As I'm sure many of you are aware, the Greg's Game of the Show Award is one of the hardest to win at E3. Sure, I'm the only judge and it's only been around for two years, but when I dole out this completely unrecognized and unapproved IGN honor, I'm looking for a title so quirky that it knocks my socks off and leaves me begging for more. In 2008, the award went to a little PlayStation Network game called Fat Princess, which went on to get a 9.0 from IGN.
This year, the E3 award went to Half-Minute Hero.
Although XSEED and developer Opus will tell you that Half-Minute Hero is an RPG, I propose that it's more of a puzzle game. Sure, there are the telltale signs of an RPG -- a kingdom in need of saving, level-grinding, random battles and an evil dude locked in a ruby -- but they're not used in any of the traditional ways. Here, you need to do all of the traditional RPG stuff in bursts of 30 seconds, within an 8-bit world. You'll need to figure out the correct order of meeting people, battling baddies, spending money and rewinding time to succeed.
In the time it took to read this, you could've leveled-up about seven times.E3 and its Japanese text
set the framework for HMH, but after playing the first half dozen quests of the Hero 30 mode, I can happily fill in some solid details. Back in the day -- like back before humans -- there was the Time Goddess and the Ultimate Evil Lord. The Time Goddess battled the Lord and eventually locked him away in a ruby. But soon, humans came and the evil of the Ultimate Evil Lord began to seep from the stone. Now, quite a ways into the future, you're a little blonde hero that you get to name and you're charged with defending the land.
The story goes that someone or something is roaming the countryside and passing on the Spell of Destruction. This dark magic voodoo ends the world in 30 seconds once the spell has been cast. This leads to the typical setup of marching into a new area, having the villain of the land -- the bug queen, Badbat, fire creature, or so on -- pop up and crack wise before giving the world 30 seconds to live. You'll need to move your hero across the land and level-up so that you can stand a chance against the bad guy.
Of course, achieving the level you'll need to best the baddie -- which is proudly trumpeted on the screen by "You>Evil" -- means you'll have to successfully complete a bunch of random battles. You'll enter into these fights by wandering around the countryside, and once there, your character will run into the enemy over and over as HP gets knocked off until one of you is the last thing standing. Then, it's on to the next fight or town.
Now, all of that is going on while the onscreen clock counts down. Early on in the game, you'll meet up with the Goddess who is happy to rewind time for you as long as you have the cash to pay her. Once she's on your side, time will stop when you enter a town so you can talk to villagers for information and crucial quest parts, eat something to replenish your health, buy weapons, and (most importantly) pray to the Goddess to get a fresh 30 seconds. You have to pay to pray, and each time you do so in a quest, the price goes up for your next church session. It's a mechanic designed to get you out there, leveled-up, and on your way as fast as can be.
There will of course be other obstacles in your way. Not every mission is as simple as steamrolling some spiders -- which is adorable to watch as your little man runs through the bad guys and they fly into the air and off the screen -- lots have side missions. When I jumped into one mission on a sandy swatch of land with an ocean view, I found that the bridge to the boss was out and the city carpenter was hiding in town. I jogged over -- running on the world map drains your HP and puts you at a distinct disadvantage in the random battles -- and met the guy. Seems some beasts had his tools under guard in a cave and he couldn't complete the job without them. With that I motored up there, beat the bad guy, gave back the tools, and the carpenter repaired the crossing so I could go forth and save the day. This process was repeated later on when I had to stop a lady who had set the forest on fire because she hated the allergies that came with it.
If the congested arsonist didn't tip you off, Half-Minute Hero doesn't take itself seriously. You're fighting grass fiends as well as seaweed, dealing with a deity who loves money, and picking up goofy weapons such as bug swatters and rock axes to fight smack-talkin' fire creatures. Toss in the fact that the game has these anime-esque, still cutscenes that are offset with giant, almost unidentifiable 8-bit sprites and you know you're dealing with a title that's aiming to make you chuckle. Each quest starts with a massive Roman numeral as if you're setting out on the latest Final Fantasy and ends with a set of credits that make it seem like you just completed an epic journey even though it took about a minute. Luckily, you can fly through the credits, and the game's simple, cheery music is dynamite.
I can't wait for this game to get released. There are a couple other modes -- an RTS and a "high-speed shooting game" that casts you as the princess -- available in the build I played with a bunch of other modes grayed out, but just the simple RPG story I played today with the challenge of trying to complete quests as quickly as possible has me excited. Each of those modes has 30 quests, but those numbers shouldn't impress you -- watch the videos
and tell me that doesn't look fun as hell. In Hero 30, which is what I played today, you'll travel across a world map that allows you to see the target quest time and how you've stacked up so far -- at the end of each level, there's a results screen breaking down your effort.
Half-Minute Hero is set to be released this October, but I'm going to beg XSEED to send me a copy as soon as possible, so look for more impressions soon here on IGN.
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