Preview: One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is more than a one hit wonder

Previewed on PlayStation 4

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows features a man who wins every fight he’s in with a single punch, as you may be able to guess from the title. You may well expect that, because of this, a fighting game based around the show may be rather difficult to balance, since landing a single punch is usually a fairly trivial act. However, both thankfully and surprisingly, Spike Chunsoft has successfully pulled it off, as One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows delivers a unique twist on the typical fighting game formula while still being fair.

Balance is accomplished thanks to Saitama – that’s our trusty one-punch-delivering hero, for those unfamiliar with One Punch Man’s premise – not being available at the start of every fight. Instead, Saitama takes around two minutes to arrive at the battlefield. There’s even a cut away of him determinedly running towards the fight, likely legging it from bargain day at the supermarket. However, you’re not simply stuck waiting for your overpowered saviour to arrive at the scene, as you’ll be engaged in battle while you wait, and performing combos and perfect dodges will somehow miraculously reduce Saitama’s travel time.

While the timer ticks down, you’ll still have plenty of time to get some decent blows in before Saitama steals the show with a single finishing punch. Available to you is the standard fighting game array of light attacks, heavy attacks, charged attacks, and special moves, which are all built up using a gauge meter. All of this is neatly presented to the player, being easily legible, understandable and, most importantly, ready for use without requiring you to already be a fighting game fanatic. Pulling off the available move combos as well as nailing the timing for dodges allows for mastery, but skill isn’t necessarily mandatory for a fight, as the flashy special attacks are all available with a simple press of a button that then shows you what you can do from then on.

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows also offers a vast, albeit empty, combat arena for you to freely fight and run around in. This gives (literal) new depth to the game, as positioning becomes a key part of play. You’re able to dodge attacks in virtually any way you please, so you’ve got the option to dodge around close to strike back, or put plenty of distance between you and your opponent to prepare yourself for the rest of the fight. Cheesing the AI is also trivial because of this, as simply running around the edges of the huge arena will have the AI struggling to catch up, even with universal movement abilities to close the gap, so you’re technically able to just run around in circles and simply wait for Saitama to show up and do all the hard work for you (or for the other team, depending on who you’ve assigned him to).

Unfortunately, while the fighting was fun, and great to look at, the AI that were on display were far from challenging. They could occasionally get a good combo to take down some of your health and were fairly decent at dodging but they never posed much of a threat. Hopefully, they were just weak for this build in order to give journalists like me a chance. However, if they’re this weak in the full game without any harder difficulty levels available, you might find yourself yearning for more of a challenge.

In the build we were given access to, there was plenty of fighting but a complete lack of story. Characters would only spout short quips at each other prior to a fight beginning. While a story is by no means mandatory, especially as the fighting and action should be front and centre, it would be nice to see a story revolving around Saitama and friends, regardless of whether it linked back into the anime or worked as a standalone.

On the bright side, being an officially licensed game means that everything looks exactly like it should do. Every fighter available for play had their own unique animations that perfectly fit their character and style, with flashy special attacks and super moves that look like they’ve been lifted right out of the anime itself. In the build I played, there were only six playable characters: Saitama, Genos, Terrible Tornado, Silverfang, Mumen Rider and Speed-o’-Sound Sonic, but more have been announced since, so the meagre roster should receive a somewhat significant increase.

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is already great fun, despite its lack of story. I’ve never been much of a fighting game person, but it was an undeniably good time blitzing my way through the AI, whether it be with Saitama coming to the rescue or launching nine bikes at your opponents consecutively with Mumen Rider. However, only time will tell whether One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows will have staying power, or whether it’ll be knocked out in one punch.

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