Saturday, October 17, 2009
There have been a lot of great games released recently: Uncharted 2, Katamari Forever, Way of the Samurai 3, Demon’s Souls, Brutal Legend, and no doubt others. Unfortunately, this all means that one of this year’s most interesting games will probably be overlooked. Released apparently last week, I’d totally forgotten about Half-minute Hero. I’ve only played for about half-an-hour, but already I love it.
The game starts with a blazing electric guitar intro which sets the tone for the rest of the excellent soundtrack (featuring Yuzo Koshiro as one of the composers), and you’re then given a choice of three main modes. While the game models itself on being a 30-second RPG, it actually encompasses several genres, including shmups and RTS. As you progress, further modes are unlocked. At its most basic, it’s like a hyper-micromanagement sim moulded by the specified genre – you’re constantly juggling things in rapid succession to achieve your goal in under 30 seconds (actually more than 30 seconds, since you can buy more time from the Time Goddess).
If you’ve not played the PSN demos for HMH, then the above description might sound dull or unintuitive, but the game is actually hugely fun and easy to pick up. It’s very streamlined, with minimal button presses (outside of towns you only need the directions and Square to use a healing item) and combat is automatic. And yet despite this apparent minimalism, there’s a level of depth as you debate whether to save a forest, level up, buy items, or simply head for the boss. New equipment is constantly being acquired, level-specific ranks are earned depending on your style of play, thereby encouraging you to replay each level, and there are also secret levels to unlock. So from what I’ve seen so far, there’s a lot of meat to this game.
Special mention must also go to the dialogue and localisation, which is absolutely perfect. It reminds me a little bit of Holy invasion of privacy, in that there’s a lot of send-ups based on RPG archetypes, and even some 4th wall breaking stuff. For anyone who has grown up on RPGs, it should be a delight, whether it’s the Time Goddess chastising you for selecting the “no” option (“How many RPGs allow you to progress by choosing no? Just choose yes already”), to the spoiled princess who in less than 30 seconds goes from damsel in distress to cross-wielding hell-vixen (“I don’t need no ******* tutorial!”). Genuine laugh-out-loud moments.
And as you can see from the visuals, it has a beautiful 8-bit styling – something which is coming in to vogue, and which I’m pleased about. Megaman 9, Holy Invasion of privacy and now Half-minute Hero, I hope are simply the first in a long line of such pixelicious games.
Anyway, those are my first impressions. Slick, wonderful, beautifully localised, unlike anything else I’ve ever played (maybe Outrun, there’s definitely a hint of Outrun’s race-to-goal style in there somewhere), showing great promise in terms of depth and stuff to unlock, incredibly ornate 8-bit visuals, a rocking soundtrack by known composers, and... sadly overlooked due to bigger releases. And this is sad, because XSeed might see the low sales, and figure it due to the game not appealing to audiences. And if that happens, we'll be less likely to such games in the future.
I say leave Uncharted 2 and Brutal Legend on the shelf for a week or two, they’ll sell well enough through mainstream appeal and will still be there, and maybe give Half-minute Hero for the PSP a chance. Check out the demos first, if needs be, they're ace! Otherwise I don’t think this is going to receive the attention it deserves...
Posted by Sketcz at 4:27 PM