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Half Minute Hero Review

March 2nd, 2010 by

The PSP brand has, if nothing else, had a tough time of convincing players to part with their money. Whether it’s the failed launch of Sony’s new digital only endeavour – the PSP Go, the rampant piracy that has plagued the system from its very start, or the dwindling number of quality PSP titles seeing release, one thing is for sure, less and less money is being funnelled into the most powerful handheld on the market. Equally, the market for JRPGs has been dwindling for years now, a genre becoming more and more niche, serving fewer and fewer consumers, for less and less return on investor’s money.

So along comes the Rising Star published, Marvelous Entertainment developed Half Minute Hero regardless, going against rational thought and developing a new IP JRPG exclusively for the least popular handheld on the market. And by god, they’ve gone ahead and made a fantastic little title.

Far and away the most accessible, elegant and downright playful JRPG since Dragon Quest VIII, Half Minute Hero’s primary game type gives so much to the player by taking away all of the filler. Providing a stripped down experience of playing a JRPG in short, exceptionally moreish bursts, this main quest revolves around the concept of having just thirty seconds to stop an apocalyptic spell being cast by a series of ‘Evil Lords’, with our Half Minute Hero having to consistently save the world time and time again whilst tracking down the uber baddie responsible for spreading this world destroying bit of Voodoo throughout the land! Think WarioWare meets Famicom era Final Fantasy and you’re not far wrong in both feeling of frantic play and plot cohesion, the game having an irreverent, slightly silly humour to all of the proceedings. Fans of Paper Mario’s slightly surreal, slightly self-aware writing will feel instantly comfortable with the superb translation present throughout this, and indeed all of the other modes of play HMH has to offer, but more on these later.

So what exactly is it that HMH does differently and how does it remove this so called fluff? Well apart from the main hook of a half minute time limit (that can be extended by giving gold to an exceptionally conceited but well intending goddess whose mantra is ‘time is money’), the neo retro, 8-bit graphical stylings and absolutely rock-tastic soundtrack, Marvelous’ genius lies in taking processes that are now rote in the JRPG mantra, flipping them on their head and automating or concentrating them to such a point that every other Japanese role playing game seems nigh on banal by comparison. Take combat for instance, instead of asking you to repeat that age old (and frankly laughable) activity of requiring you to hammer the action button until the enemy is defeated, HMH takes this role out of your hands entirely, fisticuffs is little more than two pixel art characters crudely bashing against one another until one runs out of health.

That’s not to say that progression in combat isn’t challenging, it certainly is, but none of the thinking takes place within battle, the puzzle of defeating enemies instead lies within the world map as you try to discover the best way of tackling each enemy type and boss character. Insects for example can prove a real pain early on, and unless you’re going to grind Hero’s level (and risk that thirty second time limit ending), you simply won’t be able to progress. Unless of course you use the clues given by NPCs to find a fly swatter, at which point clearing out the creepy crawlies is a breeze. The game’s pace is intense, there’s no big reliance on stats, character stereotypes are lampooned instead of celebrated, and all the other stuff that is so off putting to the ‘average gamer’ is simply gone. It’s so refreshing that the game becomes an utter joy to play.

The other modes mentioned earlier utilise the overall aesthetic and world created in the main game but try something new, to varying degrees of success. Among these are Princess Mode, a side scrolling shooter with incredibly light RPG elements which is a fun, if limited diversion, and Evil Lord Mode which is a very rudimentary and slightly obtuse strategy game. These aren’t the main bulk of the title, and in comparison to the Hero Mode, they pale into insignificance.

Players who understand the mechanics of JRPGs will instantly fall in love with Half Minute Hero’s concepts and structure, whilst finding the gameplay twists fantastically compelling, likewise those grown tired of spiky haired adolescents moping around for thirty hours or more will find a title that makes the genre relevant again. PSP owners have a new must buy and damn good reason to keep hold of their console, RPG makers have something to aspire to when developing their own new titles and we all might have, barely three months in, a serious contender for Game Of The Year 2010…

MLG Rating: 9/10

Platform: PSP Release Date: 19/02/2010

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Half Minute Hero for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PSP-2000. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

6 Responses to “Half Minute Hero Review”
  1. avatar Vampire Azrial says:

    I played this last year, how can it be a contender of game of year 2010?

    Also you can download the original PC version here http://www.freem.ne.jp/game/win/dl/dlhg01378.html

    Here’s a rough translation, as the game is in Japanese.

    Start screen

    Rules:
    Defeat the evil wizard within 30 seconds.

    How to play:
    Movement – Arrow Keys
    Select – Enter/Space or Z

    Castle/Shop menu:
    (text: “You enter the castle!”)
    Rest
    Buy Headgear
    Buy Dragon Armour
    Buy Dragon Lance
    Return 10 seconds

    Leave

    Stats (right of screen):
    (under HP)
    Attack Power
    Defense Power
    (when you start the game, the characters that appear for your head slot read “nashi” with means “nothing” ie “you have nothing equipped in that slot”.

    Battle text:
    Monster approaches!
    You do X damage to monster, you are hit for Y damage.
    You win! Gain X XP and Y Gold.

  2. avatar Vampire Azrial says:

    Sorry, get it here…. http://www.freem.ne.jp/game/win/g01378.html it will automatically download.

  3. avatar Wayne Shayler says:

    I might have a look at this, but there are no more game of the year contenders. Only runners up slots left. Mass Effect 2 has set a new standard in story telling and game design in not only the RPG world, but in video games as a whole.

  4. Great review Xero. I’ve ordered this and I’m looking forward to playing it at the weekend.

    For clarity the game was released on 19th February 2010 in the UK on PSP, hence the Game of the Year 2010 consideration.

    Hope this helps.

  5. avatar Adequate Johnson says:

    The 2D! It calls to me!
    It’ll have to wait till I’m done with Prinny though.

  6. avatar Vampire Azrial says:

    Found another great Free PC game of similar style.

    http://www.skipmore.com/freegames/synopsis/synopsis.html

    25 different missions all taking about 30 seconds each, you can play them in any order you please, I’ve done all but 6 of them that have me stumped, but it’s soooo retro and brilliant.

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