Recapping this game is difficult. There are a lot of details, but little incident. Really, the experience of playing Half Minute Hero is of a pattern - start a level, get introduced to a quirky villain, listen to the Goddess of Time make a joke or describe an obstacle, poke around a village to find a solution, go to some cave to execute the solution, fight the boss, listen to wrap-up, earn an item.
Most of the levels are pretty forgettable. The best ones are probably those with a branching path. There is one level where the boss was unusually powerful, and I had to choose between aiding a nun to gain holy power or making a deal with a demon. This opened up two different paths that went on for about four levels before they reconverged.
If you chose the demon, you got get a variation in the normal gameplay experience. The demon makes you extremely powerful, so much so that you are never in any real danger of dying, but at the end of each level the Goddess of Time swoops in and steals your treasure. Eventually, you have to pay her 1 million gold to lift the curse (the demon threatens to claim your soul after you use its power four times). It's not a super-innovative twist on the formula, but it's nice as a change of pace.
By contrast, the nun's path was fairly standard, though it ended on a relatively unique level where you had to chase down some bandits (a rather sad group of recurring characters called the "Bandit Trio") to recover a holy grail and then use that grail on Nexus, the Undead Queen. If you beat Nexus without using the grail, the ending part of the pattern triggered as normal, but then she popped up, alive, and you're taken to the main menu instead of the world map.
Half Minute Hero is probably at its best when it does unexpected stuff like that. My favorite non-standard game over was probably in the level with the pirate's treasure, where the Goddess of Time asks you whether finding the treasure means you plan on giving up adventuring to live a life of wealth. If you answer yes, you get a screen of the Hero and Goddess frolicking in a big pile of coins before you're taken back to the main menu. It's a neat little moment, and a nice reward for traveling off the beaten path and then trying something stupid.
I wouldn't call it a complaint, since the fault is almost certainly with my particular style of play, but I do kind of find the game's side paths to be distracting. Whenever I open one up, I'm faced with a dilemma of what to do next. What's the best way of seeing everything? Do I stick with one path or alternate between two? At first, I alternated, but I don't think I like that way of playing. At one point, I was on four different paths at once, and it was a little hard to remember what was going on. If the plot of the game was anything other than paper thin, it might have been a genuine problem.
When I quit most recently, I'd just unlocked a new branching path. Shortly after defeating the Black Knight Zane (along with a guest reappearance of Evilo, the villain with perhaps the best name in the game) and discovering that Noire (the dickhead who is teaching every damned idiot with a half-baked grudge how to cast the Spell of Destruction, and who is apparently trying to revive the dark counterpart to the Goddess of Time) has fled to another continent, I was faced with a path blocked by a broken floodgate. If I tracked down the missing gate part (stolen by the "Bandit Trio," fresh off stealing the holy grail that kept an ancient undead sealed in slumber and apparently looking for a new pointless crime to commit), I could go north. If I swam across the lake by getting a rich guy's permission to take off from his private beach, I would then have to go east to "work off my debt."
I think, this time, I will follow one path to its end and then come back later. This will make the story a bit more coherent (in as much as its bite-sized structure can be, at least), though I'm a little worried that I won't know when it will be okay to turn back and pursue the other path.
Regardless, I think I'll have plenty to keep me occupied for another fourteen hours. In addition to multiple paths, there are hidden items yet to find and at least three more game modes (hero 300, classic evil lord 30, and classic princess 30). I'm especially looking forward to controlling a different character. I'm hoping that being an evil lord or a princess will shake up the game's formula (hero 300 sounds like a total grind, though - I'll skip it if I have the option).
Overall, I'm feeling pretty positive. Half Minute Hero was 50 cents well spent.