Developer: Marvelous Entertainment
by: Mike Katsufrakis
I believe through my years of experience, I have come up with the perfect code to create a Japanese RPG from scratch. Distilled to its very basics, the summation of a classic JRPG is as follows:
10 WALK AROUND MAP
20 FIGHT BATTLES
30 HEAL IN TOWN
40 BRAVE A DUNGEON/KILL A BOSS
50 GOTO 10
Half-Minute Hero's main mode, Hero 30, not only takes this to heart, but it adds its own clever twists. A mysterious evildoer has taught the various evil lords of the world a spell that will end all existence in 30 seconds. It is your job as the titular Hero to level up, earn money to purchase new gear, keep yourself healed, take on side quests and defeat the evil lord of each level all within these 30 seconds.
Luckily, there's a gold-digging Goddess of Time on your side, who will (for an ever-increasing fee) reset the time limit for you, but not your progress.
Battles are fought automatically, so all you have to do is run towards the foes you wish to vanquish, bump into them a few times (a nod to Ys? I know not.), collect your gold/experience and move on.
Everything sounds overly simplistic so far, but the real meat of the game is fighting the time limit. In fact, it ends up playing like a combination of a strategy and a puzzle game. Do you seek out the monster carrying a ton of gold to buy the overpowered suit of armor offered in the first town? For every side quest, there is usually great reward of some kind, though you will have to use all the skills at your disposal to make sure you not only use your time effectively, but have enough money to pay the Goddess to reset your time limit.
Add in deliciously chunky sprite graphics (think 8-bit characters over 16-bit backgrounds), an absolutely stellar localization, and you have one hell of a fun portable experience.
Oh, and did I forget to mention there are three other complete games in this package?
Princess 30 is a hilarious little shooter where you control an insane princess with a magical crossbow, carried on a palanquin by her royal retainers to seek out herbs to heal her ailing father.
Evil Lord 30 is a 30-second RTS starring an appropriately effeminate Evil Lord (all gothed-out, carrying a victorian umbrella and talking about how beautiful he is).
Knight 30 is a mode where you play a knight protecting a Mage who needs to cast a 30 second spell that will save the world.
With its great presentation, bite-size levels and enough unique modes to shake a controller at, Half-Minute Hero is easily one of the best handheld games I've played this year, and that makes it an easy recommendation for anyone with a PSP and a sense of humor.