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Half-Minute Hero - Sony PSP
- Old-School Graphics, New-Age Metal Sound - Classic 8-bit graphics give this game its unique visual style, while original music by one of Japan’s most critically-acclaimed guitarists keeps a pace as fast and furious as the gameplay.
- Fast-paced Action for Instant Gratification - A fresh new way to play games, clearing stages in 30-second intervals.
- Four Completely Different and Unique Game Play Modes - Four distinct storylines and modes that encompass an action RPG, a shooter, an escort mission, and a strategy game, keep the gameplay fresh and varied.
- Over 15 Hours of Total Gameplay - With each of the four unique modes containing 30 distinct stages, short individual play times add up to many hours of total gameplay.
- Intense Multiplayer Action - Connect two to four friends through ad-hoc wireless connection for blazing fast competition.
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For centuries, an epic battle between humans and evil lords has been raging and destroying everything in its path. The civilized world is under attack by the relentless evil lords and all that remains are the ruins of castles and the bodies of the faithful knights who once proudly protected them. Throughout time, heroes and legends have risen above the chaos, only to eventually disappear into the pages of history. As the last wandering sage and final hope for humanity, it is up to the protagonist to somehow transcend time and death to unite these legends and their unique powers in one last battle against the Ultimate Evil Lord.
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I really like the graphics. They're pixelly and 8-bit, and while the characters are SO blocky you can barely tell what they look like, this is on purpose. The parts of the graphics that are 'permitted' to look more fashionable most definitely do, though! The maps look nice (though they're pixelly as well), and the scenes are pretty artistic. The animation has nice easing and certain things such as projectiles are visually appealing. One thing I definitely did not like, though, was the layout and where certain things such as health bars and mana gauges were located. Oftentimes you'll find yourself completely ignoring everything except these gauges, and you'll end up paying for it later on. Making the health bars closer to the center of the screen, or making a mana gauge easier to read would have made the gameplay flow much better. Stylistically, though, it's consistent, but I hate the font that's used, as the lower case Os and As are extremely hard to tell apart from each other. There are also complaints that the menu looks too plain, but personally I like it; the style is simple, sure, but it looks like it's from an independent developer, which makes it seem 'cozy' to me.
This game, as others have mentioned, has an excellent soundtrack. From listening to it, you will hear tons of different influences from video games and genres all around. Every track fits the mood perfectly, although some tracks are used too much when some aren't used enough. The sound effects work, but you won't pay much attention to them due to the soundtrack which is both louder and more appealing.
- - - Hero 30 is about a traveler who is enlisted by the king to defeat some grass monsters. One thing leads to another and it turns out there is an Evil Lord who is trying to destroy the world via the Spell of Destruction, which takes 30 seconds to cast. He fails, but the Time Goddess sets back time and makes a pact with him to help him defeat the Evil Lord. After the first Evil Lord is defeated, it is revealed that the Spell of Destruction has been spread around to dozens of Evil Lords, and the hero most travel from level to level, defeating each of them in turn. Eventually it is discovered Noire is the one spreading the Spell of Destruction around, and he is also working to revive the Ultimate Evil Lord. Naturally, the hero must go and stop him as well. The overall story is satirical of early 8-bit video games and their underdeveloped stories, but supplements its own story with lots of witty dialogue, characters with strange or idiotic motives, etc. For instance, the chemistry between the Time Goddess and the hero is much unlike any video game I've seen before; instead of the Time Goddess being distant, all-powerful, and otherworldly, she's extremely greedy, informal, and addresses the hero as a comrade more than an underling. Every single level has its own small storyline, and the multiple paths you can take lead the hero in all sorts of different directions. While it may not seem it, the story of Hero 30 is actually one of the strong points.
- - - Evil Lord 30 is about a beautiful Evil Lord and his lover Millenia, who has been turned into a bat by a curse. The Evil Lord travels around, defeating other things he perceives as evil while amassing an army of four elementals and also trying to lift Millenia's curse. The sunrise is always 30 seconds away, so to avoid getting a tan, Evil Lord must complete all of his tasks in under 30 seconds. The recurring joke of this mode is the Evil Lord's tendency to insult the looks of his enemies. Anyone weaker than him is denoted as 'ugly' and so on. The chemistry between the Evil Lord and Millenia is also cute, and the story plays out much like some kind of romantic comedy.
- - - Princess 30 is about a princess whose father falls ill due to a disease. She must search high and low for a cure to heal him, but her curfew is 30 seconds. Missions consist of her going out and finding something she needs, then returning in time for curfew. The humor is oftentimes derived from the princess's drastic personality change while wielding her father's crossbow, her weapon of choice. I found most of the jokes from this mode to be rather bland and unfunny, though.
- - - Knight 30 is about a knight in a post-apocalyptic future working with a sage to restore balance to the world. The knight must protect the sage long enough for him to cast a spell that will defeat all of the enemies in a level in one fell swoop. Most of the humor here comes from the knight's extreme naivety and the sage's apparent selfishness. While funnier than Princess 30, it leaves a few things to be desired.
- - - Hero 300 is about the sage and knight from Knight 30 resurrecting the hero from the long-lost past. They all go on a long journey through time and space to accrue the rest of the protagonists from previous modes and unite against the Ultimate Evil Lord. The story here is more dramatic than funny, but is nonetheless more captivating than you would expect.
- - - Hero 3 has no storyline.
- - - In Hero 30, you run around with the D-Pad and get into random battles. The battles happen automatically as each side rushes blindly at each other, dealing and taking damage when colliding determined by factors of attack and defensive power. When you're strong enough, you rush into a castle housing the Evil Lord and fight him. To spice it up, you can hold O while running to dash, which saves time but consumes HP. This can be done in battle or on the field. As you progress from your starting point to the castle, you'll also encounter different enemies in different terrains, and most importantly, towns and dungeons. Dungeons will typically have a slew of monsters followed by a reward, but sometimes lead to other areas on the land's surface and complex mazes. The towns will have things to buy, people that will give you advice on how to defeat the Evil Lord, and party members for hire. Among the things you buy, you'll have restorative items that replenish your health, consumable items (typically an HP-restoring herb, sometimes a bomb or another offensive catalyst) that are used with the Square button, and equipment that will alter your attack power, critical hit frequency, defense, moving speed, etc. Some towns also feature a statue of the Time Goddess, which you can pray to in order to reset the time gauge to 30 seconds.
The gameplay here is really fun, and it's amplified that each level has at least two ways to finish. You also get graded at the end, based off of your time. There are two titles per mission which are fulfilled by meeting certain requirements, some more self-descriptive than others, and a target time for you to try to finish by. On top of that, you can also see the level you reached and how much gold you had when you beat any given level, so you can always try again to do better. By far the best part, though, is the unique puzzle each level has, and depending on how you beat it, you may open up new or different paths to secret sets of levels. With each level you replay, you're given the option to switch your equipment to any setup you want, excluding weapons that can only be obtained after beating that level. This adds an additional level of strategy, and it also allows you to complete missions differently (ie. bringing swimming gear to cross to hidden areas). My biggest gripe about this playing mode, though, is how specific your position has to be in order to interact with members in a town. When playing in Hard Mode, time isn't stopped when you enter a town, so time is of the essence, and when you have to pull up so close to someone before you buy what they're selling, it can be tough when you're dashing and you have to run back and forth a little before you can settle in the right spot. Certain extremely hard feats are also very specific, and it gets annoying if you have to redo something a lot.
- - - In Evil Lord 30, you have a mana gauge which fills up as time goes on. Your objective is either to kill one person, some people, or all people, or to catch someone that's running around. To do this, you'll need to get past enemies. Enemies and allies are made up of three types: Brutes who overpower Nimbles who dodge projectiles from Shooters (who kill Brutes from a distance). Based off of the positions of these enemy types, you use your mana to summon allies to take down the opposition. The more mana you have, the stronger the enemies will be. Enemies can charge if you command them to with X. As you defeat enemies, you will gain power which will increase your maximum mana, allowing you to summon stronger monsters, although being hit will temporarily reduce your maximum mana, leaving you with weaker enemies. Touching neutral animals or one of the Fab Four will make them fight for you. Using the Fab Four with [R] can knock back nearby enemies, paralyze them, damage them, etc. based off of which of the Four you touched. When you're low on time you can go for one of the Time Goddess' barrels to replenish time at the cost of all of the money you have accumulated in that level.
The sort of sped-up war tactics this mode requires is really fun, but eventually your mana gauge will get so big that the whole mode becomes too easy and you'll decimate enemies without any trouble. Also, in the levels you need to catch people on, it becomes way too easy to skirt past most enemies, nullifying much of the strategy. On top of that, this mode does not differentiate between Normal and Hard mode, meaning if you want a good track record, you have no motive to play on Hard Mode. There are also rankings, but once you beat all 30 missions you'll realize it's extremely easy to mop up all of them with the highest rank. Also, your best times with each level are kept separate for Normal and Hard difficulty.
- - - In Princess 30, you rush through a bunch of different terrains, staying near the edge of the screen to go fast and near the back to slow down. Using the Triangle, Square, X, and O buttons you can shoot in any direction you like as team of escorts carries around the princess. Ramming into enemies will slow your progress, so you want to pick them off before they can really hassle you. In addition, the more enemies you kill, the more you fill up your invincibility gauge. When that's filled, you gain temporary invincibility and super speed, and killing enemies while invincible will prolong this mode. You also want to stay on the best kinds of paths when you can, too. Dirt is generally the best, grass is less desirable, and mud and water will slow you down greatly. By running on magic carpets, though, your time will stop depleting and go backwards instead (at the cost of Gold). Carpets also allow you to run pretty fast on them. While doing all of this, you generally run toward an object or destination, then run back. Having your escorts damaged from touching enemies will also cost medical fees at the end of each level.
This is an interesting shooter/racing game, but the lack of warning you get before enemies are smashing into you, or you're knee-deep in sludge is not enough for this to be really skill-based. More often than not you just need to memorize the level and then make your run. However, even with memorization, some of the missions in Princess 30 are extremely difficult to manage in less than 30 seconds. What it lacks in depth it makes up for in raw difficulty. However, when going for better times, you'll be frustrated to know that you have to complete a level in order to see your best time on the results screen, and your scores are not kept separate between Normal and Hard mode in this difficulty either.
- - - In Knight 30, your goal is to protect the Sage as he casts a spell to permanently eliminate all enemies in the area, as you can only stun them (although you can permanently destroy the bells which reset the casting countdown). Using the X button, you can grab the Sage to move him around, weapons to use, or swing a weapon (or throw a throwable weapon) you're already carrying. You can also use X to tackle enemies at the cost of a considerable amount of time and all of your stamina, carry around and throw stunned enemies, or use the trap that you've selected. Without a weapon, tackling and ramming enemies is the only way to slow them down.
The O button is once again the dash button, but instead of using health, it now costs stamina to run. It costs more stamina to run while carrying a weapon, and an especially large amount to run while carrying the Sage. Walking while carrying the sage won't consume stamina, but it will make it refill slower. When your stamina reaches 0, you will be momentarily dazed.
With Triangle, you can call the sage to any point you want, giving you time to fight off enemies as he runs from the fray (although he can't cast while walking or while you're carrying him, and he will pause the casting). The Square button allows you to select a trap from your inventory. To place it, press Square after it's selected, and to throw it, press X while it's selected. Placing the Sage on a shrine tile will allow him to cast at twice the speed, while letting your Sage get hit on Normal Mode will increase the time required to cast by another five seconds (on Hard Mode you just lose). As you power up, you will be able to create and level up traps that can lure enemies to them, damage enemies, or keep them at bay. The more sleep you replace with creating the traps before you start a level, the less maximum HP and stamina you will have.
The strategy in this mode makes it extremely fun, but it's subject to some of the pitfalls of the earlier ones, the most prominent being that it's too easy! While some levels were somewhat tough to get the best possible rank on, none of them posed a lasting challenge. On top of that, it's too easy to grind until you can easily overtake the enemies, and most of the time the traps are useless as the HP and stamina boost will prove to be much more helpful. It's also easy to find a cheap work around in order to dodge enemies or trap enemies in certain areas in many of the levels. An unrelated issue is that you can't set down your weapons until they break unless you want to use a trap, but sometimes you'll want to set down a weapon in order to carry the Sage somewhere. And, like Evil Lord 30 and Princess 30, there records don't keep track of Normal and Hard mode, so once again you have no motive to play on Hard Mode.
- - - Hero 300 and Hero 3 are variants of Hero 30, but each mode only has one level. The only difference with Hero 300 is the amount of time you have, although you have a certain time limit at each section which is less than 300 seconds in order to get to the next section, which is confusing. Hero 3 is just like Hero 30 except... You only get 3 seconds. I really enjoyed the first Hero 3 level, and I wish there were more!
I've barely sunk 20 hours into this game so far, but I've already beaten nearly all of the levels except for a few secret Hero 30 levels I haven't unlocked yet. I started off on Hard Mode for all of the modes except Hero 300 and beat them, then went back and collected all of the highest ranks for all of them. I'm still missing around seven or so for Princess 30, and I'm missing a lot of titles and ranks for Hero 30. Again, this is in less than 20 hours. I'm just trying to put this all into perspective. I'm guessing it might take 40 hours to get the maximum rank on everything, but I'm really not positive.
Although you do have some motivation to keep going; as you progress, you unlock things in the Goddess Room. These are all of the items you use across all modes including equipment. You also have the Evil Lords, normal monsters, and concept art. These include visuals and a little description about each entry. Unlike most video games, you don't get a bland and boring description, but a humorous description of every single one of the hundreds of entries in the Goddess Room.
By far the biggest problem with the replay value is that only Hero 30 keeps track of your best times in Normal and Hard Mode. If this was kept track of in all modes, you would be able to try to get your best times in for over 200 different levels, and have 200 different times to refine and trim down as much as possible, but instead you have far fewer things to refine. On top of that, with a bit of effort, you shouldn't have too much trouble conquering the times, so unless you have a friend with the same game, there's not much competition once you've mastered it. To make matters worse, there aren't leaderboards, so if you have a friend go on your game and beat your score, you won't remember which scores are yours or not. However, there is a multiplayer mode which looks fun by the looks of online videos.
8/10 FINAL RECOMMENDATION:
This game is way too short! All of my favorite games I can easily sink 100 hours (in one case, 600 hours) into them, but for the price, I honestly can't say Half-Minute Hero is worth it. It's extremely fun, but it tends to be too easy and it's hard to compete with one another. The levels are exploitable, and while you may use the honor system in some games for the sake of being fair, when you're trying to get the shortest times possible, you can't bar any holds. What this game needs is a level editor to lengthen the time you can spend playing, but sadly this feature is not included. As good as this game is while it lasts, I recommend you rent it before trying it. Chances are you'll have gotten most of the game's material out of it before it's even due back. If you decide to buy it, I recommend downloading it, as I believe it's pretty lightweight.
Overall a very fun game, but it suffers from being very short. Additionally, nothing is really too hard to beat. You may work hard to get the best ranks and the target times for any given level, but sometimes a player wants something that's hell just to complete at all, and in this respect the game does not quite follow through.