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Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Review

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Don't blink or you'll miss this pleasantly ludicrous parody of 16-bit Japanese role-playing games.

Oh time goddess, you wind my clock!

Back in 2009, the PSP's batty little role-playing takeoff Half-Minute Hero managed to parody everything you loved (and possibly hated) about the Japanese RPG of yore. The new port to Xbox Live Arcade comes with redrawn high-def artwork, a bizarre online multiplayer mode, and the subtitle Super Mega Neo Climax, which makes roughly as much sense as anything else in this truly odd game. Actually, the best enhancement to this new version is exposure to a wider audience. At what's now considered a modest downloadable price of $10, it's worth tuning in just to witness the baffling humor and hyperkinetic spectacle that is Half-Minute Hero.

Superficially, everything about the game comes straight from the 16-bit RPG classics of the '90s. There's a new magic spell making the rounds on the evil-bad-guy scene that destroys all of creation 30 seconds after it's uttered, and naturally you're the only hero fast and strong enough to stop one "evil lord" after another from getting their rocks off by undoing everything that is. Except, instead of spending 30 hours leveling up your character and questing across the land to take down the bad guy du jour, you spend 30 seconds. There's simple comedic value in the speed that your little sprite dude zooms around the overworld map and powers through random battles without any input from you. Not only do you level up after practically every battle, sometimes you gain three or four levels at once. I'm not going to lie, after spending dozens of hours grinding through character progression in plenty of other RPGs, getting to level 30 in a matter of seconds is a pretty thrilling thing.

The game has a really odd structure that sends you through a main quest comprised of around 30 missions, then has you play a number of epilogue quests with different characters before reconvening for a five-minute showdown (truly epic by this game's standards) with the ultimate evil. Each of the 30-second quests in that main campaign actually breaks down more like a short puzzle than a bonafide RPG experience, though. Since you've got that timer incessantly ticking down until the world ends, you're hauling ass between towns and caves, keeps, and dungeons trying to level up and fulfill any specific quest objectives before time runs out. Your saving grace is that a wisecracking goddess of time will reset the counter back to 30 whenever you lavish tithes upon her back in town, so you can grind out cash and then pay to extend your questing time. The catch is, the goddess's price goes up every time you use her services, so there's a balancing act going on where you're trying to cram in more activity in a given quest without pricing yourself out of the ability to keep resetting time at all.

The XBLA version offers new-school HD artwork.

Since the game is inherently lampooning the idea that traditional RPGs are too slow and repetitive, it's ironic that Half-Minute Hero almost gets too repetitive itself. The core of what you're doing--leveling up and gaining some new weapons and companions so you can go kill yet another big bad--never changes, and that repetition starts to feel a little like a grind after a while. Luckily the game's humor is positively daft, and it's worth plowing through all those quests just to see what nonsense they throw at you next. One of the bosses is a giant bat named... Badbat, and other bosses take the form of crabs, giant feet, and trees. The goddess of time is fond of awful wordplay but then turns right around and mocks herself for it. Other characters make referential jokes about the game reusing sprites from earlier quests. It's impossible not to grin or even laugh out loud regularly while you play through this game.

This XBLA port features a full visual overhaul in HD, which is subject to taste. I found some of the art to be splendid and other parts questionable, but regardless of style or quality, there's something satisfying about seeing your hero wearing a barrel as a suit of armor, or decking himself out in snorkeling gear and flippers so he can cross a 16-bit waterway from island to island. The PSP version's original retro graphics are also still in here, if you prefer those. I appreciated their inclusion, but in some cases the sprites were blown up so big on a normal-sized television that they were kind of hard to look at and interpret as meaningful images. Your experience may vary. That's the nice thing about having options!

That "Super Hero Wars" multiplayer mode is just as weird as it ought to be, swaddled as it is in all this other lunacy. It pits you against other players to see who can make it through a given quest faster. But there are all these weird limitations in place. For instance, shops only have one of each item to sell, so you're even racing other players just to arm yourself. And only one player at a time sinks their money into resetting the clock, which benefits all players--but if nobody does it, everyone loses. So there are a lot of ways you can screw over the other players to get ahead in the race to beat the boss. (It helps if you cackle while doing this.) The multiplayer is oddly exhilarating, which is definitely a contrast to the slow baby-making jam that plays in the lobby where you set up matches against other people.

Or you can kick it straight 16-bit.

If you're interested in chasing after completeness (read: achievements), Super Mega Neo Climax has a neat setup that lets you keep track of what you have and haven't done. There are milestones for collecting all the extra weapons and armor, as well as partying up with all the available NPCs, and the game clearly shows your progress on those fronts on a per-mission basis. The path through the main quest branches more than once, so you can also easily go back and follow the other branches to see the quests you missed. And naturally there are leaderboards for getting better times on the previous quests, and the game rewards you for doing things like finishing 10 different missions in less than 30 seconds (real seconds, not turning-back-the-clock goddess ones).

A game that devotes itself so fully to its ridiculous premise deserves to be seen by more people, so it's great that Half-Minute Hero has reappeared with some nice enhancements on a service that more people have access to, and at a price point that doesn't preclude an impulse purchase. I don't know that the core concept has the legs to support a a sequel, but in the here and now I'm awfully glad this game exists.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
56 Comments
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Posted by billnyethesciencepie

HEY GUYS I READ THIS REVIEW IN 30 SECONDS

Posted by Edin899
@billnyethesciencepie said:
HEY GUYS I READ THIS REVIEW IN 30 SECONDS
smh
Posted by animathias

Oh wow, I didn't realize this was only $10, I thought it was $15.

I might just have to pick this up, as it looks pretty good. Thanks for the review!

Posted by MEATBALL

I'm not sure this is a game I'd really enjoy, but I'll likely give the trial a go and make sure.

Posted by InfiniteGeass

This game is great, and I really like the new art style.

Posted by ervonymous

@InfiniteGeass: Me too, it looked pretty bland to me before release but something clicked the moment I saw it on my own TV.

Posted by ComradeCrash

I might just download the trial now.

Posted by reversesquiggly

I liked Half-Minute Hero for PSP. I had no idea that this existed. I'll have to check it out.

Posted by FreakAche

Wow! I had no idea this was coming to XBLA! I always thought this game looked awesome! I should probably pick it up.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

I played the heck out of this on the PSP, and I gladly picked it up again for $10 today. I think I still prefer the old art style, but I've been playing with the new art anyways for a change of pace (and since, as Brad stated, the new graphics look a bit better blown up on the ol' television). I still need to check out the MP though, which sounds insane.

Man, I love this wacky-ass game. Folks should definitely at least check out the demo.

Posted by transience

I love the shit out of this game. glad it got reviewed unlike the PSP game.  

Edited by Maginnovision

I'm ok having beat it on PSP, although multiplayer could be interesting. Probably won't be buying it, but it is a good game.

P.S.

I do not like the new "hd" art.

Posted by Gramiero

Any plans for a PSN release of this, or are they keeping it strictly PSP for Sony consoles? I'd really love to play it.

Posted by fox01313

Still like the ideas & gameplay of this from what I saw of it on the PSP/Quick Look, though really not liking the new art style.

Posted by iAmJohn

Easily one of the best PSP games and one of my favorite portable games ever.  I hope more people check this out now.  Thankfully they included the PSP art, though, because the new stuff just looks wrong.

Posted by transience

the trial is actually kind of a bad representation. the first stage is slow-paced and kinda sucks and that's all the demo is.

Posted by rmanthorp

@billnyethesciencepie said:

HEY GUYS I READ THIS REVIEW IN 30 SECONDS

HEY I READ THIS COMMENT AND CAME UP WITH A WITTY REPLY IN 30 SECONDS

Moderator
Posted by SuperWristBands

I've been interested in this game since it came out on PSP but never got around to buying it. Now I have it (at least the hero part anyway) and I love it. I also think the new HD art is an improvement over the original but I also tend to dig that kind of stuff over 8(16?)-bit art.

Also, does anyone know if the other game modes will be DLC? I noticed on the single-player menu had are a lot of "?????????" and the achievements only list Hero 30 and Hero 300 (with hard modes). I know the PSP had more game types and I would love it if they would release those as well.

Posted by MisterMouse

I couldn't really take the pressure on the psp, so I dont think I will be able to take it here.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

@transience said:

the trial is actually kind of a bad representation. the first stage is slow-paced and kinda sucks and that's all the demo is.

That sucks. With how short the levels are, you'd think they could have picked more/better stages. I hate when good games have bad demos, and might turn people away from a good product.

@Sasran said:

Also, does anyone know if the other game modes will be DLC? I noticed on the single-player menu had are a lot of "?????????" and the achievements only list Hero 30 and Hero 300 (with hard modes). I know the PSP had more game types and I would love it if they would release those as well.

Hero 30, Hero 300, and Hero 3 (which I could never fucking beat on the PSP version, it's kind of ridiculous) are still all present. I believe I remember reading those extra game modes got turned into stages that are more in the Hero 30 style. While those extra modes are a mixed bag, it would have been nice if they were included. I really enjoyed the Dark Lord 30 mode (which is like an RTS), but the Princess 30 mode (top down shooter) was just okay.

Posted by mau64

So about how long is this game? How long was the PSP version. I'm really confused on how much time this game actually takes. I guess I should just try the demo and see if it would be worth it.

Posted by JimmyRedd

The graphics in the live version look awesome, I might check this out.

Posted by benjaebe

I had no idea this was out on XBLA. I might have to pick it up.

Posted by NathHaw

slow baby-making jam

Posted by kollay

30 seconds to climax? Pishaw.

Posted by endaround

Already bad mouthing the sequel Brad?

Posted by RobertOrri

I heard a lot of great things about the PSP version, I will definitely check this out on XBLA.

Posted by Fink

A few people said they are trying the demo first. Is the demo 15 seconds then?

Posted by Dany

I don't know that the core concept has the legs to support a a sequel, but in the here and now I'm awfully glad this game exists.

Should not matter.

Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

I was really pumped for this until I found out it was a remake and not a sequel. I already 100% completed the PSP version, even unlocked the music select. Bring on Half Minute Hero 2!

Posted by SuperWristBands

@beard_of_zeus: That's good to hear. Sounds like there is still quite a lot of game for $10.

Posted by MrAristocrates

I loved the PSP Half Minute Hero. I'll be getting this.

Posted by CrashTanuki

Seems about right. Changing EvilLord, Princess, and Knight 30 into Hero 30-style modes makes the game more tedious than it was originally and homogenizes what was an extremely unique game on the PSP. That they spent money to overhaul a few modes seems like a waste of time and money that would've been better spent elsewhere, like better art style options that aren't a stretched PSP image or a low budget, flash-style cartoon look.
 
I don't know why Brad questions the need for a sequel when one already exists. It would've been nice if they had reviewed the original, but I guess the extreme disinterest in portable games amongst the Giant Bomb staff went against that idea.

Edited by PirateNipple
@transience said:

the trial is actually kind of a bad representation. the first stage is slow-paced and kinda sucks and that's all the demo is.


That's not true, I downloaded just the trial and played the first 3 stages and it looked like I had the chance to play the 4th too, but I was already late for something and had to go. It does have one of those "buy the game now!" splash screens after each level, but you can hit "continue" instead of "buy now" or "quit" or whatever and keep going.
Posted by Redbullet685

I want to get this, but I'll wait for it to be HALF off. Sorry.

Posted by TheMartino

Despite 100%ing the PSP version, I'm loving the hell out of this.

Also on the new art - I hated it in screenshots but after giving it a fair shake, I have to say I'm a fan.

Posted by sirdesmond
@Maginnovision: I agree about the art, from what I've seen so far it seems to just be a bit off to me, especially when the first game looked so great! They didn't really need to change a thing.
Posted by Taiyo

Is this coming to PSN?

Posted by BoG

I downloaded the demo just before seeing this review. At first, I thought the game looked really cheap, thrown together. Upon delving deeper, I found a fun challenge that takes stereotypical RPG elements and turns them into a sort of puzzle. Really fun, clever game.
Moderator
Edited by Crono

I always like the flow of GBs reviews. When Jeff and Vinny first looked at this game in 2009 I was really interested. The only problem was that it was on the PSP and despite owning one, I just did not want to invest money into the system as I rarely used it and was afraid the same would happen with this title. Now that it is on the 360 I have no excuse and from this review it sounds like the $10 price point makes this a bargain.

Posted by LiquidPenguins

Honestly, I agree. The game is a lot of fun, and does a very honest and justified parody of the JRPG genre. However it is pretty repetitive. At $10 it is a very modestly priced title and should be played by any JRPG fan. However, it has a few faults, like repetitive objectives and awkward pacing. However, if you have a passing interest in the JRPG genre you really owe it to yourself to check this game out.

Posted by redlitez76

the psp game is awesome. 360 owners should give it a try.

Posted by Chris2KLee

Looks like it's worth a double dip to me. Loved it on PSP, and that 360 Avatar award costume is too sweet.

Posted by radioactivez0r

Even if I don't really like it much, I feel like I need to experience this game. 
 
Also Brad, I dig your writing, but personally I don't think "I'm not going to lie" has any place in a real journalistic piece.

Posted by Xpgamer7

Can't wait to play it, although I'll be sticking to Pixel art thank you very much.

Posted by Bollard

Anyone who didn't get the PSP version should get this. I've LPd the entirety of Dark Lord 30, and most of Hero 30 - I never got round to finishing it though. This might change my mind, it really is a great game (assuming this is just a straight port.)

Posted by FacePuncher

This game had old-school difficultly to it. If i had an 360, i would most likely buy it. for shame

Posted by Vexxan

Sounds promising, might give it a shot.

Posted by Nekroskop

@kollay:

That's what she said...

Posted by dropabombonit

Played this on PSP and it was great, hope for a PSN version of this

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