Half-Minute Hero is a Japanese RPG version of speed dating. All the classic elements of role-playing games are present -- start a quest, meet people who need help, earn money, upgrade equipment, level up, and take down bosses -- but everything's done in 30 second increments.
Despite an overly convoluted name, Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax is almost exactly as advertised: gaming in half-minute bites. Single-player in Half-Minute Hero consists of more than 60-levels, and includes leaderboards, as well as an online multiplayer offering for those who like to compete online.
If you've ever been fascinated by JRPGs but felt overwhelmed by their complexity, Half-Minute Hero was made for you. This game is essentially the Cliffs Notes version of the genre, with all of the basic elements of a traditional JRPG offered to players (including a unique art style) in an easy to digest, streamlined format. But don't be fooled into thinking this title is a JRPG for dummies; Half-Minute Hero can be complex. This is most obvious when it comes to the game's most unique feature: time management.
Manipulating time requires skill. Levels are completed in 30-second chunks, and you'll be forced to complete tasks with the clock continuously counting down to zero. If the clock hits zero, the world ends. Battling enemies, recruiting help, defeating bosses, and literally buying more time is all very straightforward, but because of the time constraint there's a lot of strategy involved, forcing you to truly think about the best way to complete a level.
Half-Minute Hero oozes personality. The game is full of funny, interesting characters (I especially enjoyed the money hungry Time Goddess and the enemy in a cave who complained about his allergies) and self-referential jokes ("next time on Hero 30, Caves and Forests!"). Half-Minute Hero even allows you to go old-school, letting you switch the game's art style from the new "NEO Cartoon" mode to a classic 16-bit aesthetic.
But if Half-Minute Hero feels familiar, don't be surprised. This XBLA game is a port of the PSP Half-Minute Hero title that was released in 2009. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately, aside from the ability to change the graphic style and the revamped extra modes from the PSP version (the game used to feature some RTS and shooter sections, now played as straight RPG segments), the XBLA version isn't really different from the PSP version. A few more extras for a game that's already been out for two years would've been nice.
While Half-Minute Hero does a great job of walking players through the JRPG basics, sometimes it does that job a little too well. Because much of the levelling up, combat, and upgrading is done for you, the game can be pretty easy, which leads to some occasionally repetitive gameplay.
Even so, don't let the idea of playing a game in 30-second chunks trick you into thinking that this is a title you can beat quickly. Half-Minute Hero is full of content. With more than 60 single-player levels and a challenging multiplayer offering, you'll have your hands full with this game for a long time.