Half Minute Hero for the PSP, launched back in 2009, was an RPG that poked fun at its own genre by parodying some of its more common concepts and formulas. Endowed with a great sense of humor and a frantic pace, the game allowed you to complete a huge epic story arc in only a few minutes. Now, Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax for the Xbox 360 explores this same concept, adds new graphical improvements and eliminates the extra modes we saw in the original.
Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax was developed by Marvelous Entertainment (Rune Factory Frontier, Little King’s Story) and narrates the tale of a mysterious evil force that travels around the world endowing several evil people with a magic spell that could destroy the world in a mere 30 seconds (hence the game’s name). The only one capable of thwarting this ominous threat is the Time Goddess, a very lazy and greedy being that instead of perceiving the ploy as a menace actually views it as an opportunity for profit. However, in order to exploit the situation she needs a caring and pure soul, so she lends her powers to a nameless hero willing to fight the hordes of evil. Of course, her help has a pricetag attached to it, and she demands to be paid every time the hero needs the clock turned back an extra 30 seconds. She will keep on returning the time only as long as he keeps on paying. The moment he runs out of cash, the world ends!
The premise may be a little 'out there', but it works. The developers created scenarios that keep you ever mindful of the clock when plotting your moves. In each of these scenarios the hero needs to explore vast regions, run errands for townsfolk, increase his level, obtain new weapons, gather cash, and vanquish the evil lord of the scenario before the time runs out. Battles are quite random; you just run about in fields and suddenly a monster will pop up. Once each enemy is neutralized you return to the regular screen and your endless quest to keep the time running continues.
Each adventure lasts only some four minutes, but the game has over fifty of them. Interestingly, once you complete each mini-mission the game rolls the credits, giving you the impression that a whole game was completed. After each scenario, the hero’s statistics and experience will reset back to zero, so you have to start the next adventure almost from scratch (you are at least allowed to keep the weapons and equipment gathered in previous missions).
And so goes the game… you go into a new scenario, meet the evil lord who sets off the timer, run to the closest town to gather info, find allies, search for a statue to pay for more time, make some side money for future expenditures on food, equipment, and time, level up, and destroy the evil lord. This mechanic repeats itself throughout the whole game with only a few variants. But it’s in the variants that the fun resides, with all the scenario-specific secret paths and an overall refined sense of humor that keep players returning to this weird world on the verge of annihilation.
Fans of the original game may feel cheated because of the tampering that's been done to the extra modes. In the original title, the Evil Lord 30, Princess 30, and Knight 30 modes offered a very different style of gameplay from the main game. In this new installment, the extra modes have been trimmed down to a single one with a gameplay style very similar to the main game. Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax also has an online mode named Hero Wars. In this mode, up to four players struggle to be the fastest to complete a scenario and defeat the Evil Lord. This mode enjoys a variety of maps and challenges; there are even a few cooperative elements, since players may occasionally feel compelled to team up to deal with the tougher opponents. It’s a fair addition to the solo mode, and manages to add a few hours of extra life to the game.
A notorious issue with the game seems to be the Xbox 360 controls; they don’t respond quickly enough to the player's commands. This is particularly painful when you’re hard-pressed to renew the timer since a wrong turn caused by a faulty interface can make you arrive late and force you to start the level all over again, wasting your prior efforts. That happened several times during my playthrough, and it was indescribably frustrating. A very prominent problem with Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax is that the adventure may be completed in about four hours, but the game tries to compensate its briefness by offering a series of titles, rankings, and rewards, based on how well you complete each scenario. In fact, both the online mode and the system of rankings and rewards are the two obvious attempts at adding game hours to the title. The game is fully geared for competitive gameplay, with readily available leaderboards online, as well as the ability to watch ghost runs of how your friends achieved a goal, allowing you to attempt to copy their moves.
The game has two different art styles. One is the original style from the PSP version, which is similar to those seen in NES-era RPGs, but which look very dated when viewed on modern HD-TVs. However, it's easy to appreciate that the creators left it there for the sake of nostalgia. The other mode has a new HD-specific art style in which the characters are represented as paper dolls in a fashion similar to a Paper Mario title. The scenarios and enemies are varied and each one of them has its own personality. The evil lords come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and have equally varied motives for wanting the world to end (most of these motivations are quite far-fetched and even drop-dead funny at times). On the other hand, the soundtrack is simply phenomenal. Performed by a Japanese group called ‘The Alfee’, the music is an excellent blend of techno-rock which does an outstanding job of setting the tone of the game.
Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax sports all the elements and fun of a typical RPG but develops them in small scenarios where you fight largely against the clock. You’ll feel yourself struggling to improve your rankings and timings in each of the scenarios, and will laugh out loud at several of the humorous situations that you face throughout the game. Although it might seem unusually short to many, Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax does deliver enough content given its price, and is, in absolute terms, an enjoyable game that's well worth playing.