Japanese role-playing games are almost always lengthy, involved affairs that require hours of your free time. In our modern era of instant gratification, the genre might be a touch out of step… until now. Originally a hit title on the PlayStation Portable, Half-Minute Hero has arrived on the Xbox Live Arcade, complete with a host of enhancements. That, and a totally ridiculous subtitle which perfectly fits the crazed motif of the game. Designed as a super speedy take on your traditional Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game, Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax presents role-playing in extremely small chunks, with a hearty side of wacky humor to boot. RPG fans looking for something different will certainly find it here.
Platforms: Xbox 360
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment
Release Date: June 29, 2011
ESRB Rating: Everyone
The core of HMH:SMNC is the “Hero 30” mode. Here, you take the reigns of a typical teenage RPG hero, who is tasked with taking down a real bad character named Noire. This villain is more than willing to destroy the world and all its inhabitants, and is doing so by teaching would-be bad guys the “30 second destruction” spell that does exactly what the spell says: destroys the world in a half minute. This is the hero’s task: to stop the “evil guy of the week” boss and save the world… in thirty seconds. This is actually an impossible task – there’s no way one can level up enough to take down the big baddie so fast, let alone reach their base. That’s where the Time Goddess comes in. On the surface, the Time Goddess is your typical kind and beautiful female ally… but she ain’t. Instead, she’s a wise cracking, overly cheerful pest who will turn back time for you. If you have the scratch, that is. Indeed, our heroine is exceptionally greedy, and the more you need to reverse time, the more expensive it gets.
Anyway, Hero 30 consists of 31 different quests, with different baddies at the end. They kind of play out like a full RPG; you wander through villages, upgrade weapons & armor, buy healing items, and fight tons of enemies. Like the rest of the game, the random encounters are hectic… no, they’re spastic takes on your usual turn-based battles. You don’t really have any control over them, short of fleeing if it’s not going well. Instead, they just play out in quick fashion. Due to this insanely fast pace, it’s possible to level up almost immediately. Instant gratification indeed. The catch is that you lose your level upon completing a quest, though you do keep your weapons and armor. In addition to Hero 30, the game offers a handful of smaller adventures: one lets you control a knight as he protects a Sage that removes curses; another places you in the shoes of a princess that has to cure her father’s illness before her curfew… which of course is 30 seconds from the beginning of the quest. It all culminates in “Hero 300”, which gives you exactly that many seconds to finish. There’s a lot of content here for $10.
Though Half-Minute Hero is an RPG in a traditional sense, it’s also something of a puzzle game. Within those 30 seconds are numerous side events and quests, such as finding rare weapons, acquiring allies, or simply completing a task in a way that goes against what the game wants. One could just plow through, grind up to a level that makes the boss a pushover, and finish the quests. However, you’d probably get a poor score and miss out on new titles & allies. This is what gives the game a lot of replay value – there’s a ton of ways to deviate from the path. Plus, there are multiple endings to encourage even more trips through the game. It’s the kind of game that one could get lost in for a very long time.
Though the story, characters, and gameplay is quite good, there are a couple issues. The obvious one is the searing repetition. After about fifteen of the Hero 30 quests, I had to put the game down for a couple of days, due to burnout. Really, you’re just doing the same thing over and over, just with a different skin and a few added tricks to make the journey tougher. The ridiculous humor and jabs at JRPG conventions brought me back, but if you want a lot of variety, you’re not going to get it here. Also, the controls are… off. Usually in an RPG this isn’t an issue, but in a game where you might be racing to reach a Goddess Statue in time, getting thrown off by the rough controls is kind of a big deal. Protip: use the directional pad, not the analog stick.
The XBLA version of Half-Minute Hero features a few enhancements. The obvious one is the visual upgrade. While you can still use the PSP-styled graphics – which are blocky and blurry on an HDTV – the game defaults to a style that is… storybook, I guess. The hero looks like a super dork, but at least with these visuals one can see how the weapons and armor change the look of him. In addition, there’s an online mode that pits players in a battle to complete a quest first. To make it challenging, there’s numerous tricks, such as the “one of each item… period” restriction. It’s pretty ridiculous stuff, and quite fun. Also, if you played the PSP version, you might notice that the other quests – like Evil Lord 30, for instance – are very different here. Instead of being more of a strategy game, it’s basically the same as Hero 30, just with a different character.
Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax is a great addition to Xbox Live Arcade and to the overall RPG library of the console. For a meager $10, you get a fairly lengthy game with tons of replay value. If you’re the sort who really like the Japanese RPG genre, but just don’t have the time to play 50-100 hours: this game could be right in your wheelhouse. This also applies to people who find the genre interesting but don’t have the patience for hours of grinding; this is the kind of RPG you can get behind. For everyone else, Half-Minute Hero is a ridiculous, insane, and charming game that both lampoons and pays tribute to one of gaming’s hallmark genres.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax was provided by Marvelous Entertainment for the purposes of this review.