Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax XBLA review

A nifty PSP game gets a port to Xbox Live, but is it as satisfying as the handheld original? Here’s James’ review of Half-Minute Hero…

As a genre, the JRPG appeals to a certain crowd while being vilified by others. “They’re linear,” their critics moan, “all you do is grind for hours then fight a boss and watch a cutscene, then start over.”

And they’re right. There’s no greater torture for the section of the gaming community who prefer speed and instant gratification, but for those who do enjoy JRPGs, there’s no better way to kill off a few hours. Seeking to unite these two factions, Half-Minute Hero does what many thought would be impossible, by providing a JRPG experience with absolutely none of the chaff that typically defines the genre.

In terms of story, you can guess what to expect. Someone’s trying to destroy the world, and only a plucky young hero stands a chance of stopping them. The story is intentionally weak, in keeping with the bare-bones approach Half-Minute Hero has built itself around. But along with this comes a twist: you only have 30 seconds to stop each boss monster from destroying the world.

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In this time, you must grind (each new area sends you back to level one, regardless of how strong you were), buy equipment, talk to NPCs and explore the world. The amount of time you have to save the world can be reset to 30 seconds, but only by donating ever-larger amounts of your hard-won money to statues of the avaricious Goddess of Time.

While the tasks you are assigned may initially seem daunting, even with the option to extend the time limit, they are. in fact, fairly simple. Enemy encounters frequently take less than a second, and consist of the player running from the left, the monsters running from the right, and damage being dealt upon contact. It’s funny to watch, and it makes you realise just how simple a battle in a JRPG can be.

On top of this, time is paused in towns (which only take up one screen with everything laid out on a 2D plane), allowing you to chat with the inhabitants and restock your equipment at your leisure. Overall, it’s a very charming experience that accurately satirises the traditional JRPG experience, while simultaneously paying homage to it.

Half-Minute Hero’s roots on the Sony PSP really show through in the gameplay, with there being a clear slant towards an experience that can be picked up and put down at almost any point, without having to worry about losing too much progress. It worked well on a portable system, but on a home console, the shorter levels towards the beginning can leave you feeling short-changed.

However, as the game progresses, levels become larger, with optional side objectives to fulfill for a higher ranking. While this may seem like padding, the charm of the game makes up for it.

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Unfortunately, the charm cannot distract from the length of the overall game. The main campaign, called Hero 30, lasts for 30 levels, with the occasional branching path depending on the method you used to solve a particular level. The experience can be lengthened through the ability to replay missions in an attempt to get a higher ranking or better equipment, but only dedicated players are likely to try this, as neither are particularly necessary to progress.

Once the main campaign is completed, players are granted access to other game modes, one at a time. On the PSP, two of these, Evil Lord 30 and Princess 30 were available from the start, with Knight 30, Hero 300, and Hero 3, to be unlocked, but in Super Mega Neo Climax, all must be unlocked sequentially.

Unfortunately, these modes have each been cut down from 30 levels each on the PSP to only one level on the Xbox, with drastic gameplay differences that make them extensions of Hero 30 rather than their own distinct game types. It’s hard to understand why this was done, right up until the point where you notice that downloadable content is apparently coming in the future. Then it makes a sad kind of sense.

In terms of what this Xbox port brings to the table (besides the potential nickel and diming down the road), you have the original game’s multiplayer component, which challenges you to complete an objective faster than an online player, now with the steady connection of Xbox live.

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There’s also a new graphics option, which replaces the SNES-emulating sprites of the original with more detailed character artwork in cutscenes, at the cost of in-game sprites that look like mediocre flash animation, similar to the Monkey Island special editions. Thankfully, the two modes can be switched between at the main menu, and I would seriously recommend playing with the original, pixel art look. 

Overall, the game is a fun little experience that makes fun of the very genre it falls into. The charm and humour go a long way towards ensuring that it will remain in your library for a long time, with the option to replay levels drawing you back over time as you grow ever more proficient at the game.

It’s just a shame that so much of the original version’s content was excised from this port, especially considering that the sheer variety of the various modes was one of the sacrifices. There are much worse ways to blow 800 Microsoft points out there, but PSP owners should probably stick with the original.  


3 out of 5