Fancy saving the world as a princess, hero or mighty wizard, from an army of evil lords, and all in only thirty seconds?
The first thing I can say about Marvelous Entertainments Half-Minute Hero is that itâ€™s ideally suited for the PSP, with the game constructed from numerous small chunks of game play. This makes it perfect for both long gaming sessions or playing for five minutes and then coming back later, without fear of disrupting the games story.
The game has charming old school 8 bit styling, reminding me of adventure role playing games of the 80â€™s, the original Zelda and Final Fantasy games in particular. This look seems to suit the game perfectly and is part of the reason that this is a lot of fun to play. The game itself feels inspired by the same old RPGs mentioned, as well as looking like them. But one of the main differences is that after every stage the credits roll. You can fast forward through if this sounds a touch tedious. Your characters level is also reset to one. This style of play gives the player the feeling that, instead of experiencing one huge RPG epic, they are playing a series of adventures combining into one long story arc.
The other main difference to the game play is that you are constantly against the clock, with thirty seconds being the magic number, hence the title Half-Minute Hero. Because of these facts, itâ€™s tough to place the game into a genre. it is part strategy, part RPG and part action game, and all of these elements come together to make it a really enjoyable experience. The game also has a lot of humour thrown in, poking fun at its own story and even the game itself proving that Half-Minute hero is not taking itself to seriously and making sure you always have a smile on your face.
The story mode of the game is actually split into different chapters, with each spanning thirty stages. Different playable characters are available in each with the Hero, Evil Lord and Princess open to play from the start and the Knight and Wizard unlockable further into the game. I do recommend playing through them in order as the story makes small references to previous chapters.
Each of them also has their own playing style. For instance, the hero is a traditional smack them with a sword kinda guy, whereas the evil lord summons creatures to do his bidding for him. The Princess, on the other hand, is carried around on a throne by her guards while firing her crossbow. Because the actual gameplay differs greatly for each of them, I will discuss each of the first three separately to give an idea of what you can expect from the game.
Gameplay with the hero is what you would expect to find from a traditional Role Play Game. You start out with a world map, from which you choose your stage, unlocking them as you go. You can also go back and replay previous stages to try and better your time and improve your rating for that stage. On selecting a stage, you get a brief introduction and a series of dialogue boxes setting up the story for your selected stage before the thirty second timer starts. The goal for each of the hero stages is to reach a castle in the play area and defeat the evil lord within.
This is where the thirty second thing is a little misleading. Beating many of these stages within that time is near impossible. You would be hard pushed to even reach the castle within the limit, never mind beating the evil lord. As you walk around the stage you are randomly attacked by various animals and creatures. The combat is all automatic, with each encounter you are taken to side on view showing the Hero and any enemy encountered. The Hero then charges at the enemy dealing and taking damage until the battle is concluded and the player is rewarded with XP and gold. These fights generally donâ€™t last too long and are over in a matter of two or three seconds. This is the way you level up, so that you are strong enough to defeat the evil lords. Reaching the castle and defeating the lord now sounds a little tougher than before.
Throughout the game you have a companion in the shape of the goddess of time. This is where the game becomes more about managing the timer rather than beating it. Dotted around the play area are towns and tents, some of which include a statue of said goddess. You can pray at these statues and, for a price, this will reset your thirty seconds. The towns also include shops that sell better weapons, armour, healing herbs and food stuffs. The player can also pick up optional side missions. So, with the ability to reset the timer at an ever increasing cost, itâ€™s left to the player to manage those thirty second chunks in which you have to level up, carry out any side quests and make it to the castle and defeat the Evil Lords. Some of the stages you can breeze through but some others you may find yourself taking it down to the last second or less.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of the RPG genre. I have played and enjoyed a few before, but on the whole role playing video games are not top choice when it comes to gaming. However, Half-Minute Hero is only inspired by those sprawling epics and I think the fact that I was playing small manageable segments made the experience more enjoyable.
The Evil Lord Chapter takes the game in a more action game direction, while retaining the same half a minute time limit rule. Compared to the Hero Chapter, I found it a lot easier. The time goddess takes all of your gold to reset time but gold is easier to come by in these stages. You can basically take your time and reset it whenever you need to do so. Playing the Evil Lord is like playing a different game, using the same graphical style, taking it from the mini RPG to action game. You move around the world much like you do in the hero story, although the play areas are significantly smaller. Your aim here is to eliminate groups of bad guys. The Evil Lord himself does not attack, relying on his summoning abilities, with certain summoned creatures proving stronger against certain bad guys. So this section comes down to the player again managing their time and summoning the proper creatures for the right bad guy, to clear the stage and move onto the next. The way the time management is set up for this chapter, I found it a lot easier than the Hero story and I enjoyed the more action orientated gameplay style. The only problem is that I found myself looking for a challenge. Any experienced gamer could find themselves breezing through the stages as I did.
The princess chapter once again mixes things up with another new gameplay style. Playing as the princess is almost like a race of sorts. It begins again with the setting up of the story and then the stage select screen which, instead of a map, is replaced with characters in the game populating a castle, giving the princess missions to help save her sick father, which leads to the aim of the princess stages. Leave the castle, collect an object and then return to the castle walls.
Now you have to remember that she is a princess and therefore can not be expected to walk anywhere. For this reason she is carried by her soldiers. That is not to say that she is totally helpless, being fairly trigger happy with her crossbow. The soldiers carrying her only know one speed and that is full throttle, which makes it lucky that the play area for these stages is basically a straight left to right line along which you are carried at speed, guiding the soldiers up and down and tapping the opposite direction to slow them down if things get a little too fast, until you reach your goal. They then turn around and speed back to the castle. You are again playing against the thirty second timer. Sounds easy so far, right? Throw into the mix the array of creatures standing in your way, which if you hit, slowly knock away the soldiers carrying the princess. Thatâ€™s where the crossbow comes in handy. It is your job, as the princess, to shoot any creatures blocking the path and therefore giving the soldiers safe passage. Once more the clock is always running, but thankfully the Goddess of time puts in another appearance, taking your gold and resetting your timer. Boy, our goddess friend sure does love money. This time, resetting your timer involves moving the princess and soldiers over red carpets, at the bottom of the screen, laid out by the goddess. Again, because the timers are so easy to reset in this chapter, I did find it like the Evil Lord section, fun to play but in most places pretty easy. With some careful time management, the stages do not prove too much of a problem.
With another three chapters to go after the ones I have discussed above, it is a fairly lengthy game and, when you combine that with the varieties of gameplay involved, you are definitely getting plenty of value for your money. On the negative side, some people may be put off because of the 8 bit style graphics. However, people who can see past this will realize that they are half the charm of the game. Another possible negative may be that some players will find the game a bit too easy and leave them wanting for a challenge.
But on the whole, Half-Minute Hero is an all round fun game to spend some time playing and, if nothing else, I found myself smiling and laughing playing the game due to the continuously humorous dialogue.
So if you are looking for a PSP game that can bring back memories of how games used to look, but still be a lot of fun to play, you could do a lot worse than giving Half-Minute Hero a go.