The No More Heroes series has no shortage of bizarre boss battles. In its latest installment, No more heroes 3, players participate in a game of life and death musical chairs, a combat encounter that has mechanics drawn from an MMO, and even a first-person horror game segment.
Most of these boss fights feel like tributes or skits in different genres of games. However, there is one fight in particular that not only pays tribute, but breaks the genre in progress. In a series that is so focused on over the top action, what happens when the adrenaline-fueled main character has to slow down his battle tactics to match the pace of a JRPG snail?
[Spoiler alert: This story explains the mechanics and solution to a late-game boss battle in No More Heroes 3.]
No more menus
After seven intense and absurd battles through a gallery of intergalactic criminals, you must fight the third-largest killer in the universe: a monster named Sonic Juice.
This villain is a tall, muscular alien in skintight jumpsuit adorned with clouds. That would only make him an imposing figure to fight against. However, in battle, Sonic Juice hangs himself in huge, translucent armor that somehow makes him look even weirder.
His presentation would be more threatening if the villain weren’t so smooth. He casually talks to the game’s main antagonist Prince FU, like old friends, he ignores the deadly threats from his cohorts, and his choice of battlegrounds looks like a Lisa Frank folder.
Sonic Juice continues to downplay his threat level when you finally find him on his battlefield. It takes him several minutes to even get close to you. By the time it gets to you, he’s not even interested in fighting. When he finally concedes combat, he refuses to cross swords in the style of an action game. Instead, it forces you to play by its rules: through turn-based combat.
This change in tempo completely slows the previous twelve hours of play. Almost every fight in the game up to this point was decided by pressing the buttons on my Joy-Cons until I finally snapped my target in two. However, this battle near the end of the game has me carefully choosing my attacks through a two-tone menu like a classic Final Fantasy game.
When the fight starts, I choose commands from a menu like attacking, using magic, summoning powerful allies, and using items. As the battle progresses, I notice that nothing seems to work out the way I envisioned.
My otherwise deadly Beam Katana attacks do little damage to the boss. I can’t use my arsenal of magic spells because Travis doesn’t actually have magic points to cast them. Every time I try to summon a partner to help me in battle, the text on the screen mentions some difficulties they are experiencing that force them to ignore my calls for help. My enemy, on the other hand, being a JRPG fan, can harm me. The only thing I can do is heal myself with the limited amount of herbs in my inventory.
Throughout all the fights in the No More Heroes series, this is the first time that Travis Touchdown’s penchant for violence has accomplished nothing. There is nothing I can do to harm the boss if I choose to fight like this.
To win, I have to break the rules of the game.
Eventually I find that targeting the boss is not the answer. I have to attack the game itself. It doesn’t take long for me to realize that the windows on the screen can be pointed as well. I have to destroy the very idea of JRPG mechanics.
With the windows destroyed, the fight against Sonic Juice can now be fought on my terms.
I found this revelation to be the highlight of No more heroes 3. This kind of silly, elegant, and original thinking is what makes every boss encounter feel so fresh. This never-ending series of wild concepts has kept the franchise from going stale from the very first. No More Heroes in 2007.
Some of the best moments in this game completely surprised me because each one defied expectations. Except for the last boss fight, which I’m not going to spoil, Sonic Juice’s forced gender swap battle is the best moment in the game. While other boss fights borrowed from other genres to mix game concepts, the Sonic Juice fight borrowed and later erased a beloved video game genre.