Developer: Marvelous Entertainment / Publisher: Xseed Games / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Animated Blood, Language, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes) / Played on: PSP / Price: $29.99
Sweet satire, everyone! An evil mage has gotten hold of an ancient spell that will create certain doom for the land if it’s cast and you’ve only got 30 seconds to stop him! In Half-Minute Hero for the PSP you play as a pint-sized hero in his epic-yet-hilarious quest to save the land. But don’t let the title fool you, Half-Minute Hero offers up quite a bit more entertainment value than the name might suggest. With a truly retro graphical style of and an affinity for taking RPG stereotypes to the extreme, Half-Minute Hero attempts to break down the entire RPG formula into small bite-sized portions.
Definitely a standout from the recently released games for both consoles and handhelds, Half-Minute Hero uses an 8-bit graphical style throughout the entire game. Fans of older RPGs, specifically ones on the NES and SNES, will feel right at home with the pixilated aesthetic. The graphics hearken back to the sprite days, where you couldn’t really tell if you were looking at a character’s arm or the sword they were wielding. For a game that is ramping up RPG clichés, it all comes off as quite funny. While the dialogue suggests you’re looking at a fairy king, it looks little different than a few squares of orange with a bit of yellow on top to represent a crown.
Backgrounds and scenery also fall into the retro 8-bit style, with overworld maps and towns looking just as blocky as ever. However, throughout the game you are given the opportunity to unlock concept art, which features characters and locales in ridiculous detail that cannot even compare to their in-game counterparts. It is rather humorous to see a beautifully detailed princess in concept boil down to a few pink and orange squares in the game itself. Half-Minute Hero does a great job of capturing the look and feel of older RPGs and fans of those older games will appreciate what Half-Minute Hero is bringing to the table.
As the title suggests Half-Minute Hero tasks you with saving the world in a very short period of time. In a land where kings, monsters, and even fairies frolic about, an evil lord known as Noire has learned of a spell that can resurrect a vile and evil god to doom the world in just 30 seconds. Luckily for all of us the land is guarded by the Time Goddess, who is in an eternal struggle to keep the land at peace and oppose those that would use the spell to bring back the evil god. The Time Goddess, however, has an almost insatiable desire for money, and can help the hero turn back time but for a price. Throughout the game you are always playing against the clock, with a countdown timer starting at 30 placed in the top middle of the screen. Later levels in the game require much more than 30 seconds to complete, so you’ll be making frequent visits to the Time Goddess, or to one of her statues placed throughout the towns, to go back 30 seconds in time and stop the spell from being cast.
Half-Minute Hero can be broken down into four basic game modes, each one chronicling the adventures of a different hero and in a different time. The majority of the game will be found in Hero 30, which plays much like a traditional role playing game, complete with finding new weapons and armor, killing creatures, and leveling up. Seeing as you don’t have much time on your hands (what, with the world ending in 30 seconds and all), all of the menus, magic, and time consuming random battles have been replaced with an automatic system that is much more efficient and speedy. When outside of a town you can run into a random battle with creatures which will all play out automatically for you, even the leveling and attacks done. It is rather satisfying to level up from 1 to 20 in under a minute, and when the game tells you “You > Evil” you know it is time to take on the stage’s boss monster. The entire formula is exactly what you’d expect from a standard RPG, except that it plays out in a blisteringly fast and comical fashion.
While Hero 30 is the main story mode, there are other modes that play out the story even further. Evil Lord 30 has you take on the role of a narcissistic evil ruler that is trying to solve a mystery of purple-haired girls disappearing from a certain village. Evil Lord 30 plays as a standard strategy game, summoning monsters in real time to get from point a to point b successfully (and still with the 30 second time limit). Princess 30 is the other mode available from the beginning of the game, and this mode has you taking on the role of a fairly dimwitted princess as she tries to help her father recover from a strange curse, only to find out later that a dragon is about to destroy her very castle. Princess 30 is a more action based game, acting as a side-scrolling shooter. After the successful completion of the previous modes, a new mode called Knight 30 opens up in which you take on the role of a knight trying to protect a sage who is chanting a spell the save the world and rid it of all evil monsters. Two final modes can be unlocked, Hero 300 and Hero 3, that act as an extension of the story, but really serve as a type of survival and time attack mode that are quite challenging.
Half-Minute Hero does a fine job of trimming the fat from most RPGs and thus you don’t have to do much in terms of battles. While you always have a say in whether to fight or not, the actual battles themselves, in Hero 30 mode at least, are all done automatically. This isn’t a bad thing however, as the game is meant to be a mockery of the somewhat tedious or redundant battles found in other games in the genre. The extra games modes, however, handle extremely well, allowing you a lot more control over the action. Movement with the D-Pad is fluid and natural, and using the controller buttons to make monsters as the Evil Lord, shoot arrows as the Princess, or pick up objects as the Knight all feel as they should. For a game that does a lot of the work for you, Half-Minute Hero still puts a lot of control in the hands of the player.
The soundtrack for Half-Minute Hero is just as random and hilarious as the rest of the game. Music ranges from fully orchestrated pieces to heavy metal riffs. A serene and quiet scene can be followed up by a hard rock piece that picks up as the action does. The sound effects are reminiscent of older games, with sword clashes and dragon roars sounding as though they came straight from an SNES game. However odd the choices may be, they suit the game well, and nothing seems out of place. The music is always paced well with the story and the sound effects are what you’d expect them to be. Some of the cutscenes and endings can get quite lengthy to watch, and in these cases some voice acting would have been appreciated, but in truly keeping to the aesthetic feel of an older RPG they have been omitted. Overall the game sounds extremely fitting for what it is trying to be.
Half-Minute Hero for the PSP is a delightful RPG that is full of fun and enjoyable gameplay. Fans of older RPGs will find a lot of charm in what the game is doing and will love the humor it has that much more. With missions that take minutes to complete it is perfect for gaming on the go, yet still engaging enough to sit down and play for hours. With the extra game modes, a harder difficulty, branching paths, and a local Ad Hoc multiplayer mode there is a ton of replay value in Half-Minute Hero. While the game is geared toward hardcore RPG players, there is still enough great content here to entertain non-RPGers as well. So do you think you have what it takes to stop the spell of destruction and save the world in seconds flat? Time is ticking…