Half Minute Hero II: The Second Coming – More Isn’t Better

By Ethan . April 12, 2014 . 12:30pm

It’s been five years since the original Half Minute Hero released.  Five years is a long time to wait for a sequel, and an especially long time to wait for the sequel to a portable game that used simple sprites.  Five years is a long time to wait for the sequel to one of the best JRPGs on the PSP.  Or maybe one of the best action games on the PSP.  For a while it didn’t look the sequel was going to be localized at all, another casualty of the Sony handheld’s western market woes.


Part of me wants to lavish praise on Half Minute Hero II: The Second Coming just for coming out at all.  Hooray, the game beat the odds and found a way to be localized!  And yeah, Japanese publishers should be releasing more of these games on Steam for western markets.  Between this, Ys, and Legend of Heroes later this year, this could be the beginning of an awesome trend!  The $20 price tag is reasonable, the game is feature rich, and it even supports Oculus VR!


The problem is… I don’t like this game very much.  They’ve taken Half Minute Hero in an unfortunate direction.


If you haven’t played the original, the core conceit of Half Minute Hero is that it’s an old school top-down JRPG, but the player is only given 30 seconds to complete each mission.  Additional time can be purchased, but the timer never goes higher than 30 seconds maximum and the cost of buying time scales cruelly.  So even though missions don’t really get completed in 30 seconds, they do wrap up quick like.


To fit inside 30 seconds, RPG elements like enemy encounters and leveling up have been reduced to such a minimalist form that they’re pretty ridiculous (watching bad guys fly off the screen never gets old) but that’s okay because the script is also silly.  The original game kept narrative elements light and sporadic which well suited the frantic pace of running around in the game.


The sequel, unfortunately, is not nearly so succinct.


Half Minute Hero image 2

Let’s talk about RPG parody.  It’s a growing trend—JRPGs trading melodrama and grandeur for jokes and subversions of genre conventions.  I don’t disapprove of this as a rule.  JRPGs absolutely do adhere to some ridiculous patterns and double standards, and since many continue to lean on these tropes even today I think that mockery is absolutely warranted.  Considering just how sanctimonious and self-important some JRPGs can be, I think of these parody games as a refreshing counter balance.


But there’s an insidious dark side to this trend.  Sometimes games can adopt the mantle of parody not as much to tell jokes, but to justify generic design.  Don’t worry; it isn’t lame that the main character has amnesia.  It’s a parody of all those other games about characters with amnesia.  And… a parody about all the games filled with orphan characters.  And we have a dude running around with a buster sword with just one angel wing sticking out of his back!  We’re funny, not helplessly derivative!


Half Minute Hero II: The Second Coming is the worst sort of parody.  It starts out snappy and silly in a good way, but quickly abandons that tone in favor of a much more familiar sort of story about a chosen one who needs to save the world and the princess who is his one true love.  The jokes stop flowing, but the extended uninspired dialogue never does.  By the time the player finishes the first chapter it’s clear that this isn’t really a parody at all.  It’s just a very bland and talky JRPG with a novel timer mechanic.


There’s nothing wrong with telling a traditional JRPG kind of story, but this isn’t a good one.  The central mechanics of the Half Minute Hero franchise remain fun, but they’re now buried under a layer of unnecessary filler like an overworld map and global dungeons (all the simplicity of Half Minute Hero, but stripped of the racing against time that makes it fun).  There’s nothing wrong with parody, but parody works best when the work is consistently funny and Half Minute Hero II: The Second Coming isn’t.


Half Minute Hero as a franchise is built on a great idea and great mechanics.  One can only hope that if Marvelous returns to make a third installment they’ll make a game that highlights those merits rather than obscuring them.


Food for thought:


1. I didn’t dig the soundtrack particularly, but it’s very high energy and fits the manic pace of the game.  Just like the rest of the experience, the weakest parts of are the slower songs that accompany story beats.


2. Normally I would make a point to talk about how the PC conversion works but… it’s RPG sprites.  They look fine.  There’s native controller support and button remapping is available to those who need it.  Oculus support was sadly left untested.


3. Attentive readers might remember that I also playtested Weapon Shop de Omasse.  That’s another JRPG parody, but it’s an entirely different beast.  Where Half Minute Hero is a fun game held back sub-par story and humor, Weapon Shop de Omasse is really outlandishly funny but doesn’t actually have much of a game to play to back that up.  I preferred Weapon Shop of the two, but a gamer with different priorities would probably see those preferences reversed.

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  • malek86

    Played it for a while, and thought the same. All the stuff they added makes it feel different, it breaks the action too often, and the pick-up-and-play appeal of the original is lost. And the dialogue isn’t even that funny anyway.

  • Agreed that the first 2 stories felt more derivative than funny. However, the 3rd scenario feels closer to the first game’s general wackiness.

  • Cyrus

    I just wanted more HMH gameplay and that’s exactly what I got with this one. I enjoyed it quite a lot in fact.

  • NicheGamer

    It sounds like all you played was the Overture and Judgement campaigns (thats all your screenshots come from as well), which weren’t really parodies at all. They were suppose to be serious much like some of the campaigns in the first game. It condenses plot beats from common RPG stories just like in the first game. Only the first game kept these beats episodic and gave some touching and boo-ya moments. Like episode 20 and 28. But that format probably wouldn’t work again, especially with how they tie in the first game (like when did Hero have a freakin kid). Yes there were points excessive dialogue in these campaigns, but really I thought it told a pretty competent tale.

    I don’t know why you’d say its a poor traditional story. They really only lightly touch on the things you highlighted. There’s hardly an emphasis on a love story or even Yusha’s past. It played second fiddle to the companions you pick up and how they help him overcome his challenges and angst. Also you’re really using his concept art as a complaint?

    The complaints about global dungeons and the over world seem like a stretch. All the over-world does is provide some persistence in how you progress the campaign and in no way actually slows you down between missions. The game took more inspiration from Final Fantasy over the first games Dragon Quest which obviously isn’t going to suit everyone. But to only emphasize things you didn’t like seems a bit misleading.

    Also disagree about the music, but theres not much to say there. So…

  • Sigfried Silverblade

    I quite like the game.
    Yeah, some of the changes were not the best, but… If the game was to parody all cliches once more, how far would it be able to go without repeating the first game?

    I find it quite enjoyable…
    One problem I find is that is is kind of annoying having to go to the castle to see wich titles you can get and where.

    • Ethan_Twain

      That is actually an interesting question. Can you make a sequel to a parody without becoming derivative of yourself? I think it’s possible, but it’s tough to do. I mean, a creative team can always think of new jokes. But the longer you try to stay in the same space mocking the same thing, the more likely it is you’re gonna end up in a rut.

      Like, they managed to make three Austin Powers movies, but I would say there were only about two movies worth of jokes in there.

      So no, I don’t think it would have been out of the question to make a second JRPG parody game and have it also be really funny, but it would have been harder to execute. Changing it up for the sequel was probably a good idea.

      Doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t much care for what it changed into though :(

  • revenent hell

    Perhaps I have no right to critique but I think if someone gives any sort of review they have it coming to a degree.

    I didn’t play the first game but all this review said to me was that you prefer the first game without actually giving many details on this game other than its subpar in comparison to the first.

    I’m not all together saying this review is complete shite but every topic in it culminates in not giving much details on the game other than “its like Half Minute Hero in this regard” followed by its substandard and not fun….

    Not very informative to someone who hasn’t played the first game I must say.

    • Ethan_Twain

      Don’t worry about it – anyone who’s willing to post a playtest of a video game on a well trafficked website needs to be able to deal with comments accusing him or herself of being a hack/bribed by the publisher/totally incompetent. Comes with the territory :)

      I think you’re totally right about this not being a terribly informative playtest to someone who didn’t play the original game. Siliconera makes a point to call these playtests instead of reviews specifically for this reason though. The goal on this site is never to give a bullet point breakdown sort of review. There are PLENTY of other places to get those on the internet. Writers here are told to take readers along with them through their experience of playing the game, and to focus on what stands out most to us.

      I did play the original game and I didn’t feel like this long awaited sequel actually lived up to it. That’s my main takeaway from the game, so that’s what I mostly wrote about.

      I’m sorry that my perspective on the game wasn’t terribly useful to you. If interested, scroll down in the comments here. There are already quite a few people sharing contrary opinions – maybe one of those perspectives will speak to you better than mine did :)

      • Sigfried Silverblade

        I played the first one back when it was released on the PSP.
        Loved it. All of it.
        I also got really sad when the secong game never came to the west.
        I do feel something lacks in this new game. For me, I miss the wacky references to internet memes and RPG tropes.

        Do you think that the long wait we had for the game, after kind of accepting it would never come, and then having the hopes of a release so much later, may have created a big hype, or raised expectations too much?

        • Ethan_Twain

          I dunno about “too much” (because who’s to say what the “right” amount of excitement is?) but yeah, the extended localization limbo this game was stuck in certainly made me more excited about it’s actual release.

          I think probably what disappointed me more was that this could have been a key success story that other companies looked to in the fledgling JRPG space on the PC. And I mean, it still might do okay, but I don’t see this game becoming a hit in it’s current form. THAT is a bummer.

          • Sigfried Silverblade

            I agree to that.
            We do need a sucessfull JRPG in PC market to show companies there is interest.

            I’m happy some old JRPGs are coming out on Steam, for example, but… well, they are kinda OLD.

      • revenent hell

        I did almost call it a playtest myself but I shied away from that because in my head I correlate a “playtest” with game mechanics like how many items you can carry or how battles take place ect so I didn’t call it that for that reason.
        I could look up the information on this game or the first one for that matter but when I read any review type thing really, I kind of read them for that type of stuff alone, like how in the Bravely Default one it said the “party chat” was like tales games ect. I am extremely hard on reviewers for various reasons so I don’t really actively read them for a persons opinion on the game so much as the game tidbits themselves if you know what I mean?
        But then again I would be hard put to do any form of good review myself. I would probably just go on endless tangents………………. There are good games but “nostalgia goggles” and all that.

  • DesmaX

    Wait, they tried to pull off a generic-like story? Glad I held out my purchase then.

    I really liked how in the first game is pretty much about villans trying to destroy the world for some weird motive.

    Not saying that I won’t buy it though (Do like the gameplay of the series), but I’ll guess I’ll wait for a deal on it (Multiplayer should be enough for me)

    • Ethan_Twain

      Endless mode is also a lot of fun! That was probably my favorite part of the game. All the gameplay but bereft of the story and overworld map stuff I didn’t dig as much.

      But yeah, Steam is so good about hosting big sales that waiting for a bargain is a pretty safe option too.

  • Brandonmkii

    This review kind of rubs me the wrong way. Like in the exact same way I feel when somebody puts down a fighting game for having a bad story.

  • Chow

    With a name like “Half-Minute Hero”, there was really no way they could have passed up the chance to call the sequel “The Second Coming”. XD

  • RajaNaga

    I also feel like this review seems a bit unfair, even without playing the game. Obviously the second game can’t do the same amazing thing the first game did first–because the first game already happened. I’m still very excited to play this when I can.

  • Dylan Anantha

    That’s pretty disappointing that they tried to make a serious story. A silent blonde spiky-haired protagonist saving the world while helping a money-hungry goddess get rich was the best part of the first game.

    • NicheGamer

      The Hero didn’t have spiky hair though…

      I’m pretty sure this playtest only covers the Overture and Judgement campaigns which are definitely serious stories, but the next campaign Revolution seems to embrace all the silliness again. Also the seriousness mostly functions like it did in the first game so the characters will usually lighten the mood. Like the Time Goddess who hasn’t changed a bit.

  • Amine Hsu Nekuchan

    Wow, I really like this game so this kinda shocked me….
    I especially like the music even…

  • A friend bought it my on steam for my birthday and I’m enjoying it

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