Choosing an RPG title has always been a long and meticulous process for me. Great RPGs need an interesting plot set in the backdrop of intricate lore with four-dimensional characters and an enjoyable gameplay dynamic. It needs to have excellent character development and a battle system that doesn’t get too tedious and requires plenty of strategy. These are the main factors I consider when looking to play an RPG. Anything else that falls short of these factors is probably not worth the time.

The main issue with RPGs is the time invested in them; it’s impossible to play a proper RPG for an hour then decide it sucks. It requires commitment and patience. However, sometimes no amount of commitment and patience can make an RPG better.

Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax solves this time issue somewhat. Developed by Marvelous Entertainment, Half Minute Hero is an action/RTS/shoot em’ up in the style of a JRPG. It was initially released in 2009 for the PSP but only saw its Steam release in September this year.

It has some traditional elements of a conventional RPG like equipment, some exploration, and a leveling system. The only catch here is that you only get 30 seconds to play each stage. There are three modes: Hero 30 (classic save the world from evil), Evil Lord 30 (summon minions and kill things) and Princess 30 (shoot everything).

Evil Lord 30 features a basic RTS where you play the Beautiful Lord who can summon minions to kill everything that moves. Each minion summoned has its weaknesses and strengths against a certain enemies. Princess 30 is a classic shooter where you play a princess whose curfew runs out in 30 seconds. After finishing these three modes Knight 30, a simple action game, is unlocked.

In Hero 30 mode, the world is being threatened by the Evil Lord with a spell that will destroy the world in 30 seconds. The hero is tasked to save the world in that time with all the grinding and exploring in between. He meets the Time Goddess who offers him help by turning back time by 30 seconds each time he needs it. After the Evil Lord gets beaten the first time he runs off and starts teaching the 30 second doom spell to other evil people/crabs/crocodiles around the world. Half-Minute Hero features an amusing storyline with interesting and unique gameplay that fall a bit short of an enjoyable experience.

The hero must save the world from the 30 second doom spell by destroying whoever is casting it. Finishing a stage in 30 seconds is damn near impossible which is where the Time Goddess perk comes in. In each town there are Time Goddess statues that the hero can pray to for the clock to reset. It initially costs only 100g which can be earned by killing monsters but the price increases the more time is reset. Each stage doesn’t come very straight forward either, like the standard RPG the hero must ask around the towns for clues to repairing a bridge or acquiring some special flower to hire a mercenary. The real challenge of the game is time management. Every second counts so one unnecessary trip to a mine can cause the world to end.

While the game is quite fun in the beginning, the 30 second novelty wears out after completing a few stages. Quests are recycled into something slightly different every time which makes the game quite tedious and repetitive. There’s always some person to talk to about some boat to cross some lake or some mine that needs to be explored to acquire some key. The game, with all its time management requirements, still doesn’t require that much skill. The combat is automatic so the outcome of each fight is purely dictated by your level and equipment. The bosses are really easy to beat after grinding for a few “seconds” as well.

After each stage, credits roll before you enter the next one. At first, I thought this was quite funny but after playing the 30th stage it just got stale and annoying. Of course, the game does give you the option to speed it up but the fact that each stage felt like the beginning of a new game was just irritating.

One thing I liked about this game was the dialogue which was hilarious and clever. Every character you find has something to say. The Time Goddess, who follows you everywhere, has often sarcastic dialogue that makes each tedious stage bearable. The different bosses also features some funny back stories like a crab who just wants to move forward but can’t or a crocodile who is tired of being overshadowed by dragons. Most of the good jokes are used up early and even the game is aware of that. Though entertaining at first, the dialogue got quite old prompting me to skip ahead.

The game offers two graphics modes: NEO Cartoon mode which features HD cartoony graphics and retro which is reminiscent of the 8-bit SNES era. Personally, I prefer the retro settings purely because of nostalgia and its charm.

The soundtrack, I would say, completely captures the JRPG aesthetic. If there’s anything I’d go back to in this game it would be the music. The menu music has organ pipes playing with frantic guitar sweeps, double pedals and what sounds like a harpsichord. Being a lover of metal, I have a soft spot for music like this despite being accompanied by a mediocre game.

If you’re looking for a game that has everything a standard RPG has without the intricate storyline and a decent battle system then this game is for you. Its novelty gameplay coupled with standard RPG elements fall short of a game worth investing time in especially for $11 on Steam.