Starting out as a typical RPG Half-Minute Hero quickly throws the entire RPG genre on it’s head. With the help of the Time Goddess you set out on a quest to defeat the Ultimate Evil Lord and along the way stop every other Evil Lord that is casting the 30 second spell of destruction.
Half-Minute Hero may not have a very deep or dark story but it makes this up with its charm. The time goddess goes along with you on your journey to save to world, but she does this out of her own petty greed. She goes so far as to charge you more and more money each time you turn back the clock. Another side character is an egoistic Evil Lord who you get to play as in a different game mode.
The game is littered with references from other games, a notable one being a monochrome world where the Evil Lord speaks in Engrish saying the phrases from the game Zero Wing. This kind of humor is everywhere making it easy to overlook the lack of a noteworthy story.
The premise of the game is very simple, you have 30 seconds to save the world from certain doom. Yes I said it right, you have 30 seconds to grind, finish quests, buy equipment and defeat the boss. To help you with this impossible feat most towns have a Time Goddess statue where you can reset time by paying an ever increasing amount of gold. The best practice is to use up every millisecond possible before resetting time in order to be as efficient as possible.
The game features random battles, but fear not these are the shortest battles seen in any RPG. The battles occur automatically with the hero and enemies charging directly at one another. Here you have the choice do you retreat, let the hero fight at his pace or dash through the battle.
Dashing drains your HP in battles and on the world map. This brings an interesting dilemma, should I dash around and risk dying or should I take it slow and waste a lot more time. Losing all your HP doesn’t spell game over, but it does warp you back to the beginning of the level, leaving you with the time you had remaining and very little HP.
Because of its fast paced battle system grinding never feels like a chore. You can literally gain a dozen of levels in a tens of seconds. Which makes replaying levels a delight. This kind of bite sized gameplay is perfect on the go. Even the longer levels don’t take more than 2 minutes to play through.
Time travel is not here just to make sure that you can cope with so little time, but it also influences the current level. For example some shops only sell certain items during certain times of day. Paths or quests can be blocked off if you don’t reach them at the right moment. This adds an additional layer of depth to the game.
Besides the Hero 30 mode, the game also features a variety of other modes each with their own gameplay and story. There is the Evil Lord 30 mode where you play a RTS like game and Princess 30 mode where the games is essentially a shooter. As the name implies both of these modes also give you only 30 seconds with different ways to earn more time. There a couple of other modes which are initially locked, but I won’t spoil them.
The game uses 8bit retro graphics, with everything being very pixelated. All your equipment is visible on your character which is rarely seen in RPGs today. During your quest you will travel through many varied locations some of which are mountains, deserts, caves, forests, beaches and ice plains. The sound track is very good and features a lot of memorable tracks. Because of the quick pace of the game the music is usually upbeat and energetic, but if a particular song is bugging you you can pick what track you want during your quest.
The game took me around 17 hours to complete 100%. 17 hours may be a bit short for an RPG, but there was still a lot of replay value after that, with a harder difficulty setting, different trophy-like objectives for each level as well as a target time for each level. The game features multiple paths, which are unlocked depending on how you completed previous levels. Additionally there are a few alternative endings in some levels, further increasing the replay value.
Half-Minute Hero is available for the PSP and Vita on the PSN. There is also a Xbox 360 version which is on the Xbox Live Arcade. However, the Xbox version lacks many of the additional modes found in the PSP version. Half-Minute Hero is also available through Steam and has some of the modes that where missing from the Xbox version. Both the Xbox and Windows versions have a different, more vectorized, art style, but fortunately you can change back to the retro look of the original.
Half-Minute Hero is one of the best titles I played on the PSP. Its has innovative gameplay, a ton of modes and with it’s bite size level structure is a perfect game on the go. The retro graphics just add style to this already amazing game. Since Half-Minute Hero is available for almost everything, you don’t have an excuse to not try out this gem.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the official site: “Real heroes can get it done in less than 30 seconds!”