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How the One-Punch Man fighting game balances its overpowered hero

It’s better late than never for Saitama

Spike Chunsoft/Bandai Namco

How does one balance a fighting game where the star of the show defeats anyone and everyone with a single punch? The developers of One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, Spike Chunsoft, have an inspired solution for that.

Saitama, the bald, bored superhero who can handily knock out any foe, is selectable as part of a three-person team in One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows, Bandai Namco’s arena-style 3D brawler. But he must be the third and final selection for your team if you want to play as him. Or players can choose a team of three other characters (no Saitama), including wannabe heroes and bad guys like Speed-O-Sound Sonic, Mumen Rider, Silverfang, and Terrible Tornado.

If you do pick Saitama for your team, he (characteristically) won’t show up for the fight on time. There will be an onscreen live feed of Saitama running toward the battle, with a roughly two-minute countdown timer. The length of time it takes for Saitama to actually show up for the battle will decrease if you perform a combo of a certain length or pull off a defensive move called a Perfect Guard.

If your team includes Saitama, you’ll only have two characters to play with until he shows up. If both of those fighters are knocked out before Saitama arrives, you lose; the One-Punch Man can’t save the day. So there’s a balance: risk picking two fighters and running down the clock until Saitama’s arrival, or stick with a safe three-character setup.

So what happens if both players pick a team with Saitama? When two Saitamas go head to head, the battle follows pretty standard fighting game rules. Saitama can’t knock himself out with a single blow; instead, he’ll have a suite of moves just like the rest of the A Hero Nobody Knows cast.

I played a few rounds of the One-Punch Man fighting game at publisher Bandai Namco’s headquarters, and it’s a solid, if initially shallow-feeling 3v3 fighting game. It has humor and style to spare, though, and One-Punch Man aficionados are treated to great one-on-one character interactions before fights. In practice, having to patiently wait for Saitama — of course I picked him every time — and survive the battle long enough for his arrival adds a fun thrill that gives A Hero Nobody Knows a unique flavor. Dodging feels incredibly important in battles. If an opposing Saitama does show up, really your only hope of survival is to dodge his attacks until your own Saitama arrives.

One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows is coming to PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. The fighting game does not have a release date.

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