271st played so far


Genre: Action/Strategy
Platform: PSP
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment/XSEED Games/Rising Star Games

Some games just have an odd concept that leave you wondering, before you even boot the game, how it can work, with its basic concept being weird enough that you’re wondering where it goes from there. Although, if done well, these things can evolve into a good game (dragging Fat Princesses around a map or through people around a city in Pain), others work out less, with a recent example being Freak Out‘s stretching-based play.

Half-Minute Hero‘s concept is in its title. Its various missions must be completed in half a minute. There’s some ways around this, but it’s about the time limit. Let’s just say that time based missions are not my thing.

Our Thoughts

Unlike my normal mode of playing, when playing this game I started playing during evenings while I had some time off. Through that, it grew on me. While the missions themselves aren’t the titular 30 seconds long (you can rewind), they’re easy to pick up and play for a bit in between other things.

It does pretty much stick to thirty second limits though. Each mission has a time limit of thirty seconds that can be increased at designated points. There are four storylines, each with their own gameplay style and mission.

The first, titular style is the hero mode. These are very streamlined RPG quests – level-up to high enough and reach the castle while you do so. You can get better equipment to help you, as well as some specialized equipment, but during gameplay this is what it boils down to. There is a lot of streamlining to help you do this. Battles are over in moments, healing is simple, and leveling is just a text on the screen. It’d make for a lousy RPG on its own, but with the time limitations and the pick up and play vibe, it’s actually a lot better.

This is the main mode, later repeated in some special versions, but the other modes are as much fun. My favourite is the second – evil overlord. I’d say it’s more slightly dark overlord, but that’s less relevant. It’s simple – you need to summon monsters to find the opponent. A rock-paper-scissors mechanic means you need to summon the right ones. The longer you give yourself to charge, the stronger your monsters are. It’s not too complex, but it’s fun and plays quickly enough that it’s enough gameplay on its own. I managed to get quite far already and it’s the mode I return to most often.

The third mode is one that suits me less. It’s a fairly standard shoot ’em up, side-scrolling style with monsters. The vague storyline is that of a princess who has a curfew, so needs to be back in her castle on time. You need to keep the soldiers carrying you alive (no relation to Fat Princess that I know of) as they make you move faster. It’s an interesting twist on the standard shooter setup that makes for something quite fun.

The knight mode – defend your sage form attack – is one we didn’t reach (it’s an unlock for finishing all three), but it feels like it fits in nicely with the existing modes.

Added to some pretty decent gameplay are some appropriate aesthetics. Where earlier times might have been bound by hardware limitations, Half Minute Hero shows the pixellated old-time sprites are a valid design choice. They look simple, but fit in with the gameplay, making it the game nicely inspired by forebears.

In that, a lot of the game is a homage as well. Not just gameplay and graphics, but story as well, many of the game’s missions could have come straight out of older games. It has its own funny twists, but in a way that works best as a gentle and loving reference.

Final Thoughts

The real oddity is how this game ended up on the PSP. These days, it would be a phone game – on the whole, it seems like it would work nicely on a tablet or iPhone. The extra care it could have taken in this full release is probably worth it, but in total its sub-two minute gameplay is the sort of diversion you’ll find difficult to put down.