Half-Minute Hero is unique in as many ways as it is cliché, its main game play mode being one grand parody of all things RPG, including a by-the-book story and groan-worthy dialog. Yet, somehow things are fresh, new and, if you’re lucky, just may bring back memories of playing classic RPGs. The game has several different game play modes, each of which being its own mini-game, if you will. The first and what I consider “main” game is what appears at first to be a standard console RPG – Hero 30. You also have modes that are reminiscent of RTS games, hack & slash and escort missions, all with the gimmick of completing each part of the overall story in 30 seconds or less.
Now, that “half minute” time frame is a bit misleading in the RPG scenario, and I’ll touch on why in a moment. The idea behind this part of the game is to save the world from an evil lord in less than 30 seconds. In fact, there are multiple evil lords, all being taught a spell to destroy the world in 30 seconds from what I can only consider to be an ultimate evil lord. As the hero, your job is to defeat each evil lord, thus saving the world, and ultimately find the culprit behind the spread of this spell. It’s a fairly simple premise and it was likely written that way. Unfortunately, because the speed at which things move and the simple, cheesy dialog, I had trouble connecting to the characters and following along with the overall story. However, you must take my words with a grain of salt, because the point of this title is likely to parody the long-winded RPGs that we’ve all played at one time or another. My guess is the developers weren’t too concerned about the player feeling attached to the characters.
So, in 30 seconds you have to save the world, right? What does this involve? You must grind up levels, scour towns for information, purchase healing items, possibly complete some sort of puzzle, travel to the evil lord’s castle and defeat him, all within 30 seconds – best case scenario. It sounds impossible, right? You have to clear your head of the mindset that this is a standard RPG to understand how things work. Battles progress in the blink of an eye. You enter the side-scrolling battle screen and you don’t touch a thing as your hero plows through two or three enemies. When finished, he quickly gains experience and perhaps levels up. You also gain some coin that you can use to purchase new weapons, armor or healing items in town.
Now, at first, it’s rather difficult to come in under 30 seconds, as the first “mission” you partake in bluntly explains to you. So, to help you along, there’s the Time Goddess. She will extort money out of you in exchange for stopping or reversing time, thus affording you a tiny bit of wiggle room in certain situations. There are statues in most towns where you can pray to the Goddess – paying an increasing sum of gold each time you use it – to sort of rewind time. I say “sort of” because story progress points you hit don’t actually disappear, they continue right along as if nothing had ever happened. So, if you need to grind up levels a bit (as an example, grinding 10 levels usually clocks in at under a minute), or need to do some trial-and-error to find your way to the evil lord’s castle, you can almost always return to the statue of the Goddess in town, pray and reset the timer to 30 seconds. This is what I mentioned earlier about the term “half minute” being a bit misleading, as it can take you several minutes to clear a “mission”.
Some areas are straight forward, some are more puzzle oriented. For example, in one early area you have to get to an evil lord’s castle on the other side of a broken bridge. The only guy who can fix the bridge has lost his hammer, so you have to find his hammer first, which is in a cave somewhere nearby. Acquire his hammer, give it back to him and he will repair the bridge for you to continue. They’re typical RPG-style side quests, but, in this particular title, seem more like puzzles, since you have a limited time to figure all this stuff out.
You do gain various pieces of equipment during the game. There are also purchasable pieces of equipment in towns. These aren’t necessarily needed to complete each area, but they will help you out in your future endeavors. Before you enter each area of the game from the world map screen, you’re given the chance to check and/or change your equipment to suit your needs in the coming mission. There are some specialized pieces of equipment too, which usually come into play to defeat certain types of enemies easier. Bug-type enemies, for example, can be disposed of in one hit with a Fly Swatter and demons can be plowed through with a Silver Spear.
There are other quirks to this segment of the game, as well. You can acquire various titles and pieces of equipment by performing certain optional actions during each “mission” – so all within that 30-second time frame. In one, the evil lord destroys a town at the 15-second mark – half way through the “mission”. Sure, you can go to the evil lord and defeat him to clear the area and move on, but if you manage to find a way to save that town you’ll get an extra title to show off. These type of things are for the completest and they do add to the replay value of the title. I did some optional things, but ignored them in other areas.
Like I mentioned, this Hero 30 portion of the game is what I would consider the main draw and the less repetitive portion. Although, if you dig deeper, you’ll find a much more rewarding experience in the other areas, as well.
Not only can you fight against the evil lord in the Hero 30 segment, but you can actually be the evil lord in Evil Lord 30, which plays more like an odd tower defense or strategy game, where you can summon various types of demons to protect yourself against the onslaught of heroes which come to usurp your power. There are different types of demons you can summon to defend against different types of attackers. By defeating enemies you gain gold coins which you can, again, use to pay off the Time Goddess to extend your game play sessions. I smell a double-agent here – why is the Time Goddess working for the evil lord? Oh, that’s right, she goes where the money is! What a sell-out!
In Princess 30 you escort the gorgeous 8-bit princess into the forest to acquire an item she needs, all before the sun goes down (i.e. within 30 seconds). If you fail, she turns into a pumpkin and it’s game over! Ok, that’s not entirely true, but I couldn’t resist writing it anyway. In Knight 30 you take control of…what else…a knight! It’s an action game, for all intents and purposes, where you make your way through hoards of enemies to protect your kingdom.
Throughout all the various games that make up Half-Minute Hero, the music fills you with a sense of the old-school, and it crescendos at the right times. In Hero 30, when you’re running short on time and you’re frantically trying to get to the evil lord’s castle, the music seems to flow through your veins and make your heart beat faster – it stressed me out on many an occasion. But then the feeling you have after you save the world from that 30-second spell of destruction makes it all worthwhile – at least until you realize the Time Goddess only helped you so she can fatten her purse.
All in all, there is quite the variety. You must clear the Hero 30 and Evil Lord 30 segments to open up the rest, but you get the best and most robust game right off the bat – Hero 30. While the others do add to the variety of the title, they get awfully repetitive in a very short amount of time. Hero 30 is where this game really shines, being a nostalgic throw-back parody to 8-bit RPGs of old. What I also enjoyed about this title is the fact that, from the ground up, it’s built for short play segments. I don’t think any single “mission” in the game took me over a few minutes to complete. While the scrolling credits after each and every segment of the game are rather obnoxious, the game does lend itself to the hand-held platform rather well, and looks gorgeous – in an 8-bit sort of way – on the PSP’s screen.
If you’re interested in an out-of-the ordinary RPG experience that you really can’t find anywhere else, I would definitely suggest giving Half-Minute Hero a shot. Its variety serves the title well, as just having one of these mini-games would hardly make it worth owning at all. All of them together – even though Hero 30 is the most robust of them all – really make this title something that stands out in the crowd and tugs at your curiosity because, let’s face it, we all wonder how to save the world in 30 seconds, right? It does have a few annoying quirks and the story in any part of the game is hard to stick with because of its overly simplistic nature, but it is definitely worth playing for the enjoyable romp through the history of RPG clichés.
- Title: Half-Minute Hero
- Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
- Publisher: XSEED Games
- Release Date: 10/13/2009
- MSRP: $29.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for reviewing purposes.