Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Review
You wouldn't guess it from the title, but Half-Minute Hero is good for hours of role playing against the clock.
- Fast-paced, fun gameplay
- 40-plus quests all have plenty of replay value
- Two distinct visual styles to choose from
- Multiplayer mode is a blast.
- Controls aren't always as responsive as they need to be
- Unlockable extras are inferior to those in PSP version
- Doesn't take long for repetition to set in.
The moment you start playing Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax, you're presented with a situation in which you have only 30 seconds to save the world. This is a predicament that you find yourself in at the start of every level, so it goes without saying that this is a game that's rarely played at anything but a frantic pace. At a glance, Half-Minute Hero might easily be mistaken for a traditional role-playing game, but features like side quests, random battles, and party management are all boiled down to their bare essentials; thus, the resulting experience is almost unrecognizable. It's also a lot of fun, and because there are multiple ways to complete every bite-sized quest, as well as leaderboards that compare fastest times, there's plenty of replay value.
Despite the fact that each quest starts with only 30 seconds on the clock, most take longer than that to finish successfully. Your hero works closely with an amusingly materialistic Time Goddess who, when you pray to one of her statues and make a cash donation, has the power to reset the timer. The size of the required donation increases every time you pray, so you certainly can't afford to take it easy as you navigate the world map. But provided you're collecting plenty of currency from slain enemies, you can at least take some time to level up (typically you gain at least one level after every fight) and to acquire better gear before confronting the boss. A different boss awaits you at the end of every quest, and they all have one thing in common: They've either deliberately or unwittingly cast the same world-ending-in-30-seconds spell after coming into contact with the game's truly evil antagonist.
Boss locations are pointed out to you as each quest gets underway, but heading straight to them is never a good idea because if you lose the fight (or indeed any fight), you're returned to the start point with minimal health. Rather, your first move should be to make your way to a nearby town where local folks can not only impart knowledge of the area and its dangers, but also sell you weapons, armor, and life-restoring food and herbs. Time stops when you're in towns, but you rarely need to hang around them for long because all of the useful stores, quest givers, Time Goddess statues, and such are simply arranged in a straight line, with no filler in between. That might sound dull, but it's very much in keeping with how Half-Minute Hero treats all RPG tropes; these towns serve much the same purpose as those in more traditional RPGs but in a streamlined fashion. Often while in towns, you're offered optional side quests that, while time consuming, are well worth undertaking because of the rewards they offer. If you take 15 seconds out of your busy schedule to kill a sea monster that's terrorizing fishermen, you might earn yourself a powerful spear, for example.
Every decision that you make in Half-Minute Hero ends up being based on time, and you might be surprised by how much you can accomplish in just a few seconds. Four or five seconds can be enough time for you to poke your head out of a town, randomly encounter monsters, watch your battle with them play out, and then return to town having collected enough money to pray to the Time Goddess statue. And while running rather than walking between locations might sound like an obvious way to save time, doing so expends health, so even basic movement is something of a balancing act. Unless you're replaying a quest specifically to find its alternate ending or to collect any allies or equipment that you missed, your goal is always to reach and defeat the boss as quickly as possible. The faster your time and the lower your hero's level when the boss is defeated, the higher your position on the leaderboards. Upon finishing a quest, you have an opportunity not only to see how how your time fares against those of your friends and other players, but also to find out if you missed out on any gear, allies, or alternate endings. Often, what you see here is reason enough to immediately replay the quest you just finished, and when chasing a friend's time, you can see a ghost of his hero with his time ticking down to zero as you play, which adds an even greater sense of urgency.
If you prefer a more direct form of competition, Super Hero Wars is a competitive multiplayer mode that lets you go head-to-head with up to three other heroes in 10 specially designed quests. Incredibly, multiplayer games are even more frantic than solo games, not only because they're essentially races to the finish, but also because weapon and armor upgrades are only available in limited quantities. If another player purchases a powerful sword in town, that sword is sold out when you show up two seconds later, so you're stuck using an inferior weapon either until you find another or the player who purchased it runs out of time and it returns to the store. Even when you're clearly behind your opponents, all is not lost; you can shadow other players and force your cooperation upon them as they go up against enemies that are guarding treasure chests and the like, and you can even attack each other. Playing alongside other heroes is a blast and adds another layer of strategy to the fast-paced proceedings. Although 10 quests might not sound like a lot, they offer plenty of variety.