Impressions: Half Minute Hero

I’ll be honest — some games can only hold my attention for 30 seconds. The gaming industry is in a sad state of affairs if I’m ready to turn off my console after such a paltry amount of time. But it doesn’t have to be! No, with all of the emerging creative, unique, and wholly interesting titles on the horizon, we no longer have to settle into terrible games and wait for them to be over. No, we can become engrossed in adventures that make us laugh until we cry, save the world, and become a hero of heroes…all in 30 seconds. Welcome to the world of Half Minute Hero.

Half Minute Hero is, essentially, an RPG. However, it’s played unlike any you’ve ever played before. Each segment is to be completed in, ideally, 30 seconds. See, with the Time Goddess as your benevolent guardian, it’s your job as the standard “hero” to thwart the plans of various baddies who have discovered spells that grant ultimate world destruction in 30 seconds. What’s a hero to do? Grind, of course! Explore towns, speak to townsfolk, collect items, and explore, all under the amount of time a commercial airs on TV.

While it might sound absolutely impossible, it’s quite doable with the right amount of strategy, patience, and planning. In the 30 seconds you’re given, you may explore the world while your hero automatically fends off bad guys, leveling up much quicker than you ever will in Final Fantasy or any MMO. You can rush in and out of villages to complete your business, and even collect items (such as an instant-kill for bug-types, Bug Swatter) in order to ameliorate the task of saving the world.  This shift of focus from obsessive grinding and looting is quite refreshing. Rather than being concerned about how many hours you can squeeze out of one game, you are feverishly watching the clock race, counting down every second. And every second counts.

If you’re feeling like you might need some extra time, Goddess statues in the small villages provide for do-overs, granting you 30 more seconds to get what you need to do done before the world is completely obliterated. Of course, she will charge you in exchange for her quite useful services. You didn’t think she was a saint, did you? No, Goddesses apparently need money just like everyone else. In this, most missions are completed in a minute or so, depending on how skilled you are, which items you have collected, and how well you know the layout of the map you’re currently exploring. The less time you use, of course, will reward you a better ranking at the very end, and it’s that ranking that keeps pushing you to try over and over, even if you got a respectable one the first time around.

Four game modes ensure that you keep this title in the PSP as long as possible: Hero 30 is the classic RPG-grindfest, Princess 30 presents a classic shooter, Evil Lord 30 is an RTS, and Knight 30 is a typical action title. All four are particularly engaging, though none kept me coming back to the game as much as Hero 30 would, with its throwback RPG jokes, deliberately cliched storylines, and tongue-in-cheek humor that resounds with those of us who have been in the realm of the RPG for the long haul. You must complete the modes in order, and they will get progressively difficult, but with all the skills you will have picked up through time management in Hero 30, you’ll get the hang of them in no time. By the time you’ve reached the final mode, Hero 300, you may be ready for the epic journey ahead of you — that is, if you’ve paid attention! Hero 300 forces you to complete an objective without the aid of the Time Goddess’s services, and is a true race against the clock. Not for the faint of heart! And once you’ve done that, you can take on Hero 3, which asks you to save the world in 3 seconds. No, I haven’t yet been able to complete this. I fear I never will.

Half Minute Hero is presented in colorful 8-bit style, a lovely throwback to yesteryear with its retro sprites, blocky locations, and epic soundtrack. For anyone who reminisces about those days, it’s an art style we can all appreciate when everything is turning hyper-realistic and full of one-dimensional characters. The minimalist style is appreciated since the entire game is pretty darn simple, free of confusing conventions, and a cheeky look back at the heyday of RPG gaming.

If you remember staying up til all hours of the night perched beside your console of choice grinding out to defeat that final boss, then Half Minute Hero might be the reprieve you’re looking for from convoluted storylines, effeminate main characters, and bloated four-disc-spanning timesucks. It’s short, simple, and oh so sweet, and it’s the breath of fresh air the genre needed. Hopefully we can see more of this in the future, as it truly brings back the action and excitement that it seems the RPG genre has left behind.

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