Role Playing Games generally are long and sometimes tedious affairs, which is a major deterrent for some. After all, even if you like a game, chances are after forty hours you're going to be pretty tired of it. Half-Minute Hero takes this to heart, focusing on the idea that RPGs don't need to be epics to be great. Even a few seconds can be enough... thirty seconds to be exact.
Though Half-Minute Hero offers a number of different play modes, the game's centerpiece is Hero mode. Here the player partakes of an RPG broken up into stages, which the player has 'only' thirty seconds to complete. Should time run short, you have the option of rewinding the clock, but doing so multiple times will cost you consistently more gold, still making speed essential. With there being such a focus on fast paced adventuring, the game includes a mocking rendition of age old RPG tropes, such as grinding and questing. Running around each map, you'll enter into random encounters, but they'll last mere seconds at most. Grinding is present, but climbing levels often takes a matter of seconds, rather than the grueling hours many gamers would be more accustomed to. Moreover, almost every quest falls into the “go here, get this” category.
More than an RPG, Hero mode plays like a puzzle game where you try to figure out how to reach your goal before your time run out. As you progress, the stages become larger and more intricate, often with multiple side objectives that can actually change the way you complete a level and advance the story. The difficulty rises gradually enough that it never feels overbearing, and though you're generally doing little more then running around a map, it's still a lot of fun. If Hero mode has one flaw it's that sometimes trial and error can come into play too much, but that's a small problem.
The game's other modes are enjoyable, but not as fleshed out as Hero mode. In Demon King, you play through a simple real time strategy game where you are similarly limited by a thirty second time limit. It's fine, but nowhere near as entertaining as Hero mode. Princess mode, which essentially amounts to a side scrolling shooter is also fun, but it's very short, clocking in at barely an hour worth of total play time. The game also features three more unlockable modes. The Knight mode is probably most boring in the game, while the other two are more akin to the original hero mode.
Aside from some delightfully rendered 2D visuals and some great music, the game also features some really amusing dialogue. Exemplified best in Hero mode, Half-Minute Hero has no qualms with picking on itself. At the beginning of each new level for instance, your latest foe gives a short speech about why they're out to destroy the world. One boss, a giant crab, is tired of only being able to walk from side to side. In another, an alligator is sick of playing second fiddle to the local dragons, who get more respect as reptiles. The reasons range from kooky to downright bizarre, but they're always amusing. In short, the game has a great sense of humor, tailored almost specificly to the jaded gamer demographic.
While Half-Minute Hero isn't a perfect product, its flaws are relatively minor and nowhere near enough to sink this sturdy ship. It is easily one of the most enjoyable PSP games to hit the market recently, and serves as a must have for RPG fans who find themselves in the strange predicament of being tired of RPGs. It's fun, its fast, and while it's firmly cemented in the idea of being short on time, it's a game that will enthrall you for hours on end.