Saturday, September 27, 2014

Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy - 2/20 hours

First things first. I can tell already that I'm going to hate typing that title.  Obviously, its baroque excess is a significant portion of its charm, but damn. It's cute, but it kind of feels like it's trying too hard.

Which is probably equally as true of the game itself. Although, at this early stage, that seems like an overly harsh assessment. In any self-aware genre parody, there is a fine line between winking at various standard conventions and shortcuts as part of a fourth-wall joke and simply using lazy devices and relying on being "meta" to gloss over the story's shortcomings.

So far, Half Minute Hero has fallen on the "cute and funny" side of the line. Why must you pay for the help of the Goddess of Time when you are, in fact, questing to save the world? Because "time is money." Why are so many people so hell-bent on casting a spell that will destroy the world? Lord Hadears is just playing around. Ladybeach got bad information and thinks the spell will do something good. Masnake thinks snakes are cute and resents the way people treat them (and also, apparently does not quite grasp the scope of "destroying the world"). Madwood is just a pissed off tree. Evilo should require no explanation.

Those guys are all pretty fun. On the other hand, after beating Sandora, the game comes right out and tells me that the makers of Half Minute Hero are running out of ideas, and that worries me. That's the sort of joke you can only tell once. If they are, in fact, running out of ideas, I'd rather not know about it. If they aren't, I'd rather they stick to skewering rpg cliches.

Because Half Minute Hero is a pretty effective parody of the rpgs I grew up playing. Basically,  it takes the genre and strips away as much of the embellishment and cruft as possible, leaving only the broad strokes of the classic formula. Some asshole is going to cast a spell that will destroy the world. You show up just as they start. Since the spell takes exactly 30 seconds to cast, you have that long to fight monsters, grind up levels, shop for items, and face the boss. The Goddess of Time helps you out by stopping the clock while you're in towns and resetting the clock for an escalating fee.

It's actually quite repetitive, but because the levels are short, and the action and exploration are fun, it's not that big a deal. I think, however, that the game might have suffered a bit for its transition in mediums. It was originally a hand-held game, and its mechanics are perfect for a platform you may only be able to play for a few minutes at a time. Sitting down in front of a PC and playing it like an epic rpg might put stresses on Half Minute Hero that it may never have been intended to handle.

Still, it hasn't been a problem yet. So far I'm finding it a sprightly and refreshing experience. A nice palate cleanser after Bad Rats, and an amusing reminder of a much-loved genre of games that I haven't really played in years.

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