Review: Half-Minute Hero (PSP)November 5th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
With how clichéd stories in RPGs are these days, it’s a pleasure to see a game that does something unique with its gameplay to really set it apart from the pack. XSeed’s Half-Minute Hero breaks up its story and levels into 30 second chunks that fits the portable it’s on very well. The result is easily one of the best and most unique games we’ve seen on the PSP this year.
Half-Minute Hero has an interesting way that it handles an epic story that take place over a few hundred years and stars a few different characters in each era, which is to give each character its own mode that plays differently from the other modes. This covers the Hero, Evil Lord, Princess, and Knight modes along with an extra mode or two that revisits the Hero style of gameplay to cap off the story in a very epic way, though it’s a shame that you are required to beat every mode to unlock the last few modes since the story isn’t that important to get what’s going on if you were able to skip ahead. Either way, the writing and pacing for the single-player that makes for a great experience for the PSP.
The headlining mode for Half-Minute Hero is Hero 30, which stars the titular Hero as he works with the Time Goddess to take down the bosses that have learned a spell that destroys the world in 30 seconds. This mode is a spin-off on standard JRPG gameplay with automated battles to let you level up enough so that you can beat the boss by the time you reach the castle to defeat the boss. Most levels follow the same basic formula where you wander from town to town, as time stands still in towns, checking for new equipment that you can buy, items to regain health, or characters that can offer a side quest that can get you a powerful item, money, or even open a shortcut before you head to the castle to defeat the boss. There are Time Goddess statues that will reset the time back to 30 seconds, so you don’t have just 30 seconds to beat the boss. The story here is a lot of fun as you chase Noire, the powerful mage, and the writing is particularly sharp enough to make what could be a tedious mode much more entertaining and addictive than you’d expect.
Following that mode in Half-Minute Hero is Evil Lord 30, which is more of a strategy or tower defense kind of mode that takes place 100 years after Hero 30. You take control of a vampire lord that is completely in love with himself and Millenia, his bat sidekick, who used to be his beautiful love interest before she was cursed by none other than Noire. The writing is also top notch here with a bit more humor than Hero 30 to take advantage of the typical boss clichés that Evil Lord represents while being something of a good guy here. The gameplay itself is all about a rock-paper-scissors mechanic as you have speed, power, and range units that you summon to take out the enemies that are weak to those types as you aim to take out the statue, all enemies, or find a certain character that makes up most of the goals for the levels in this mode. The 30 second limit here is in regards to Evil Lord being a vampire and having 30 seconds to beat the level before the sun starts to rise, though you can run up to golden barrels when you have coins in a level to reset the timer.
Princess 30 is easily the quickest mode in Half-Minute Hero as it is a dual-stick shooter that takes place 100 years after Evil Lord 30. The story here is that the king of the world is very ill and isn’t long for this world as the sheltered princess sets out to find various herbs, fruit, and other items that are said to be able to cure an illness. The time gimmick here is that the Princess is only given a 30 second curfew to get out, find the item she’s after, and get back with special Time Goddess rugs that you run over to kind of roll back the timer a bit as long as you have coins to spare. You aim with the d-pad as your crew of soldiers that surrounds the princess shoot in the direction you’re aiming, so you try to take out enemies, items, power-ups, and other stuff that is out in the levels. The story isn’t all that good here that is made up for by the quick shooter action that keeps it from being much of a hassle to get through.
Knight 30 is easily the worst mode in Half-Minute Hero, as it’s a weird mode that takes place 200 years after Princess 30 and mostly a series of escort missions. The Time Goddess is no longer around to stop the monsters from taking over the world, but a special Sage saves a Knight from death and enlists him on their journey to save the world with help from his new spell that can destroy all enemies nearby in 30 seconds. As Knight, you need to protect Sage in a more defensive manner by pulling Sage around the level and using traps to keep him safe from them for 30 seconds, which has to be while he’s stationary and not while he’s moving around. Knight 30 is just a decent mode that’s kind of boring without much of a good story or good characters that makes it easy to get through, which is where the poor decision to require this mode be beaten to get to the final modes that finish off the story in an epic way in the great Hero 30 style.
Half-Minute Hero does feature a good retro visual style that tries to mimic the NES/SNES style of games like Final Fantasy and other RPGs of that era. Because the PSP is capable of doing this style really well, the developers did a good job of maximizing the detail they could put into the sprites so that Hero’s many equipment items still look good in this pixelized style. There is even some beautiful art for these characters that shows up at a few points to let you know what these pixels really represent, which shows up in the Goddess Room mode that shows items, enemies, and other characters that you’ve seen in the game. The music here is really good as a sort of rock re-imagining of this retro style of RPG music that works well with this style of game.
Half-Minute Hero does a great job of being a refreshing experience that combines unique takes on four very different genres to tell an epic story into one of the most interesting PSP games we’ve played in a long time. Just getting through all of the modes can take a good 15 hours that doesn’t include the bit of replay value in Hero 30 with alternate bonus levels in Hero 30 and filling the Goddess Room with the things you find in the game, which is definitely worth the $30 that this will cost you. With the ton of sequels, spin-offs, and ports that the PSP is receiving this year, Half-Minute Hero easily stands out as a great original title that will probably fly under most gamers’ radars.
Final Score: 8.7 | Recommendation: Buy It