June 30, 2010

Catching Up With Half-Minute Hero

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 1:45 pm

Half-Minute Hero
While perfectly suited to quick traveling bouts of play, it wasn’t hard losing an entire day to Half-Minute Hero when I finally caught up with the 2009 XSEED PSP release last week. The game offers four primary modes of play, allowing it to boast a marketing pitch that unites a shooter, RPG, and RTS on a single UMD, all thematically tied together by the thirty-second hook that makes this release the bat-shit crazy and addictive game it is.

Evil Lord 30 mode sunk its teeth in the deepest, an RTS campaign wherein players partake in a summoning spree while guiding the vainest Evil Lord in existence toward returning the only woman he may love more than himself back to human form after being transformed into a bat.

Each quick stage along the path to victory allows players to summon four monster types and seek out elemental gods to overcome armies while blood crazed techno-rock music breathes heavy in the ears – I want to suggest it’s that heavy sort of breathing you get when more familiar gaming tunes go bar hopping with the Future Sound of London.

Half-Minute Hero
It’s often exhausting coming down off the high that E3 brings, there are only so many details to obsess over on titles that may or may not make it to retail shelves this year, and it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up with a few games that I’ve missed along the way for one reason or another.

Admittedly there’s no good excuse for taking this long to try Half-Minute Hero, and certainly there are some fans who might rightly consider the oversight a war crime on my part. Then again, saving some games for desperate times is sort of like eating everything around the prime-rib at dinner time, and Marvelous’ slant on the tried and true is every bit the dish to savor.

Half-Minute Hero

Half-Minute Hero wears the hook in its title, and wastes no time turning genres on their ears. Inspired by a freeware Japanese Flash game, the lengthy trials and tribulations of the RPG are boiled down in Hero 30 mode, when evil forces summon a spell of destruction that will destroy the world in thirty-seconds. The player literally has thirty-seconds to follow the RPG path – traveling the over world, fighting random encounters, keeping their health on the rise, and reaching the castle to defeat the evil doer before the clock strikes zero.

I’m not typically one for time limits in videogames, so I was sweating the premise before the game finished loading for the first time. Fortunately time can be extended however, courtesy of a Time Goddess who happens to love ever increasing sums of money enough to refresh the sands in the hour glass – add to this a few precious spots where time stands still and there’s a fighting chance to survive and win the day after all.

The funny thing is that I often forget about the timer entirely, rushing into battles where my hero rams himself into various monsters until the health of either depletes – the player merely watches these battles take place in Hero 30 mode, which keeps healing on the top of the to-do list.

After breezing through the first stage to save the world, it turns out that there are plenty of other evil doers who’ve learned the spell of destruction, so a hero’s work is never quickly done, but happily neither is the game.

Half-Minute Hero
The additional modes on the disc may differ greatly in the play, but still find means to subscribe to the central constraint. Princess 30 mode is the shooter entry, with a princess given thirty-second intervals to leave the castle in search of healing herbs for her father – accompanied by soldiers that fire arrows in any direction along the way.

There’s also the previously mentioned Evil Lord 30 mode, my personal favorite so far – these three modes represent the initial offering, begging for completion before three additional bonus modes are added.

Half-Minute Hero

Aside from switching from mode to mode on the go, creating what I strongly feel is one of the best quick session portable games available for the PSP, the real charm of Half-Minute Hero is the way it delivers so much to do while cutting away so much of the fat from the bloated genres its time trick is applied to – namely the RTS and RPG bits. At a time when so many games within both those genres are seeking to raise the bar on everything aside from actual play controls, Half-Minute Hero is a much needed slap upside the head.

Certainly the game gets by on charming retro looks, mixed with some more modern splices of visual cues around the edges, but at the simplest level the game merely takes the core fundamentals and strips away the window dressing, so that for better or worse an RPG shows through as two figures chipping away at each-others health until victory is achieved.

Maybe that’s why Evil Lord 30 was my quick favorite among the modes, the necessity of summoning creatures with different attributes per each type of enemy encountered giving a greater sense of user participation on my part. XSEED’s localization likely lends said Evil Lord some help in winning me over as well.

More importantly, the way Evil Lord 30 strips away dressings from the RTS, but leaves so many options and so much game still on the table really speaks to the strengths of that genre – as well as my feeling that a quickened pace of strategy still remains largely untapped and waiting for handheld and console potential.

Half-Minute Hero

Princess 30 helps round out the disc without offering anything quite so religiously awakening, certainly not enough to pull me away from beloved bullet hells available elsewhere. And yet it still successfully fits the formula established by that first humorous spin on the RPG, creating frantic bouts of play with supremely simplistic controls from complex and layered pillars of the medium.

Perhaps the game even suggests that beneath all the added text, graphic realism, management skills, and other concerns of modern gaming, the medium hasn’t really strayed all too far from the fundamentals.

That doesn’t have to come across as a smart-ass agenda on the game’s part either, but merely a means of refreshing our perspective some. All that really matters is that Half-Minute Hero can do the job in thirty-seconds that many other games can’t accomplish in 40-hours – delivering a joyous little diversion that suits the handheld time-frame by the very nature of the game’s simple and straight-forward design.

If you also happened to miss the release last year, don’t compound my oversight any further and track yourself down a UMD or digital copy immediately.


  1. Funny how things work out! Timing and all. :)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — June 30, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

  2. This is the type of game I would like to own: something you can play for 5-10 minutes at a time and then return to the next day. My game related free time has been shrinking with every passing day and thus I tend to favor shorter games or those that allow you to save very often (which is why I do 80% of my gaming on my DSi thanks to it’s sleep mode).

    Comment by EdEN — June 30, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

  3. I’ve been pretty much the same way lately, playing 5 or 6 games at once in bits and bites and lucking out with some titles that really favor that.

    Comment by Jamie Love — June 30, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress