July 5, 2011

Review – Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax

Review Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax
“Are other RPGs going to seem too slow after playing this?”

My wife posed this question as she watched me play (deep breath) Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax (okay, just typing that takes half a minute, so we’ll shorten it to HMH). Also, her question was definitely valid.

At first glance HMH seems like a typical Japanese RPG. It successfully incorporates all the genre’s staples – namely it takes place in a colorful fantasy world, there’s an impending apocalypse, you play as a humble hero entrusted with saving the world, you level up via random battles, you visit towns and villages to purchase items and upgrades, you can embark on optional side-quests, and more –only it speeds them up to the point that sometimes you’ll feel like you’re watching a time-lapse video of someone playing Dragon Quest.

In other words, it’s like playing an RPG on speed. Well, okay, I don’t use drugs, but I imagine the pace of HMH is akin to seeing the world through the eyes of some junkie on a street corner who pictures himself to be a Native American hunting buffalo as he throws Styrofoam cups at passing cars. It’s no wonder the lovely Missus Raroo worried that other RPGs would be tough to play after HMH.

Just for kicks, I powered up my Nintendo DS to see if Dragon Quest VI would feel sluggish. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to transition from the lightning speed pace of HMH to the more humble tempo of Dragon Quest, though I will admit that I kept thinking “Hurry up! Don’t waste time! Just run forward into those monsters and move on to the next battle!”

You’d think that this would suggest RPGs have indeed been ruined for me, but by the power of foreshadowing I’ll just say that HMH may not be what it initially appears to be…

Review Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax
The game is broken down into a large number of bite-sized levels, and they all play out similarly. At the start of each stage you’ll quickly be shown where the boss’s castle is located, be provided with hints for clearing the level, and then be cut loose to take care of business in 30 seconds or less. And, more than likely, you’ll fail miserably and curse the game for being so difficult.

“30 seconds? Are you kidding me? Impossible!”

But all hope is not lost, for lo and behold the Time Goddess appears after the first time you see the Game Over screen and offers to lend a hand. Watch out though, because she’s kind of a jerk! Even though she becomes a fixture in your party and provides you with useful advice throughout your adventure, she’s really only in it to get paid. And pay her you will, unless you’re some crazy gaming savant who can do things like perfectly clear Ikaruga on one credit while controlling both ships at the same time. In that case, you’ll probably boast on some message board that you wish the game was Quarter-Minute Hero.

If you choose to make a pact with the greedy Time Goddess (and you will), the flow of time will stop while you visit towns and villages, and you can pay to pray to Goddess statues to set the timer back to a full 30 seconds. Each time you pray it’s more costly, though, so clearing stages quickly is to your benefit. And should you not have enough money in your pocket when you offer up your prayer, the Time Goddess is willing to still help out, provided you cough up all of your possessions. No thanks, lady!

Review Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax
Perhaps even more important than gaining extra time is the fact that when you reset the clock, anything that has transpired on the world map is taken back to square one. Throughout the journey you’ll be faced with the likes of forest fires and avalanches that halt your progress, so being able to have the time to scurry your way ahead of these disasters becomes a necessity. And it is in this time-resetting mechanic that the true identity of HMH emerges: It’s not really an RPG!

Each stage presents a simple set of puzzle-like challenges, and figuring out the best course of action required to clear the levels in the shortest amount of time is critical. There are also occasional branching paths to discover as well as special accolades to earn by fulfilling certain obligations. Before long you’ll become obsessed with replaying stages to shave just a tiny bit off your best time in order to move up the ranks on the online leaderboards. Thus, HMH is more or less a speedrun puzzle game with RPG trappings. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me!

It doesn’t hurt that the developers obviously put a lot of care into every aspect of the game’s design. Not only are the stages clever and fun to replay, but the game looks and sounds wonderful. There are two visual styles to choose from, so whether you prefer a hand-drawn, cartoony look or more old-school pixel graphics, HMH has you covered. The real star of the presentation, however, is the music. It mixes vintage RPG melodies with modern metal elements, and it offers just the right amount of over-the-top sound to match the tongue-in-cheek approach the game takes.

Review Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax
Beyond how the game looks and sounds, what is perhaps most charming about HMH is that it’s hilarious. Many games try too hard to be funny and fall flat on their faces, but the gags in HMH stay snappy and on-target the whole time. If you skip past the dialogue, you’ll miss most of the subtle jokes and self-referential humor. I love how each stage starts out with dramatic music accompanied by a title screen, which becomes more than a little absurd before too long (Half-Minute Hero XXVI?!). Even more silly is that the credits roll whenever a stage is completed, meaning you’ll probably see them every few minutes. Humor like this permeates throughout the entire game.

There’s very little to dislike about HMH. The largest complaint is that it lacks the breadth of content found in the original PSP game it’s based upon. The PSP release had some really neat additional modes that were essentially speedy shooting and strategy games, but while technically present in the XBLA game, they have been revamped and substantially stripped down to play more similarly to the main mode. Very disappointing, but perhaps these absent modes will appear at a later date as downloadable content.

It’s worth pointing out that there is an added online multiplayer mode, but I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t try it out since I rarely play online games. Even so, the amount of included single-player content is still well worth the price of admission alone, and it’s important to remember that HMH is but a third of the price on XBLA than it is on PSP. Trust me, you get plenty of bang for your buck.

Review Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo Climax
The only other ding in HMH’s armor is that controlling your character can be a little cumbersome at times, which might cause you to unnecessarily lose valuable time. That’s certainly problematic if you’re aiming to improve your clear times. You have the ability to dash while moving on the world map and fighting battles, but doing so costs you valuable health, so sparing use of your fleet feet is recommended. Plus, as if controlling your character wasn’t already a bit challenging, it becomes even trickier when dashing. All the same, the dash has allowed me to make it back to the safety of a village with but milliseconds to spare, so it has proven its worth on multiple occasions.

I wonder how many people will approach HMH expecting it to be a typical JRPG and be disappointed or confused? Hopefully not many, because HMH is awesome. Even though the game resembles an RPG and imaginatively incorporates the genre’s best elements, there’s really nothing else quite like it. It’s witty, charismatic, comical, challenging, and highly replayable. And I can safely say its speedy pace won’t end up spoiling other RPGs for you, either! Unless you hate supporting creativity and fresh ideas in game design, there’s little reason not to drop 800 Microsoft bucks and treat yourself to one of the best XBLA games of the year.

Marvelous Entertainment

Marvelous Entertainment

Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE Arcade)

Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
June 29, 2011

800 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. Thanks for the review Mister Raroo! I’ll probably double dip when it goes on sale but thanks for the tip! Now if I could only find the time to make one more silly rhyme. Woot!

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — July 6, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  2. I’m waiting for the sequel to be released so I can get the first one at a discount on PSN hehehe.

    Comment by EdEN — July 6, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

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