Five Things: Half-Minute Hero

SEX JOKE LOLZ!  …Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me explain what this game actually is.  Half-Minute Hero is bizarre, and I say that lovingly.  I’ve never played a game quite like it, and for that reason, it’s actually a bit difficult to explain in a way that makes any sort of logical sense.  Perhaps you should watch this trailer to get some sort of grip on the situation.  Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Did that help?  I don’t even know that I expect it to; it’s really tough to get a grip on this game unless you’re playing it, in large part because it’s actually four games, all of which share only the restriction that you must complete your task in thirty seconds.  Hence the name.  See what they did there?

1. An Odd Sort of Balance– It’s not balance at all, actually.  At least, I certainly didn’t think so.  As I mentioned, there are four single player modes (with one more that opens up after you’ve beaten those four): Hero 30, Evil Lord 30, Princess 30, and Knight 30.  The game plays very fast, and it’s very addictive, so I ended up playing the whole thing in only a few sittings of goodly length; what this made me notice, however, is that the developers seemed to focus much more on the Hero campaign than on any of the others.  I don’t just say this because the other campaigns are shorter, although that is definitely the case, but more because only the Hero campaign really seems to have any depth to it (or as much depth as you can have when you’re only playing 30 seconds at a time, I suppose).  Each character’s story is designed to follow a particular gameplay style: Hero 30 is the RPG, Evil Lord 30 is the RTS, Princess 30 is the shooter, and Knight 30 is the action game (which turns out to be one big escort quest.  Yippee.).  I don’t know whether my personal viewpoint might be a bit skewed due to my own preference for RPGs, but I felt that the others were just kind of half-assed, although admittedly fun (for the most part… there were a few spots in Evil Lord 30, for example, that I cordially invite to die in a fire).  Time-wise, my theory holds; I think that the other three campaigns together *might* have taken me as long to get through as Hero did, although again, if they were truly holding to the game types, this isn’t exactly unheard-of for an RPG.  According to Kotaku, the announced sequel looks like it’s going to focus on the Hero end of things exclusively, and I have to say, I’m okay with that.  I appreciate the attempt at variety, but not when the effort is barely there.

2. Simple on the Surface- This point (or “thing,” if you will) focuses mostly on Hero 30, largely for the reasons I mentioned above; in fact, I think it’s why the Hero section seemed to outweigh the others by so much.  Each of the sections contains its own method of manipulating time, whether it be to slow it down, rewind it, or reset it, and these methods may be used to differing effect throughout the game.  While it’s largely just gimmicky in most places, though, it’s actually an integral part of the story in Hero 30.  The actual battles here don’t consist of selecting actions as they do in traditional RPGs, but rather of slashing your way across the encounter screen while your opponent attempts to do the same.  Much like in the Wario Ware series, however, the true challenge doesn’t lie in actually executing the actions needed to succeed, but in processing what is needed before you get to the actual part where you pull it off.  Your brain has to be pretty speedy to pull something like this off (I know, right?  How did *I* finish it?), and the fact that you’re actually completing multi-part quests within these constraints means that the complexity of the game can be a bit surprising at times.  I found this rather nifty.

3. 8-Bit Awesome- You might be fooled, by looking only at the box art of Half-Minute Hero, into thinking that the game utilizes some sort of stunning graphics/cutscenes/whatever.  Not so.  Instead, the characters and their surroundings take a cue from games of yore and go about it all 8-bit style.  Far from being a detriment, though, this actually proves to be a brilliant choice.  More complicated sprites would simply look silly speeding through the levels at the pace required, and–again, Wario Ware comes to mind here–adopting less ornate graphics allows the player to concentrate more on what needs to be done rather than on drooling over the pretty pictures.  The PSP has plenty of gorgeous games already; the aim of this one is different, and the art style reflects that.  Lest I sound like I’m putting it down, however, allow me to clarify; by no means does Half-Minute Hero look bad.  The sprites are designed and put together quite well; they’re there to lend an air of nostalgia to the story while still being functional.  Speaking of that, my next point…

4. Nostalgia- It’s not just the looks; basically everything in this game is intended to appeal to those of us with fond memories of, say, the original Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior.  Characters are frequently aware of their own ridiculous stereotypes, and when they aren’t, YOU are.  Take, for example, the bumbling king of Princess 30, or the numerous villagers and shopkeepers of Hero 30.  These are characters that would look and sound perfectly at home slapped down in a NES game circa 1987, and they’re absolutely perfect.  The nostalgia factor of this game, for me, made it even better than it would have been had I never played one of the legacy games it emulates, and I suspect the same is true for many people.  I’m definitely not saying it wouldn’t have been fun otherwise, but that really made it stand out for me.

5. Auto-Save My Ass- There isn’t one.  Guess how I know that?

Next time, it’s back to the console as I talk about Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands!

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