Saturday, October 17, 2009

Half-minute Hero - PSP

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...


  1. Well, I'm intrigued, I know that much. Seems to be a lot of fun stuff coming through on the PSP at the moment, although I can't find this one on Amazon, only eBay...

  2. They've got it -

    I gotta try this one...should probably grab the demo, at least.

  3. The Japanese PSN has (had?) I think about 5 demos, one for each genre. The US PSN too, though I didn't check that much. If you play the demos it should instantly tell you whether you like this or not.

    Got about 3 hours into it last night and I love the simplified controls for each genre and, again, the dialogue is exquisite in a gamey kind of way. It's not Orwellian quality prose, but it's really, really neat and funny. Lots of personality and charm. XSeed has shown themselves to be very capable of delivering quality localisations with true spirit.

    And yes THB, the PSP I've seen has really grown with some awesome quirky titles aimed at the hardcore market. This, Invasion of privacy, Onore No Shinzuru Michi Wo Yuke, Monster Hunter, Jeanne D'Arc, the R-Type tactics games, the next Ys game, Prinny, and the list goes on.

    I've not played my DS since February.

  4. I'm ADICTED to this game right now. It's really amazing in the fact that every level has several ways to beat it and also has 2 achievements each. So good. Not to mention that the game has 5 modes. It gives you a ton of gameplay despite its name.

  5. Got this and ran through most of one path (I've counted three so far, though there's probably more) in one sitting. Then promptly got stuck on one stage. Frankly, I've been having so much fun with Hero 30, I've barely bothered with the other modes.

  6. I also sunk about a half an hour into this last night, and it really is amazingly fantastic. I gotta hunt down (or make my own) soundtrack rip because the music's pretty grand too. I might end up dropping everything and do a full fledged article for this one - it's THAT damn good.

  7. Yeah, I too was thinking this deserves a fully fledged article, and was tempted to do one, but I'm a bit burnt out from the last one.

    It's worth contacting the PR guy at XSeed, since he was awesome with getting me stuff for that retro DS game they did a while back which I did a feature on. I reckon they'd be eager for the publicity, so might be able to send a ton of art assets and screens of the characters/enemies.

    It could save a lot of work screen grabbing stuff.

  8. Sorry, I meant Amazon UK don't have it, that being the country where I live...

  9. Agreed that this game is amazing and that the PSP has had some unique releases that are worth checking. I second the poster who mentioned Onore No Shinzuru Michi Wo Yuke, that game is just incredible, taxing, and will probably never be translated. 30-Minute Hero got here somehow, I played the untranslated one for a little bit a few months back and was really excited and surprised that it got a translation, let alone a superb one. It's probably the niche-est title I've seen in a while.

    I think the modes are great but the RTS one is annoying. There's also some fun narrative intersection, but I don't want to spoil it. I'm very intrigued to unlock the additional modes which I've read about.

    Long live the New Pixel Revolution!