Rushing through a mini-RPG with retro graphics and saving the world in thirty seconds or less is the basic premise of Half-Minute Hero. The project started as a free to play flash game, which Marvelous and the creator expanded in to a full PSP title.
We asked Kenichiro Takaki, Producer at Marvelous Entertainment, about the process and the Time Goddess’ witty lines. You’re going to love her.
How did the Half-Minute Hero project begin?
Kenichiro Takaki, Producer at Marvelous Entertainment: I grew up on NES games as a kid so I’ve always wanted to make a game that uses pixel art. But making a regular retro-type game wouldn’t be any fun so I wanted to give it a twist.
That’s where the PSP comes in since it’s a portable gaming system with very high specs. If I made a retro-type game on a system with such high specs, it’s bound to get a lot of attention. That’s how I started development on this title.
The basic concepts I decided in the beginning was to have “retro-style pixel art,” “realistic character design art,” “speedy gameplay,” “grandiose music,” and many other factors that are seemingly conflicting.
I was wondering what to do about the system, and then I ran into UUE.
Did you get in touch with UUE or did he (her?) contact with Marvelous?
Actually UUE and I used to work at Opus Studio Inc. After working on several projects, I left Opus Studio Inc. on my own accord, but we still exchange ideas with each other on what new games we can make.
After I mentioned the basic concepts I listed earlier, I received a suggestion from UUE who said, “How about making it an RPG that you can beat in 30 seconds?” This was the concept I was waiting for and it made me decide to start the development right away.
What do you think about working with UUE again or another doujin developer? The strategy of upgrading small, but creative titles into full retail games is quite unique.
I believe we will work together again. Good ideas will always be good ideas, regardless of whether they come from pros or amateurs. I think we should keep cooperating to make fun games.
The original flash game only had one mode. Why did you decide to make three other games?
I have various reasons, but the simplest one is to have more for the player to enjoy. The concept of “RPG you can beat in 30 seconds” is very interesting, but on the other hand, it can give a negative image of having very little content.
But HERO30 has 50 stages, so the quantity of content isn’t really an issue. Just to be sure that there are any doubts about the quantity of content in the game, we added in the other modes.
The direction of the gameplay for the other modes was decided right away. HERO30 involves lots of trial and error while still being bound by the time limit, but we thought that we needed other gameplay features so that the player won’t have to do the same thing over and over again. We then thought up PRINCESS30 and the rest followed.
Which game was the most difficult to create?
That would be HERO30. Even though the free flash game was already finished and was fun to play, it really wasn’t something you can sell as a full game.
That’s why we tried to add other features to it without losing the charm of the original. But if it didn’t fit the initial concept of “speedy gameplay,” it was scrapped. We tried many different things that would add variation to the game but only implemented a few.
But producing a large game usually entails an inability to do trial and error on the fine details. The process of trying to make the game as interesting as possible was a great learning experience for me despite how many problems we encountered.
One of the things I love about Half-Minute Hero is the art style and monster design. It’s a stark contrast considering how so many games these days opt for high resolution graphics. Why did you decide to use blocky, purposely pixilated characters and monsters?
I wanted to make it so that the player still has room to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. The more detailed things yet, the less emotionally moving something is beyond its visual aspects. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to use pixel art graphics for this game.
To tell you the truth, the heroes and evil lords have different amounts of detail and densities in its pixels. I believe that this creates an interesting visual aspect to the game that HD games do not have.
There is an overall story to Half-Minute Hero. Can you explain how the Princess, Hero, Knight, and Demon Lord are connected?
The story takes place over a span of 500 years. Each of them is the heroes of their own time. One of them embodied a sense of duty, one of them just wanted to help others, one of them did it all for his lover, and one of them did it to defeat the Ultimate Evil Lord. How those characters will meet is a crucial part of the game, so I hope you will find out yourself by playing it.
The Time Goddess has a lot of witty dialogue. How did you come up with her lines and are they preserved in the North American release?
The Goddess Statues are there to reverse time and the fee you need to pay will rise each time you use it.
Because of that system aspect of the game, the image of a “money grubbing goddess” was developed. But if we left it as is, she’ll become very unlikable, so we made her say jokes or outrageous things, sometimes strict, sometimes kind, always stingy… The development of her character was really done in layers little by little.
While we were producing the game, we kept upping the amount of lightheartedness when it comes to her, but all in all, she ended up being a very charming character.
In the North American version, I see parts like “Threeeeeee! Twooooooo! Ooooooone!” when the Goddess is counting down, so I believe most of her charm is well-preserved.
Speaking of the North American version are there any changes or extra features?
There aren’t any extra features, but since the language is now different, we tried to adjust minor details such as game balance to keep the same kind of feel with the original version.
Marvelous released a lot of downloadable PSP games in Japan recently so can we expect Half-Minute Hero to launch with a downloadable version in North America?
The downloadable version in North America will release on October 22, 2009.
Are there any plans to make a sequel or perhaps a spin-off like Half-Minute Villain or Half-Minute Platformer?
If a lot of players get the chance to enjoy “Half-Minute Hero,” it is very possible that there will be future developments on a sequel.I’ll be sure to bring more exciting ideas to the table with the new game when the time comes!
I really want to recommend “Half-Minute Hero” to people who are tired of boring games that all look and play the same way. You really don’t have any time to think about it in this game.
Because we only have 30 seconds left to survive.
[Spencer’s note: I tend to shy away from recommending games, but I’m going to break my rule and say Half-Minute Hero is excellent and one of my favorite games of 2009. At the very least, download the free demos on the PlayStation Store.]