Time well spent
What if you were only given thirty seconds to save the world? That’s the premise behind XSEED Games and Marvelous Entertainment’s latest PSP role-playing game, Half-Minute Hero, a fast-paced RPG which sports a look that harkens back to the days of the 8-bit Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior games on the NES.
In actuality, Half-Minute Hero is four games on one disc (or download; it’s also available on the PlayStation Network for the benefit of PSPgo users). The first is “Hero 30″ mode, a role-playing game where you have 30 seconds to stop an evil overlord from casting a spell of destruction that will wipe out all of existence. This plays out like an accelerated version of the RPGs of old: you wander around a map fighting enemies at random, doing quests for townspeople, eventually building your level until you’re strong enough to take on the boss. If you run low on time, you can pay a fee to have the Time Goddess reset the game clock to 30 seconds. The price to do this goes up the more often you use it, so time management is key to survival.
Next is “Evil Lord 30″, a real-time strategy game where you play as one of the evil overlords, and you have to summon monsters to defeat your enemies within the time limit. You get three different types of units to summon: Brutes, which deal a lot of damage; Nimbles, which are very fast; and Shooters, which can attack from afar. Some enemies also share these types, so it’s crucial that you know what to use against them in order to complete the level without running out of time. Again, you can use the Time Goddess’ blessing to restore your game clock if you should get into trouble at any point.
The third game on the list is “Princess 30″, a scrolling shoot-em-up game where you control a princess with a rapid-fire crossbow. The objective here is to travel across the stage and blast your way through enemies and other hazards, defeat a boss enemy or pick up an item, and make it back to the castle before time runs out. Luckily, many of the levels are just short enough that you don’t have to worry about this (unless you get hit, causing you to lose soldiers and your chariot to slow down).
The fourth and final game here is “Knight 30″, and it’s only available after completing the first three. In this mode, you’re playing as a knight recently brought back from the dead by a powerful sage, who knows of a spell that can wipe out anything. You have to keep the sage alive for 30 seconds to complete the level, using weapons you find on the ground (or sometimes even your own body) in order to keep the enemies away (but not kill them, because they can’t die until the sage uses the “kill-everything” spell). Between stages, you’ll also get a chance to build traps for use in other levels, but it’s not likely that you’ll use them often, as the improvised weapons you find will do the job just nicely.
For a game centered around a gimmick (this one being “complete this objective in 30 seconds or die”), Half-Minute Hero is surprisingly deep. You’ll find yourself playing through the levels several times trying to find the quickest ruote to the end, and there is sometimes more than one way to complete a level. “Hero 30″ mode also has multiple branching paths, allowing you to find new enemies to fight and new equipment that can help you with later levels (but not earlier ones, as trying this will cause a time paradox). Weirdly, this is the only play mode like this, as the others are rather straightforward and lacking in content in comparison (not to say that they’re not fun on their own). The challenge level is reasonable enough all-around, and you won’t feel cheated by a loss at any point due to bad controls or some factor unaffected by skill.
As stated at the beginning of this review, the graphics are more reminiscent of an old Dragon Quest game than something like Tomb Raider or anything else one might find on the PSP. It’s most likely a stylistic choice, and one that works out well for this particular game (though it also includes a handful of nicely drawn cutscenes that appear from time to time). The only problem that can be said about the graphics would be enemy sprite repetition. With the PSP’s memory capacities, it would theoretically be possible to make hundreds, if not thousands of enemies, but some levels use the same sprites (sometimes not even changing their color) and change their name and statistics to pass them off as new enemies. The music, on the other hand, is another of the game’s consistently strong points, containing high quality orchestral and metal tracks from some of Japan’s finest composers (Toshihiko Takamizawa, Yuzo Koshiro, Hiroyuki Iwatsuki, etc.) adding a lot of necessary energy to a game as fast-paced as this one.Individually, each game on the disc is very enjoyable, though “Hero 30″ is clearly the most feature-packed game of the lot. The story, while admittedly thin, is still engaging, and pokes fun at some of the conventions of their respective genres, even making fun of itself at times (in one level of “Hero 30″, the Time Goddess wonders why her clothing is so impractical for a snow-covered level you have to explore). While Half-Minute Hero is meant to be played in short bursts, it’s of such good quality that you’ll hardly want to let go of it. I give this one a 4 (out of 5).