Half-Minute Hero is actually multiple games in one
When I began reviewing Half-Minute Hero, I tried to describe it to some of the other GamePro editors and failed miserably. The description usually went something like this: "It's an RPG, but it's not long. Well, it is long, but you only have thirty seconds to finish each stage. Well, actually you can buy more time but yeah, the world will end if you don't beat the Dark Lord of each stage in thirty seconds. And stuff."
- Well executed game concept, addictive gameplay, tons of content, laugh-out-loud funny.
- Might be too strange for most, some modes more enjoyable than others
I was first interested in Half-Minute Hero when I saw the trailer on the official XSEED website. Retro visuals with XSEED's trademark quirky humour? Count me in. Half-Minute Hero is an absolute blast, and a decidedly original (and hilarious) take on the fantasy RPG genre.
The reason why it's so hard to describe Half-Minute Hero is that it's unlike any other RPG that has come before it. And that, my friends, is exactly why it succeeds on so many levels.
Half-Minute Hero is actually multiple games in one, represented as different play modes. Hero mode is as close to a standard RPG experience as HMH offers, Evil Lord mode is an RTS game, Princess mode features shoot-em-up-style gameplay, and Knight mode puts the player in the position of a bodyguard of sorts who must protect a character known as the Sage from enemy attacks. Each mode utilizes a "half-minute" rule where certain tasks must be completed before a whopping thirty seconds go by. There are additional unlockable modes, but that's up to you guys to discover for yourself. This review would probably end up being ten pages long if I talked in-depth about all the modes, and though each is deserving of praise I'm going to focus mainly on the real star of the game, the Hero mode.
In Hero mode players take on the role of a Hero who's tasked with traveling across the land to defeat evil creatures who've cast a spell which will cause the world to end in thirty seconds (a tall order for any video game hero). The game is broken up into quests, and the Hero has thirty seconds to complete each quest but there's a catch: the Hero makes a deal early in the game with the Goddess of Time who will reverse time back to a full thirty seconds for a fee (which goes up each time you pay her off). Battles appear randomly in each quest and generally take about half of a second to finish, and also require absolutely nothing of the player; you can use a healing herb or dash to save time but that's it.
It is possible to complete many quests in the allotted time, but that'll take some craftiness and some fancy finger work. One of the most enjoyable aspects of playing Half-Minute Hero is that it slowly reveals its complexity. You can get through the Hero mode by playing through thirty quests but players would be missing out on a whole lot of content. Certain quests will give players the chance to branch off, creating secondary and sometimes tertiary versions of quests, making the grand total around fifty total. HMH also allows players to replay quests to get mini-achievements, vastly increasing the replay value.
At first glance the visual style of Half-Minute Hero is comically pixellated, with many of the characters made up of only a few dozen pixels in total. That said, the style fits the game's quirky gameplay perfectly, especially when it comes to seeing the results of the hero's ridiculous outfits; yes, at some point your hero will be wearing a barrel for armor, a barrel for a helmet, and possibly be holding a fly swatter. For using so few pixels, the characters and enemies in the game are all fairly unique to each other, and I never felt like I was seeing the same thing over and over.
By far the most impressive aspect of Half-Minute Hero and something that kept me playing for hours on end is the writing. For a game whose visual style screams JRPG, the writing is unbelievably funny, and the localization team deserves some major props. References to Guy Ritchie's "Snatch?" Check. A boss inspired by the horribly translated Zero Wing? Yup. I don't want to give too much away, but players who take a look around will find many western pop culture references, and the writing should provide quite a few laughs. Another small but great touch is that players can look up any item or enemy encountered in the game for some pretty hilarious descriptions.
The only caveat I have with recommending Half-Minute Hero is that it's probably not for everyone. The concept is so differently, albeit brilliantly executed, that because it may alienate gamers who don't "get" the game's inherent quirkiness. I'd love to think that millions of people would pick this game up and have the same great experience as I have, but I know that probably won't be the case. However, gamers who buy into the game's eccentric vibe and hilarity will definitely be rewarded.
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