3 Volunteer Mission Minigames

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The minigames this time around are... pretty weak overall.

While No More Heroes 3 (alternatively titled No More Heroes III) released on the Switch a year ago, it's releasing on other platforms in a month. I wouldn't recommend it as a must-have purchase, but I liked my experience overall.

One of the many charms of the mainline No More Heroes games are its minigames, mostly in the form of volunteer missions. These are odd-jobs that Travis Touchdown will do to get some cash. No More Heroes 3 continues the trend of having minigames, and they vary wildly in quality. I'd say overall, they're worse than the minigames from the first two games. But regardless, this article presents the missions in order of best (favourite) to worst (least favourite) based on my opinion (so you're welcome to disagree in the comments section), simply because I believe the quality of the minigame is the inverse of how entertaining it'll be for you to read me write about it. So saving the worst for last is funnier.

Do keep in mind that this article technically spoils some of the content of No More Heroes 3, including the presence of some secret minigames or missions. If you want to avoid that because you plan to get No More Heroes 3 for the first time starting next month on a console it wasn't originally released on, you may want to come back to this article later. With that out of the way...


Bike Missions


The people living in this world have a lot of issues with thugs that harass innocent grandmothers. Gangs in cars. It's up to Travis Touchdown in his motorbike, the Demzamtiger, to bash the head of the gang enough times until they explode as they loop in a course with other gangsters and actually innocent truckers. You're graded on how fast you are, how much damage you sustain, and the enemies you get to destroy besides just the boss. It feels a lot like the Michael Chain chapter of F-Zero GX, which I'm conceptually a fan of.

No More Heroes III 3 Bike Missions Neo Brazil hit boss car
A normal Bike Mission. Travis's Demzantiger gets two Beam Katanas sticking out, one per side, to do damage to other vehicles.
Note the boss HP bar at the top, your own health at the top left, and your boost power at the top right.


There is also an additional—and secret, unlocked if you're really good at the other ones—Bike Mission that is a one on one versus Ryuichi, who is the older brother of Ryuji, a boss from No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. In that versus mission, you must destroy his car before time runs out, and destroy his followers to extend the time limit. This particular mission is among the coolest and most gratifying sequences in all of No More Heroes 3, and it certainly helps that the controls for Travis's motorbike have improved significantly since the first No More Heroes. You can accelerate, brake, do a nitro turbo boost, and most importantly, drift. The fact you're graded partially on avoiding taking damage actually means you have enough control over the motorbike that you can not smash into every wall on the way.

No More Heroes 3 III Ryuichi bike mission secret boss yellow energy dragon beam Thunderdome
After dealing with some thugs, you get a one-on-one fight with Ryuichi, who rides a mecha, basically,
with dragon waves you'll want to avoid, as well as bombs and other defenses.
Travis will need to approach at the right time without getting blown up first. It's exhilarating.


Lawn Mowing


Lawn mowing has traditionally been the basic job of the No More Heroes series, so it's probably a bad sign that it's high up on my list. Here, your lawnmower automatically moves forward (like... Kirby Air Ride?) and you can dash forward, go backwards, and “press B while changing directions to pull off an awesome turn.” And it is an awesome turn. (That's an exact in-game quote.)

No More Heroes 3 III lawn mowning volunteer mission minigame job awesome turn
The awesome turn is Travis steering the mower with one hand, while the other is...waving around.


Lawn mowing is very low-key. Your only metric is how fast you mow everything. Later levels will have the grass in interesting, non-grid patterns, with rock formations scattered throughout. Bonking your lawn mower on a rock will waste time, as well as overheating the lawn mower if you dash too much. The latter will never naturally happen unless you're purposefully trying to see what happens. There's nothing wrong with the game, and the controls are intricate and complicated presumably as a developer joke. You never need to actually perform an awesome turn (it's time-consuming and inefficient), though you will want to go backwards, move the control stick, and cancel that into a dash for optimal navigation.

Play Ball!


Interactively entertain Jeane, Travis's pet talking cat, by pressing the A button to throw the ball when it's hovering within the circle. As you keep doing that, the ball moves left and right less controllably, and the circle gets smaller. Basic stuff, but Jeane's commentary is fun to listen to.

No More Heroes 3 III play ball with Jeane motel minigame pet cat dive
It's entirely probable that I rated this minigame relatively high due to my book review of
Catland: The Soft Power of Cat Culture in Japan still being fresh in my mind.
This itself is an example of the soft power of cat culture in Japan.


Coast Guard


Travis must get on a tank along the coast to stop an invasion of incoming alligators by shooting at them with the tank's cannon. The real point of the minigame is that you need to shoot the alligators in a certain order (their colour will tell you their movement pattern, and you should be able to tell how close they are based on where they spawn and shoot them from closest to furthest as they approach you). That means there is a right order to shoot them in, and in higher difficulties, if you miss a shot or stray from the order, the alligators will get very close to you and end your mission instantly.

No More Heroes 3 Coast Guard volunteer mission Thunderdome blue alligator cannon
Blue alligators are the fastest-moving threat, but there are other types you'll encounter.
All of the alligators are also... hideous, and this actually instills a real sense of dread and fear.
To the point where I'm still scared even though I should be feeling a power fantasy from wielding the giant cannon.


It's designed fairly competently.

Trash Collection


In the Trash Collection volunteer work in No More Heroes 3, Travis must go into alligator-infested swamps to pick up empty cans with the A button. If an alligator attacks Travis (and you'll ideally want to avoid the scary bubbles on the surface which denote their scaly presence), you need to do a quick-time event to either fight it off (very satisfying) or lose a life (not satisfying). Since you are mostly pressing A, when the quick-time event presents a button like X, B, or Y, you probably won't be prepared for it. Many of the cans are submerged in the swamp, and your controller will rumble more when you're closer to one of these hidden cans. Then you'll press A to pick it up. The hidden can presence balances out the obvious inclination to avoid the alligator bubbles, since searching out the rumbles will lead you into alligator territory, and you need to pick up the hidden cans to get a good score. But you only get scored and rewarded when the timer runs out, so if you lose your three lives prior to that, you get nothing. You also get 40 points (worth about four pieces of trash) per remaining life at the end. The actual game itself is quite...drab.

No More Heroes 3 III trash collection volunteer mission minigame alligator suplex wrestling quick time event
I suppose it's not good when the most exciting part of trash collection involves suplexing an alligator.

DeathMan


DeathMan isn't a volunteer mission—it's a beat-em-up videogame that begins your No More Heroes 3 experience, and then you can play the whole thing later. Clearly, I shouldn't be considering playing videogames to be volunteer work, so I guess it's on this list as an honourary mention. Well, no, it's really dishonourable... and miserable. DeathMan can run, jump, do a jump-kick, punch, and do a charged-punch. The jump kick is the most viable option, since it lets you move along the y-axis while throwing a hitbox, while punches leave you quite stationary. That's important, because you'll die in one hit, and your punch has horrible range and you don't actually have invincibility with a normal punch. Meanwhile, the kick is a disjointed hitbox.

No More Heroes 3 III DeathMan Bokantian running legs death reckless blitz
Bokantian, and their other two-legged/no-arm running friends that charge at you while homing in (Reckless Blitz), make DeathMan unplayable.


Now, lives don't actually matter in DeathMan. If you get a game over, you can just continue where you left off. But the game is still a miserable slog, especially when many enemies appear on screen (especially if you try to just keep going through the level as opposed to wiping them all out) and are coming after you. And they often take more than one hit. (Bokantian takes two, and there are even stronger and faster versions of it later.) It's not fun, and it's not designed to be.

WESN Mining


This is probably the worst activity in all of No More Heroes 3, and there are a lot of... poor experiences in this game. Travis must go into the mines and mine for giant purple crystals of WESN (a certain amount in a certain amount of time). The mines are a big maze where it's difficult to know where you are, filled with turns and very poor platforming. The mines are filled with fatal lava pools, and one bad jump (and the game isn't designed for jumping, so...) can spell your demise. You have your choice of a heavy pickaxe swing and a light pickaxe swing, and upgrading Travis's strength in the story directly impacts the amount of hits needed to break the crystals.

For some reason, navigating the mine is interrupted twice per go-around with randomly spawning weak enemies. This interruption also interrupts the timer of the game, so it doesn't serve any gameplay purpose other than to waste your time in real life. Besides this bad design decision and the monotony of the design of the interior of the mine, because you'll be fighting these enemies around lava, one finicky movement (and the game's combat system is designed around movements in what's normally open areas) will mean you'll just die, like this:




You CAN knock the enemies into the lava pits for an instant KO on them, but it's much more likely that you'll fall in there and fail the whole thing. It's stupid. I suppose you can say that the enemy encounters—which aren't mentioned in the backstory of the NPC explaining the minigame to you—are there to break up the monotony of the experience and distract you from properly memorising the passageways of the maze, but I see it as a failure of game design that you need to resort to such tactics for what should be a minigame that explicitly is an alternative method of entertainment from the game's main combat system.


Ludwig played the entire videogame with the Switch Pro Controller, so if the minigames are supposed to be more fun with Joy-Con motion controls, then he missed out on that experience. If you played this series, let's talk about favourite minigames in the comments!

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