Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Half-Minute Hero

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Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Publisher: XSEED Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 13, 2009
System: PSP
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site

0:00 I somehow missed this game at E3 (I must have been sleeping), but the concept tickled me. I hate a lot of things about RPGs, but the one thing I hate most is the glacial pacing. If a whole quest is really condensed into 30 seconds, I might actually like this one!

0:01 Rain on a field. "Will this war ever end?" reads ornate white text on a black background. "The clock is ticking on the 500-year struggle between the humans and the Evil Lords. A spell to end the world in 30 seconds." Detailed anime drawings are cut together quickly with super-zoomed, pixilated versions of the same characters, all flying by too quick to really make anything out. Fade to black, then back up with epic organ music and '80s-metal guitar music. The title appears over a rolling pixilated landscape. Reminds me of the airship from Final Fantasy III a bit.

0:03 Story mode is "The story of a 500-year-long battle between the forces of good and evil. Is there no end to this war?" Reads to me like a subtle jab at the length of other RPGs. But maybe I'm just hearing what I want to hear...

0:04 I can choose Hero 30, Evil Lord 30 or Princess 30. I'll start with Hero, which takes place in "Goddess Era 100." Normal or Hard difficulty ... let's go with Normal until I figure out what the hell is going on.

0:05 I can rename my hero, whose default name is ... Hero. Seems appropriate...

0:06 "In the beginning there was only time. And in that early stage, two gods collided." They were the Time Goddess and the Ultimate Evil Lord, and their battle lasted eons. A power source was crushed, humans were born, and the Goddess emerged, starting the "Goddess Era." But "the hatred of the Ultimate Evil Lord seeped through and created beings that would wreak havoc." This is the story of a young man becoming a true bastion against evil or something. I'm doing my best to quickly summarize here, but it's just a wall of text! "Hero 30: Hero's Departure."

Half-Minute Hero

0:07 The game asks if I want the tutorial. Uh, yeah, I think I'd better. "Hmm ... I better do something about this," says an unidentified, off-screen character. "What a pain. There has to be a better way. There's one. A perfect pawn." Fade in to a drawing of a blonde-haired boy, with a bindle, approaching a castle. A pixilated king welcomes him. "Hero! Welcome to my kingdom!" He tells me he'll give me support, but in return he asks I destroy some grass fiends. Can do!

0:09 I'm told I can use the d-pad to move, press square to use items, and hold O to dash. I'm guessing that last one will be important. Oh, dashing avoids battles, but drains HP. I'm liking the peppy, 16-bit-era music.

0:10 My first enemy encounter, with a goblin-like Grass Fiend. No loading, no selecting "attack" from a menu, just a quick screen wipe and then our characters bump up against each other repeatedly, causing little damage numbers to appear above us as we do. I finish him off in a matter of seconds and move on. Now THAT'S how you do an RPG battle!

0:11 With the tutorial done, I run around and quickly destroy a couple more grass fiends. Only after the third do I realize I've been gaining 4 experience and 25 gold. The game doesn't even pause to tell me this ... the message just scrolls along a black bar at the bottom. I LOVE IT!

0:13 With the grass fiends defeated, I return to the castle. I talk to the king: "Thank you, Hero! You did well! And now for your reward!" Suddenly lightning bolts strike in the background. Cut to a purple-robed wizard, named Hackein. Cue evil music. "Hahahaha! Looks like I surprised you. To the king and all humans. I just discovered a spell of awesome power that can destroy the world! With this spell the world will be doomed in 30 seconds!" 1) Why would he warn us. 2) Why does he want to destroy the world? What's his motivation here?

0:15 After a bit more monologuing, a large 30-second timer appears at the top of the screen and I'm off to destroy an evil lord. I'll report when I'm done.

0:16 So, I wasted a good 15 of my seconds just wandering around town, where I bought a healing herb and a wood sword. These helped in the few battles I encountered in the nearby woods, but didn't bring me any closer to the Hackein's hideout. Somehow I missed his big castle to the south. When my time is up, the camera zooms in there, where Hackein tells me the world is doomed.

0:17 "GAME OVER?" reads the white text on the black background. "Hello? Hello?!" says an unknown voice "Wake up! Hero!" In a manga-style drawing, a woman with flowing hair and equally flowing white robes holds me in her arms. "Hello Hero. I'm the Time Goddess." She tells me I'm fast, but not fast enough, then offers a service that will turn back time. Not for free, of course. She loves money. Uh, she's a TIME GODDESS. Why doesn't she just go back in time and deposit a dollar in some interest-bearing account. Then she'll have all the money she needs!

0:19 "Make a pact with the Time Goddess?" the game asks. I say no, just to see what happens. "I can completely understand why you'd say no. But was there ever an RPG that moved on by selecting no?" HA! So I say yes and she rewinds time. "I look forward to a profit- I mean a fulfilling relationship."

0:21 No pussyfooting around this time ... I head straight for the castle, defeating a chicken and a walking swamp monster on the way. The clock freezes at 20'37 as I face Hackein in a throne room. "You came to defeat me? You're not getting in my way. I'll squash you like a bug!" Indeed he does ... I'm sent back to the field in blood red after a quick bump-filled battle.

0:23 I head into town (where time freezes again) to buy an herb and head back to Hackein's castle. There's only 7'95 left by the time I get there. I've hit level 5 through various quick battles in the forest. "You>Evil," the game says along with my level-up message.

0:24 This time I defeat Hackein after a few seconds of clashing. He warns me that someone will be spreading the spell all over the world before dying with an "Oofah!" A white flag goes up over his castle as a catchy, triumphant chiptune plays. The king gives me a caravan for my journeys, and a minister gives me a chest with "Tatty Togs" in it. That would be an excellent name for a rock band right there.

0:25 The Time Goddess comes in to congratulate herself (and me). She tells me I'll be reset to level 1 every new day, and that there are many more Evil Lords around the world to destroy. "We'll do it together. Cheer up." And the credits roll. Wow ... really? That's the entire game?

0:26 The results screen says it's a "New Record!" My official clear time is 000'55'60. Level 5. I got 198 Gold, all of which I give to the Goddess, of course. "And the traveler Hero gained the help of the Time Goddess and brought peace to the land." But now he has a caravan, of three camels with covered wagons! Next time on Hero 30, "Continental Bridge." Ah, so it's a serial!

0:28 I talk to the members of my caravan during a brief interlude, including the Time Goddess; "Professor Knowsall XXX," who can explain the world; Aisha, who can tell me which way to go on forked paths; and Naryan, who gives general advice. What a caravan!

0:30 Out to the world map, where I select the next quest. The "target time" is 00'45'00, and the mission describes me as "Barely Kelp Lover" for some reason. Huh?

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0:31 "Hero 30 II: Continental Bridge!" The Goddess flies in. "Hello, Hero. Looks like we'll be in for the long haul." We're on a sandy shoal. Cut over to a nearby castle, where pixilated bat "Badbat" appears. "I shut myself in for 30 years. And I have no other good points..." Um ... I think that lost something in the translation. Anyway, a traveling old man taught him the destruction spell, and he broke the only bridge so no one can get to his castle. NOOOOO!

0:34 The Goddess suggests that maybe someone in the village can help us fix the bridge. Also, she can turn back time if I pray at her statue in town. "It's not exactly ethically right for me to turn back time so often, but I still want lots of money... Why does it cost money? Because time is money! That's why. Don't sweat the details. Don't worry, be happy." Thanks Goddess McFerrin! I gotta say, a money-grubbing Goddess is a new one on me...

0:35 In the seaside village, a carpenter tells me monsters stole his hammer. They went to the east cave. Yup ... this is an RPG writ small, all right.

0:36 I run to the cave, defeat a few bats, then use the dash to get back to town without more time-wasting battle, My HP is down to a single point, but a 10G seaweed salad heals me back up. I give the hammer to the carpenter to fix up the bridge. There's only 7'85" left on the clock. Should I pray? Sure ... why not? "Time has been reversed." But I'm still leveled-up and have all my money and HP. NICE!

0:38 I march right up to Badbat, who's destroyed rather easily with 14'42 to spare. "I knew it! I used up too much of my strength destroying the bridge." Uh, if you knew it, why'd you do it? "Darn you to heck!" he cries with his final breath. Well, someone's a Dilbert fan!

Half-Minute Hero

0:39 The carpenter brings me a bamboo spear for my next quest. My rank: "Wonderful Hero." That sounds pretty good ... right?

0:40 Quote of the moment, from the quest ending: "He actually fixed a bridge with one hammer?" Oh game, I love your awkward self-awareness.

0:41 On the world map, "Kelp lover" has gone from grey to white. Because I ate that kelp salad. Is this some sort of Achievement system?

0:42 On to Chapter 3, Caves and Forests. With minimal preamble, Anaphylac the pixilated bug boss taunts us."You humans always make fun of bugs! I''ll show you today by destroying the world!" Seems a disproportionate response, to me. The Time Goddess tells me I can take the cave shortcut or take the long way along the coast. Also, there's a bug-killing weapon hidden somewhere. Interesting...

0:43 In town No. #1, a lumberjack tells me his colleague in the tent to the west has the bug-killer weapon. A rancher tells me I can move faster with a horse. And I buy a fetching leather hat in the store! Fetching!

0:45 Of course, buying that hat means I have no money for the cool stuff in the next village, including a wood shield and herbs. No worries, I just step outside and take a few seconds to easily defeat some random bad guys. I get 320G for my lack of trouble and beef up to level 5. I'm almost out of time, but 100G and a quick prayer resets the clock. I get my shield and my herb. Now about that lumberjack weapon...

0:47 The lumberjack gives me the bug swatter, which I'm told doesn't work against anything else. With it I'm able to blaze through the bug battles even faster as I blaze a path to the castle. Oh, but I tear through Anaphylac's bug wall and through him as well. Damn, this thing is overpowered ... against bugs! "Ugh?! A bug for an evil lord was too much of a bugger!" I'm ... pretty sure that doesn't make sense.

0:48 Quote of the moment, from the Time Goddess: "You always have to try and stop them from casting. That bee the way. ? Yeah I know that was bad..." Well, as long as she knows. This time I got a "True Hero" rank.

0:50 The Club is more powerful but less accurate than my plain old sword. Well ... let's try it anyway.

0:51 Yogaf is a being made of fire, and my next Evil Lord. "I'm casting the spell of destruction!" Thanks for the warning, Exposition McGee. The direct path to the castle is blocked by a raging forest fire. Hmmm...

0:53 I buy a Rock Axe and a healing herb in town, but quickly get killed by some bees in the forest. Guess I wasn't paying enough attention ... I could have used my herb to prevent that death. Oh, well ... I come back at the starting point, not much worse for wear.

0:54 The forest fire blows me back when I try the direct route. I meander around a bit, then pray to turn back time with one second left...

0:55 Townspeople tell me there's evildoers in the North Cave. I head there and find a Brat named Larrie. He tells me he burned down the forest because the pollen was making him sneeze. Wow, what a jerk. We battle to the sounds of a smooth jazz groove. "If my nose would stop running I'd kick your butt!" He tells me as he's vanquished quickly.

0:56 Somehow the fire has now magically stopped. Because killing arsonists stops their fires, I guess? I don't think I have enough time to get to Yogaf, so I do some grinding before praying again. Then I dash to the castle. I struggle against Yogaf's fire wall but still manage to kill him rather easily. "You're red hot baby. Abobooo!" Um.

0:58 The forest elf gives me some barrel armor made from forest wood." At this pace you'll be able to truly save the world in no time, Hero," says the Goddess. Rank: Wonderful Hero. Wonderful!

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Despite being slowed down by endless typing in my first hour, I love the pacing, the buttery smooth interface, and the self-referentially absurd writing and concept.

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