Some of you gamers around my age can probably relate to what I’m about to say. Back when I was in high school, I was totally enamored with 16-bit RPGs like Final Fantasy 4, FF6, and Chrono Trigger. And since I had few responsibilities outside of school, I had lots of free time to enjoy these lengthy, time-consuming adventures. Fast forward to the present. Today’s 3-D RPGs are all overblown, long-winded, and take up WAY too much time. And now that I’ve got a job and other life commitments, I don’t have as much time to play the RPGs I once loved. What’s a gamer to do? I needed a hero. A Half-Minute Hero. It’s a PSP RPG that you play in 30 second increments! Yes, really, it’s true! Intrigued? Read on to find out how it works:
Half-Minute Hero is actually four separate gameplay styles in one. And you can play through them separately with a storyline that ties them all together. Here are the four types of challenges you’ll face:
The first mode is the main draw of the game, and the most fun. You play as a wandering hero who must save the world from Evil Lords who conjure a spell that will destroy everything in 30 seconds. In that time you must scurry around a small part of the overworld, encounter automatic random monster battles, and level up enough to venture to the Evil Lord’s lair and defeat it! Because you must do all this in less than half a minute, battles take less than a second to fight, and you’ll be gaining experience points and levels like a madman!
Just like in a regular RPG, sometimes you must take side quests to help out villagers in need, or venture into a cave to find a hidden secret weapon or powerful item. Luckily, the Time Goddess is on the Hero’s side, and she’ll freeze time while you’re in villages. But the towns are only a single screen long and are designed for you to go in and out and get whatever you need faster than a Slurpee run to 7-11. And if you find yourself running out of time, in most towns is a Time Goddess statue that will reset your 30 second time limit…for a price. You see, time is money, and the Time Goddess LOVES cash, so she’ll charge an ever-increasing fee each time you reset seconds in a stage. So you have to plan your run carefully. Because of this, Hero 30 plays more like an action-puzzler rather than an RPG, but it is super fun regardless. Just as in the other gameplay modes, 30 is the magic number, as there are 30 stages to beat before completing this part of the game. But you can go back and replay stages to open new paths, acquire items you missed, and compete for a better time trial run.
Evil Lord 30
Now you get to be the bad guy! Play as a pretty-boy emo Evil Lord who is on a quest to remove a curse on his true love. As the Evil Lord, summon monsters to attack the army of a corrupt chancellor. This part of the game is like a cross between a real-time strategy game, and Gauntlet, because you’re defeating waves of enemies inside a winding maze. You can summon three different types of monsters with the three PSP face buttons. Each monster is strong against a type of soldier. For instance, the Nimble monsters are quick enough to avoid the long range shots of the archers. Just be careful not to summon too many monsters, or you’ll drain your mana energy and will only be able to summon weaker beasts.
You have 30 seconds to make it to the end of the maze and beat the chancellor. Along the way, you can gain some time (for a price), by finding the Time Goddess. The reason why you must complete each stage in 30 seconds here is because that’s when the sun comes up. You’d think that the sun would kill the Evil Lord, right? Nope. Remember, he’s an anime pretty boy, and he doesn’t want the sun to come up because then he’d get a tan! Ha!
The king is seriously ill and her daughter, the sheltered princess, sets out of the castle to find a cure. But the queen is afraid to leave the castle gate open for more than 30 seconds, so the princess must find a specific item and make it back in time before curfew is up. This part of the game plays like a 2-D shooter. The princess is surrounded by her protective solders as she zaps enemies with her crossbow. You must guide the procession on the path, keeping them off grass and other obstacles that may slow her down. Run across patches of red carpet and the Time Goddess will exchange earned money for extra time. Find power-ups, upgrade your soldiers, and defeat bosses as you race to and from the castle.
You unlock this last mode after finishing the first three. You are a knight who is charged with protecting a sage who needs 30 seconds to cast a powerful spell. This part of the game plays like a top-down, 2-D action adventure, and it’s akin to a fast-paced escort mission. You can even pick up the sage and carry him to safety away from the monsters.
And those are all the gameplay modes. There is another multiplayer mode where up to four people compete in local wireless on Hero 30 mode to see who can beat the Evil Lord first.
While the graphics in Half-Minute Hero look 16-bit and dated, they’re MEANT to be that way for comedic effect. What’s really funny is that most of the characters have hand-drawn anime styled artwork, but they’re rarely used in the game. Instead, they just take the blocky sprites and blow them up to huge proportions in the story sections! You can unlock lots of artwork in the gallery by playing, though. But while the graphics may be dated, the music certainly is not. Half-Minute Hero is full of grinding, thumping, and catchy tunes. Seriously, if there was an artbook or soundtrack to Half-Minute Hero, I’d be half-tempted to buy them!
There are a couple of minor problems I had with the game, though. Mainly with some of the menu interfaces. It would’ve been nice to have your game automatically load and save. And the screens where you can equip armor is a bit cumbersome and you can only use it before stages. And none of the other modes are near as fun as Hero 30. But those quibbles are only minor. I review a lot of games, and you know a game is good when I have to pry myself away from it just so I can write this review in a timely manner! Definitely MY type of games. Half-Minute Hero is one of this year’s best on the PSP. With titles like this, Loco Roco 2, and Dissidia: Final Fantasy, 2009 has turned out to be one of the PSP’s best years in a long time!
Half-Minute Hero is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Animated Blood, Language, Mild Fantasy Violence, and Mild Suggestive Themes. The language and mild suggestive themes are only implied subtly in the text. If there is any animated blood, I haven’t really noticed it. Since the graphics are all pixelly, I imagine any blood would just be small red squares, anyway. The violence is only cartoony. All defeated enemies just fly off the screen, spiraling like when Popeye punches Bluto. Strong reading skill is a must, but the word-heavy game is worth reading for all the great humor and jokes. While some of the classic RPG conventions may go over young gamers’ heads, they’ll still enjoy the fast-paced gameplay, perfect for low attention spans. As long as they can read well and are old enough to handle a PSP, I’d bet any kid would enjoy Half-Minute Hero. I know I did, anyway (can’t you tell?).