Every once in a while we get a game that tries to be different. In 2009, Marvelous Entertainment released a game called 'Half-Minute Hero' for the PSP that played like an 8bit RPG but it had a twist; the player had only 30 seconds time to finish each quest. Now the game was released for the PC with the weirdest title I've ever seen; Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy. Surely a game with such title can't be anything else but awesome?
The story follows the basic guidelines of any JRPG game to date: an evil lord, aptly named the Ultimate Evil Lord, has possessed the power to destroy the world and only you, the nameless hero, can save it. And if that isn't enough, there are 29 other lords who possess the same power. The storyline reminded me of Mario and the legendary dialogue "The Princess is in another castle". After the first set of quests, the story takes a sudden turn and you're playing as an evil lord defending his realm. And after that, as a princess trying to help her sick father. And after that, as a knight defending a sage. Surprisingly the developers have managed to keep the storylines connected.
The game has six different game modes; Hero 30, Evil Lord 30, Princess 30, Knight 30, Hero 300 and Hero 3. Each game mode is unlocked by completing the previous one and feature different styles of play. Hero 30, Hero 300 and Hero 3 resemble an 8bit RPG, Evil Lord 30 is a real-time strategy mode, Princess 30 plays like a shoot 'em up game and Knight 30 is an action game mode. Let's have a look at the different game modes.
An RPG in the making
The Hero game mode is very similar to old JRPG games; you move your character around the world map, visit towns and dungeons and fight monsters in random encounters. Not to make things too easy, there's a 30 second time limit. The battles are fully automated; you just sit there, watching you and your enemy exchanging blows. Boring. If you manage to defeat the enemy, you'll gain experience points. Enough experience and you'll go up a level, raising your (nonexistent) stats. You can explore dungeons (if you can call it that) and visit towns, which usually have few characters around giving you hints on what to do next and selling supplies (which basically includes an item that refills your hit points, nothing else). You can also pray at a Time Goddess statue to reset the timer to 30 seconds but it costs. If you fail (either by dying or running out of time) the Time Goddess rewinds your game to the beginning, allowing you to try again. This, as well as anything else that has something to do with the Time Goddess, costs money. Greedy bastard. If you don't have any money, the Goddess will strip you of any equipment you might have found during your quest (equipment is very rare in this game) making the game even harder. Very frustrating. There are 30 quests in total which can be replayed to get better loot or if you want to beat your previous time.
The Evil Lord game mode plays like a real-time strategy game. You control a Evil Lord on his quest to defend his lands from attacking enemies. The 30 second time limit is present in this game mode also, the Evil Lord can only step out of his fortress for 30 seconds at a time. During this time the player has to summon 3 different types of creatures to his aid; Brawlers, Nimbles and Shooters. You summon these creatures by using mana which is represented by a mana ring. Your mana goes down by summoning allies and taking damage. The battles are very straightforward and use a basic 'rock-paper-scissors' approach; each different creature is weak against some other and strong against some other. If you're defeated or your time runs out, the greedy Goddess makes her appearance again. As with the Hero game mode, you can reset the timer with cash in this mode also and it has 30 missions.
Shoot 'em like they're out of fashion
The Princess game mode is the most fast-paced of the bunch. You control a Princess who's trying to save her ill father. In order to do so, the player has to venture out of the safety of the castle. To make matters worst, there's a 30 second curfew. The Princess has a crossbow that shoots arrows as well as her personal guards with her. The player itself can't be damaged but running into enemies cause guards to be removed. Once again the Time Goddess wants to fill her wallet so she has laid red carpets that the player can use to reset the timer. This of course costs you money. By defeating groups of enemies, you can unlock upgrades to your crossbow or the speed of your guards. Same as with the other two game modes, the Princess mode has 30 missions also.
Putting the 'A' into Action
The Knight game mode is an action mode where your character, a valiant knight, is tasked with protecting a sage who's trying to conjure a spell. The spell takes 30 seconds to cast so the time limit is completely the opposite than in other game modes; you have to protect the sage for 30 seconds. You can bump into enemies or throw objects at them to slow them down. If the sage suffers enough damage, you'll have to start the level all over again. You can pick the sage up to carry him out of harms way but this pauses the spellcasting. Some levels have objects that distract the sage and reset the spell timer but luckily those objects can be destroyed by the player. Once again this game mode has 30 levels.
The Final Battle
Once you've completed all the above game modes you'll unlock the final mode, Hero 300. This game mode is otherwise similar to Hero 30 but you have 300 seconds to defeat the Ultimate Evil Lord. The Time Goddess must be on a vacation in Hawaii with her hard-earned cash since she isn't available in this mode. To complicate things a bit further, every 60 seconds a certain part of the game map becomes inaccessible, urging the player to make haste. Luckily there's only one quest in this game mode.
Still can't get enough?
If you're skilled enough to defeat the Ultimate Evil Lord you'll unlock a special game mode, Hero 3. This is similar to Hero 300 but the time limit is 3 seconds and you can reset the timer by visiting the Time Goddess statues. Certainly the most frustrating game mode available and almost impossible to defeat. As with the Hero 300 game mode, the Hero 3 has only one quest to accomplish.
Surprisingly enough, there's even a multiplayer mode available. You can compete with a friend on who can complete a quest the fastest or even cooperatively fight against the Evil Lord. Too bad there are only three cooperative levels available since this proved to be the best way to 'enjoy' the game.
The graphics are very basic and the game looks like it's meant to be played by children. You can select between retro and modern graphics but it doesn't save much, the game looks ugly with either setting. The sounds comprise basic *swoosh* and *clank* effects but fortunately the music doesn't let you down; great, nostalgic 8bit tunes mixed in with modern riffs make the music a pleasure to listen to. The gameplay mechanics are good, even though a bit simple (since the game is almost fully automated).
Overally the game doesn't even feel like a game. Barely nothing to do, six different (and mostly boring) game modes and ugly graphics mixed in with an unforgiving difficulty ensure this game can only be played by the most hardcore (or sadistic) players. The game tries to be everything and fails in almost every portion.