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"One Punch Man: World" Review (1): A Punch Shattered the Limitations of Manga Adaptations in the Gaming World

By Cecil Gao
Jun. 25, 2023 updated 02:52

The Dragon Ball series has shown that adapting manga into games is never an easy task. Maintaining great gameplay while satisfying the original manga fans is a problem that game developers constantly struggle with. In the face of this challenging balance, many developers opt to create an average game, limiting the quality to what manga fans can accept. However, One Punch Man's latest spin-off game, One Punch Man: World, breaks through this limitation with its wholehearted portrayal of that powerful punch.

As a mega-hit with manga sales exceeding tens of millions and anime viewership far beyond even that, One Punch Man has a relatively straightforward worldview: a future where superhumans have become professional heroes, fighting against villains for the sake of humanity's civilization.

Within this seemingly simple world-building, however, exists a fatal flaw for gameplay: the protagonist, Saitama, is an ultimate being capable of defeating any enemy with just one punch. This presents an almost insurmountable dilemma for game design. If Saitama is portrayed as a character who can be defeated, it completely overturns the essence of One Punch Man's title and the core of its manga. On the other hand, if Saitama can effortlessly defeat all opponents with a single punch, the game lacks any sense of challenge.

In previous fighting games based on One Punch Man, Saitama's presence was typically integrated as a finishing move for other heroes, where players could fill a special gauge to summon Saitama and instantly annihilate opponents. 

However, in the ARPG One Punch Man: World, T3 Studio took a unique approach that effectively resolves the contradiction between game adaptation and the original work. They divided Saitama into various stages, such as the very early Saitama with hair, the laid-back Saitama in his home attire, and even the dream sequence where he battles enemies while asleep, as mentioned in the manga.

Moreover, T3 Studio incorporated the essence of Saitama's "one punch" power that players imagine into the game, featuring him as one of the limited-time playable characters in the storyline. Players need to block, dodge enemy attacks, and accumulate special abilities, ultimately delivering a single punch to effortlessly defeat bosses.

Even with Saitama's different stages, consistently using him in battles would greatly diminish the perceived strength of his combat abilities in the hearts of fans. Therefore, in One Punch Man: World, players can control various heroes that have appeared in the manga, offering a completely different perspective to re-experience the original story.

Scenes that were briefly depicted in less than a page in the manga have been expanded into extended levels, allowing players to immerse themselves further into the world of One Punch Man. Throughout the gameplay experience, I consistently felt a sense of wonder akin to strolling through a 'One Punch Man theme park.'

In addition, the game introduces a feature called the 'Hero Forum,' where players can discover clues for side quests based on the posts found there. They can follow the viewpoints of certain posters and delve into fascinating missions. For instance, players can explore how King, who lacks any actual superpowers, is envisioned by ordinary people in combat. They can also witness the story behind Saitama's victory over his first opponent, Crablante. These captivating anecdotes and past adventures are vividly portrayed through the intriguing side quests.

"One Punch Man: World" not only faithfully expands on the original storyline but also pays meticulous attention to the city layout as depicted in the source material. It brings to life the mentioned streets, urban areas, Hero Association headquarters, riverside paths, and more. To ensure each map is exquisitely crafted, the game avoids the recent trend of large-scale open-world environments and instead adopts a sandbox design akin to Persona 5. This approach transforms each map area into a distinct little world, allowing for the inclusion of a plethora of intricate details.

In conclusion, "One Punch Man: World" impressively expands on the original manga with its faithfully crafted game story as well as various playable characters. However, the true highlight of the game lies in its battle system, which offers unique combat core systems tailored to each character. The discussion on this aspect will be covered in the upcoming Part 2 of the review. Stay tuned for more!