An evil lord sits in a castle throne, the world is about to end, and you have thirty seconds to save it! Half-Minute Hero (known as Yuusha 30 in Japan) distills RPGs, a genre known for consuming dozens of hours, down to minutes in hero mode.
Each mission begins with a 3-2-1 countdown, sort of like a racing game. On second thought, Half-Minute Hero feels a lot like a racing game. Once “Go!” flashes the clock starts ticking, but at level one you’re not match for a treant overloard. Half a minute isn’t a lot of time to level up so combat has been simplified… dramatically.
During random encounters the hero automatically body slams monsters like walking mushrooms (a la Adol). When a monster is defeated it’s sent flying towards the right side of the screen. If a monster whittles the hero down he falls back to the left. Other than administering healing herbs when the hero is near death you don’t do much during combat. Since battles are seconds long the system works and there’s something satisfying about watching a pixilated hero plow through a wave of weak enemies.
Monsters carry gold, which can be spent on new weapons and more healing herbs. Time, thankfully, freezes in towns so you can read what townsfolk have to say. They often present necessary side quests like finding a bridge builder or running in a cave to fetch an item. Dungeons are handled just like fights. Instead of navigating a maze the hero just body slams his way to a mini-boss or treasure chest.
If this sounds like too much to do in half a minute, you’re right. Most missions take longer than thirty seconds to complete. Good thing the Goddess of Time is on your side. She can rewind time if you visit one of her many statues and donate some of your gold. Since you’re reversing time you may need to repeat some tasks, but you won’t need to level up again. The Goddess requests more gold each time you refresh the timer so time isn’t unlimited. Strategically, it’s probably best to fight weak monsters with your first thirty seconds, then refill the timer and start the mission. When you’re short on time the hero can dash if you hold X, but running with a Sonic the Hedgehog style dust trail costs 1 HP per square.
Once you reach an evil lord’s lair an epic body slamming boss battle against a giant tree or a fireball begins. Five seconds later its over. Win and, as a humorous touch, the credits scroll. Other things that made me laugh in Half-Minute Hero are the rock star style “charisma wig” hair which can be used as a helmet, barrel armor (the hero really fights wearing a barrel), and how the hero fights in his underwear if you replay a mission. Whenever you start a new mission the hero’s level resets, but you keep your equipment as long as you’re moving forward.
Half-Minute Hero is actually four games on one disc and I’ve been playing two modes. Hero mode and Princess mode, an on rails shmup, which I’ll be talking about next time!