First Impressions: Half-Minute Hero (Sony PSP)

hmhcoverHalf-Minute Hero
Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
Publisher: XSEED
Genre: Roleplaying
Release Date: 10/20/2009

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about a game called Half-Minute Hero that XSEED is bringing over to the states for the PSP. It has the bizarre concept of every gameplay mode giving you merely thirty seconds to complete a mission. It sounds odd, but at the same time a bit compelling.

Anyway, a demo for it went up last night and I didn’t hesitate to download it to see what the game played like. Further hitting the game’s premise home, the demo was only 9MB and took about a minute to download and install.

The only mode available for play on the demo was “Hero Mode”, so that’s what I’ll talk about. What it basically boils down to is a RPG with a thirty second time limit. The evil lord is about to cast a destruction spell that will wipe out everything, and you, as the hero, have to level, buy equipment, travel a landscape, and beat him in his castle in that time limit.

This may sound ludicrous, but it is pulled off nicely. You walk around in a typical JRPG environment and get caught up in random battles. Instead of having to issue commands, the battle is automatic and rarely lasts more than a couple of seconds. Based on your stats and equipment, you’ll deal certain amounts of damage and take certain amounts of damage. You get experience for each victory, and the level progression is pretty nice. In one level, I went from killing the basic enemy in three hits to outright steamrolling him a few levels later. Each battle will also grant you gold which you can spend in the towns.

hmh1The towns are the only reprieve you get from the clock. While there, the Time Goddess grants you a boon in that the clock halts as long as you are in town. Here, you can spend gold on healing as well as new weapons and armor. You can also talk to townsfolk who’ll give you advice or let you know of a side quest. On some levels, there will be a statue you can pay a monetary tribute to in order to reset the clock to thirty seconds. The price of this goes up every time you use it, so it isn’t the cheap tactic it might first appear to be.

You also have the option of holding down the circle button and running through the terrain. You will avoid random battles and cover a lot of ground quickly, but the cost will be your hp, and you won’t gain any money and/or experience if you do this. Still, if all you need to do is rush to the evil lord’s castle and finish him off, it can be a great time saver.

You might be curious as to what happens when you die. Rather than be a game over, you’ll start back at the beginning of the level with the timer set to where you left off when you died. In a few cases, you’ll still have enough time to try and make a comeback, but more than likely, you’ll end up losing.

One nice touch was the involvement of other characters in the game. For the second level in the demo, you need the help of two soldiers. The monsters you face on your way will simply overwhelm you without backup. However, they won’t join you because they believe you are too weak. So what you need to do is go buy a new sword and then go back for the troops. I’m incredibly interested to see where this kind of thing goes in the full game.

The graphics for this are completely and totally retro. All of the characters, levels, monsters, etc are extremely pixelated. However, this doesn’t keep the game from looking good. There is a ton of color and life in every battle. It just goes to show you how style over technical prowess can still get you places.

Like I said, there are other modes in the full game that include some sort of shooter and RTS-like half minute excursions. I haven’t had a chance to play these, but if they’re half as fun as this was, I think this might just be a sleeper hit for the PSP. The only real concern is the overall length of the game.

Those questions should be answered around the end of October, when the game comes out. Until then, go ahead and try out the demo.

I, personally, can’t wait.

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