Do you ever wish that RPGs weren’t so long and time-consuming? That it didn’t require so much grinding? Do you ever long for the days of classic 8-bit RPGs that didn’t have elaborate battle systems or intricate leveling or skill system? If so, Half-Minute Hero could be just the RPG for you, since it requires you to save the world in a mere 30 seconds. Actually, it’s not exactly as simple as that, but Half-Minute Hero is definitely a different experience from what you’re used to.
Half-Minute Hero is a difficult game to describe. It’s also difficult to label, since it’s part RPG, part strategy, and part action. The game consists of 4 different modes: Hero 30, Evil Lord 30, Princess 30 and Knight 30. Each of the modes has a completely different protagonist and gameplay style.
Without a doubt, the biggest mode is Hero 30, which is also the most fun. Hero 30 consists of a series of self-contained mini-RPGs (or stages). You’ll complete 30 of them to finish the mode, but branching paths bring the mode’s content up to a total of 50 stages. Each story consists of almost the same plot: the hero must fight an evil lord who is about to cast a spell of destruction that can be cast in 30 seconds. Therefore, the goal is to defeat him within these 30 seconds and save the world. Of course, you have some tools at your disposal here, and you’re not exactly limited to only 30 seconds. In the game, you are aided by a Time Goddess that allows you to reset the countdown back to 30 seconds in exchange for cash, since the time goddess looooves money. Unfortunately, every time you use that ability (which is available through a time goddess statue in some villages), the price goes up, which means that you’ll have to spend some time fighting enemies in order to get money to reset the time. It’s basically a balancing act between finishing the fight against the evil lord as fast as possible and spending a bit more time and using money to reset the countdown a few more times, which would allow you to perhaps do some little sidequests here and there or level up some more to buy better equipment.
Along the way, there are villages where you can talk to people to get an idea of what you need to do next and heal yourself, buy some better equipment, or use the time goddess statue to reset the time to 30 seconds again. Fortunately, while in villages, time is stopped, so you don’t have to worry about the countdown. Battles in Hero 30 are random encounters, and only consist of your hero and enemies bumping into each other at high speed until one of them dies. It all goes very fast, so each battle should take between 1 and 5 seconds, depending on how tough the enemies are and how powerful your hero is. You don’t even have to do anything in the battles; everything happens automatically. Just like everything else in the game, leveling is quick, and your hero can go from level 1 to level 10 in just a few fights, so grinding in this game basically means spending less than a minute to fight enemies. If you’re pressed for time while moving from one location to another on the overworld (because the countdown is about to expire), you can dash, which makes your character go incredibly fast, but will reduce his HP. However, this tradeoff is sometimes needed to save your butt in a dire situation.
Each “stage” or “mini RPG” (whatever you want to call it) typically lasts less than 3 or 4 minutes — sometimes much less. It’s very entertaining to see how they were able to fit all the typical aspects of RPGs (talking to NPCs, leveling up, buying equipment, fighting enemies, visiting various locations and fighting an end boss) into every “stage” despite the tight time frame for gameplay. You’re even treated to end credits at the end of every stage, which (thankfully) can be sped through with the press of a button.
At the end of every stage, your character resets to Level 1, but you get to keep all the equipment you’ve accumulated throughout the game. When starting a new stage, you get to choose which equipment you want to use, and those choices can be important. For example, bringing a weapon that does more damage to insects might be a good thing to do in a stage where there are a lot of insect enemies. In the end, Hero 30 is where you’ll spend most of your time, and even though it sounds pretty weird, it’s actually quite a bit of fun to play.
I’m not going to explain the other modes in as much detail, since they are shorter and explaining every gameplay aspect of every mode would make this review pretty long and boring. Evil Lord 30 is a bit of a real-time strategy game. Once again, each stage is made to be played in a very short time. You basically have to summon allies of 3 different types to defeat enemies of 3 different types, so it’s a matter of summoning the allies that work well against the type of enemies you’re up against. There’s a bit more to it, but that’s the gist of it.
Princess 30, on the other hand, is all about action. Your hero, a princess, shoots arrows with her giant crossbow, and her stages involve shooting enemies in every direction until you get certain items in the field before going back to your castle.
The last mode, Knight 30, puts you in the shoes of a knight who has to protect a sage through a series of stages. The goal of each stage is to protect the sage while he casts a spell that takes 30 seconds to cast. You have many ways of doing this, so there’s a bit of strategy involved and many ways of achieving the end result. You can attack the enemies that try to get to the sage, you can grab the sage and carry him to safer places, you can distract enemies with various items, etc. Once again, there’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to delve into the details too much.
Once you’ve finished all 4 modes, you gain access to Hero 300, which is the last mode you need to complete to finish the game. Hero 300 is basically the same thing as Hero 30, but as the name suggests, you have 300 seconds instead of 30 to save the world. The catch is that you can’t reset time like you can in Hero 30, so it’s pretty challenging, and you’ll have to restart many times in order to find ways to save time while getting through this stage. After finishing this stage, you have won, and the game is essentially over. As a bonus, you get access to one final mode: Hero 3. Yes, you guessed it, it’s a stage where you only have 3 seconds to save the world, and it is nearly impossible to beat. This stage is only for people who love a challenge, as it is very frustrating.
Graphically, Half-Minute Hero is a difficult game to judge. As you can see from the screenshots of the game, the graphics are very minimal and pixelated. It looks like an 8-bit RPG, and sometimes even worse, but this was intentional on the part of the developer. Half-Minute Hero is one part homage to and one part satire of the old 8-bit RPGs. As such, they went with the 8-bit graphics because it fits with what they were intending to do. It’s also hilarious to see the HUGE pixelated characters in the game. As I said, since it’s a bit of a spoof of old 8-bit RPGs, they chose to go overboard with the ugly graphics to make it funny. Of course, this is an original PSP RPG and if I compare the graphics to other PSP RPGs, it obviously pales in comparison whether it’s intentional or not. That’s why the graphics score I’m giving is very low, but keep in mind that it’s intentional and that it did not bother me one bit. I certainly understand their decision, and it doesn’t detract from the experience. If anything, it adds to it.
The same can be said about the sound: sound effects are minimal and simplistic in order to emulate the old 8-bit RPGs. For the same reason, there are no voices to be found. As far as music goes, I would say the soundtrack is average. It’s not bad, but I also didn’t think it was amazing. It does the job, but it’s not going to be a classic that we’ll remember for years to come. For more details on the music of Half-Minute Hero, check out editor Pat Gann’s review in our soundtrack section.
In terms of storyline, Half-Minute Hero is pretty generic, although once again, it’s done intentionally as a satire. Bosses in the game are one-dimensional, so you won’t find any Ghaleon or Sephiroth in here. For example, an evil lord in this game could decide to destroy the world simply because he broke his favorite vase and he’s angry about it. Their reasons for being “evil” are often over-the-top mundane and take a shot at some of the old villains from classic 8-bit RPGs. This brings me to my next point…
With all of the bad scores I’ve given on individual categories for this game, you might be wondering why I’m still recommending it. Well, it’s simple: Half-Minute Hero is the kind of game that is more than the sum of its parts. It has a certain charm to it. First of all, the game is innovative. There’s no other game like it anywhere on any videogame system. It goes against every convention that says that RPGs are supposed to be slow-paced, long, and intricate. At the same time, it incorporates most of the features that make RPGs what they are, but it does it in a completely different way, and that’s what makes it interesting and fun. Since it’s a satire of old-school RPGs, it’s also a very funny game that doesn’t take itself seriously and pokes fun at the genre. You’ll love characters like the money-obsessed time goddess, the overly narcissistic Evil Lord, the innocent and sweet princess that is dumb as a rock and more. You also can’t help but chuckle at the game’s attempts to laugh at itself, like when it apologizes to the player at one point in the game about starting to use palette-swapping on the enemies, or the fact that they’re starting to run out of ideas for the various evil lords in the many stages.
Half-Minute Hero obviously isn’t a big budget title, and you might be tempted to stay away from it because of the weird name and outdated graphics and sound. However, if you take the time to sit down and play the game, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the game’s humor and originality. It might not be the longest RPG out there at around 10-15 hours, but Half-Minute Hero is a game that’s worth experiencing, and most importantly, you’ll have fun doing it.