Follow-Up to “Crash Course (ep. 6) – Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy”

I have defeated all of the evil!

Did I 100% the game? No.
Did I get every achievement? No.
Did I get every item? No.

BUT, I did play and beat every stage that the game had to offer. And I’m about to break down the experience for you game mode by game mode. But first, a little side note:

The game allows you to play through all of the modes in both the original graphics and the fancy-schmacy updated graphics. For the “Hero” modes (Hero 30, Hero 300, and Hero 3) the gameplay and stages are all the same. However, the “Evil Lord 30”, “Princess 30”, and “Knight 30” modes are drastically different depending on which graphics you use. Why the developers decided not to simply update the graphics on the other three modes, I don’t know. Instead, the new versions of Evil, Princess, and Knight modes each have a single scenario to run through, and they all play like the “Hero 30” game mode style. The original-graphics versions all have vastly different and unique game mechanics, and each boasts a length of 30 stages (complete with more characters and dialogue, as well as more fleshed-out story arcs and relationship development).

So, with all that in mind, let’s jump into the review, shall we?

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HERO 30

The game has a very repetitive flow of “fight monsters, acquire items, kill big bad”. Most levels can be passed by simply grinding out levels and gold, buying the one or two new pieces of equipment, and smashing the s**t out of the evil lord waiting in the castle. However, within that mechanical pattern, each stage has its own character and identity. Most of the sinister monologues that the evil lords give at the beginning of each stage are humorous and tongue-in-cheek, and each evil lord has its own unique avatar so that you aren’t fighting the same hooded figure 57 times. Some stages also introduce items and mechanics that are only used (and useful) for that stage (such as the Fly Swatter weapon in one of the early maps). More often than not these items are useful only once, but such is the nature of a game where you fight dozens of world-saving battles. Weapons and armor are sought after with fervor, collected with glee, used with passion, and then immediately discarded in the middle of the next area as you acquire something shinier and with bigger stat numbers. Every so often a piece of equipment has a chance to be useful again (like the Inner Tube armor that allows you to swim to different areas of the stages), but it is always at the detriment of dealing or blocking sufficient damage since – as you progress through the world – the monsters start at a stronger and stronger level.

Along with all of the cool swag to collect are all of the branching paths in the plot. A few stages have the possibility of sending our hero down alternate paths depending on if you completed a certain side quest or got a certain item or defeated the evil lord in a certain way. All of these stages are marked on the overworld, so there isn’t any guesswork as to which stage contains a branching path, but you must figure out how to trigger that branching path.

For example, there is an obvious split where you need to recruit either a nun or a devil to help defeat the evil lord casting the Spell of Destruction. The nun offers no inherent bonuses to the hero, but the devil promises tremendous power for four battles in exchange for your soul. Depending on who you get to help you (or if you just don’t get either one to help), the path in the overworld splits. But don’t be concerned about losing your soul to the devil – the Goddess of Time can just make the curse vanish if you give her enough gold. Oh, and by the way –

THE GODDESS IS A GOLD-DIGGING, MONEY-GRUBBING A*****E

You have to pray at her statues to turn back time to allow you to save the world. But faith and purity isn’t enough for this little lady. No sir. She requires money. And that amount of money to turn back time grows for each time you pray. I know that example is just a game mechanic, but there are several other times where she asks you to go out of your way to get her some shiny. You have to give her one million gold in order for her to stop the demon’s curse (when she was originally asking for, I think, ten billion). Upon finding pirate treasure she wants to keep all of it. If you do choose to split it with her, it’s split 8:2 (and as a math major I so badly want to reduce that to 4:1) with the eight being her way. Also, when fighting the giant evil chicken lord (yep – that happens), you stumble upon a rock in a cave, smash it, and it releases a time gem. You find out about this because the seer in your party gets possessed by Noire and Overlord Hol. The Goddess wants to keep the gem all to herself, but instead the gem speeds up the summoning of Hol. Way to go, Time Skank! You are so obsessed with money that you force the hero of the world to pay for his cleansing instead of just saving him, try to convince him to retire to riches (in an unfair cut of the wealth since the hero finds the treasure) and in turn doom the world, and wind up aiding Noire in freeing Overlord Hol from his imprisonment.

I know, I know – it’s just the character and it’s all for laughs, but holy s**t! – she is literally jeopardizing the entire planet because she’d like some money to do… what with, exactly? She’s the Goddess of Time! What does she need money for? Does she have to pay off some overdue student loans from Deity University night classes or some s**t?

So… like I was saying:

The game is pretty fun, but only in short bursts. I found that longer sessions of continuous playing started to make the stages blend together into this gray mush. There’s SO MUCH going on and it’s all flying at you at light speed, so it kinda’ all washes out after about half an hour. Playing a little bit here and there will make the differences stand out more and will make it feel less like a grind-fest and more like a fun and amusing adventure if you kill ten or fifteen minutes at a time on it.

One last little thing to say before moving on to the other game modes: On the stage after the Goddess totally screws the pooch and activates the time gem, you gather up your friends for a “final” showdown against Hol. You all get the crap kicked out of you, but the Goddess explains that there are Time Beasts that you can recruit to help you out. Well, in the middle of this exposition the game will crash and kick you back to Steam. I was royally pissed because – ya’ know – I’m trying to beat the whole game to write this review. So I did some snooping online and found out that the game crashes on that stage during that speech in the “neo-graphics” mode. Always. But, if you switch to the classic graphics and play through the stage the crash won’t happen. It is the only stage that happens on, and apparently the developers are still trying to fix it and have no idea what the f**k is causing it.

… Just thought I’d let y’all know that if you’re planning on going through the game. Anyway, on to the rest of the modes!

EVIL LORD 30

The plot of both versions of this mode are similar: the Beautiful Evil Lord and his woman-turned-bat companion Millenia are chillin’ at their castle, enjoying tea and frilly things and being out of the sun, when a band of villagers bust in and try to take over the castle so they can erect a statue of Noire in it. Well, Evil Lord is having none of their s**t, so he drives them off and then sets out to destroy all of Noire’s statues that are scattered throughout the land, eventually having his own showdown with Noire at the end of his journey.

In the “neo-graphics” version, the game plays the same as the Hero 30 mode – you have 30 seconds to work with, you have random encounters as you traverse the continent, you can turn back time with a trip to the Goddess statue, and you can sprint (which does absolutely nothing in combat, as far as I can tell; the sprinting just helps you move the Evil Lord’s sluggish, dainty ass quickly around the world). The only difference is that you summon monsters as your mode of attack, and leveling up grants you more powerful monsters to use. Other than that, it is a single stage that you can run through in about 15 minutes (including dialogue).

The “classic graphics” game is a completely different game altogether. It has more stages, an overworld screen, branching paths, a longer story, and an entirely different gameplay mechanic. Like in the “neo-graphics” version, you summon monsters to attack for you. Unlike that version, though, you can decide which monsters you want to summon.

The game is a top-down perspective version of tactical rock-paper-scissors where you can summon three different types of monsters which is each effective against the three different types of enemies that you will run into. You can somewhat command these monsters by looking in a direction and telling them to charge that way, but there really isn’t any micromanagement strategy present. As you go through the stages, the money left over at the end goes into a bank of sorts. When that bank fills up to a certain amount, your summoning circle becomes larger, allowing the Evil Lord to summon larger and more powerful monsters. This summoning circle dwindles if you take damage yourself, and the only way to repair it is to visit the Goddess’ magic golden barrel… thing, which will bring you back up to full health and reset the time, but also consume ALL of the gold that you have on you. Another thing about summoning is that it takes a while to charge back up to full power. Therefore, button-mashing-style summoning is usually disadvantageous since you will end up with an army of weenies instead of a few powerful monsters.

While this mode is much shorter than the Hero 30 mode (it lasts a little over an hour), it was still fun to play through because (once again) the dialogue is generally humorous, but the gameplay is different, so it doesn’t feel like you’re slogging through the same game as before but with different characters (like the “neo-graphics” single stage). It also continues the over-arcing narrative of Noire being an evil douchebag and our hero(es) trying to stop him. That narrative continuous with…

PRINCESS 30

Princess 30 stars a princess (doi!) and her two faithful knights, Johnny and Max, as they traverse the kingdom in search of something to cure her father’s mysterious illness.

The “neo-graphics” version plays out like Evil Lord 30 – a single stage where the princess has 30 seconds to save the king and she fights her way through side-scrolling random encounters before squaring off against Noire (though not directly against him this time). It has the same lead characters and (severely truncated) plot of the classic version, but keeps the gameplay of Hero 30. Yawn.

The classic mode, however, is an overhead scrolling shooter where the princess must leave the castle, blast her way through swarms of enemies with her crossbow, retrieve an item or person from the end of the stage, then make her way back to the castle before time runs out and the drawbridge is raised. She is carried by Johnny and Max, and is protected by a swarm of 28 other knights. As you run into monsters, knights are taken out and you lose speed. You also have to pay medical fees at the end of every level depending on how many knights went down on the trek.

The Goddess shows up again in this mode, but her method of making you pay to recover time works differently. Along each course there are lengths of magical red carpet strewn about. As you run over the carpet, time is added to your clock and gold is withdrawn from your stash. You do have some control over how quickly you move through the levels, so it is usually beneficial to slow to a crawl over these carpets to build up the largest amount of added time.

One nice thing about this mode that isn’t present in any of the others is that any excess gold you have at the end of a level goes into a bank that rolls over to the other levels. This means that if you have a particularly rough time on a stage and have to essentially park on the Goddess’ carpets, or if you lose several regiments of knights, it comes out of what you have earned thus far in the game, not just that one stage. That being said, there was never any time that I felt as though I was going to go bankrupt from those expenditures. The game f*****g showers you in gold, so unless you just botch stage after stage after stage with the deaths of hundreds of knights, there is no way you will run out of cash. It isn’t used for anything else – such as buying or upgrading items – so there isn’t even the risk/reward balancing you have to achieve like in Hero 30.

Once again, there are a few branching paths that allow you to search for items or people that will allow you to upgrade your crossbow or make your knights and litter move faster. I don’t know how necessary these are for completing the game (or how difficult later stages are if you don’t do these side missions), but even with those extra quests, this game runs about an hour in total play time.

KNIGHT 30

In the next century of the game’s time line comes Knight 30. This game changes the direction that you want time to flow. Instead of praying for more time (both in and out of game), you actually are trying to get the timer to count down to zero as quickly and effectively as possible. You play the role of a Knight (another doi!) who is traveling with his beloved Sage on a quest to resurrect the True Hero. In this adventure, you must protect the sage for 30 seconds as he charges and casts a spell to wipe out all of the evil monsters in an area, allowing the two of you to continue your journey.

… At least, that’s how the game works in classic mode. In “neo-graphics” mode, you are – once again! – running around a continent having autonomous fights with monsters, leveling up, buying gear, and trying to stop Noire. Yippie skippie.

But back to the real game: The prologue shows the Goddess just strolling about the mortal plane with a giant red gem. She stumbles upon a gold coin lying on the ground and (of course) walks over to pick it up, only to be trapped in a tiny basket by Noire. Then in the text crawl before the game starts you are told that Noire has KILLED the Goddess of Time.

How? He never had been successful in doing that before. I suppose being trapped under a tiny wicker basket is her kryptonite.

Anyway, you travel from area to area searching for the fortress that the True Hero was frozen away in so that you can cast a spell to awaken him. Along the way, the dashing duo bumps into familiar characters from past games and runs into new nemeses – the sorceress Raiser, her flying mind-controlled cronie Grillade, and her powerhouse companion Bullwood. Along the way you must use the Knight to defend the Sage while he completes the incantation. The Knight has no weapon, but there are usually plenty of rocks and broken swords around to toss at or bat away the swarms of enemies as they encroach on the Sage’s personal space bubble. However, the most readily available and useful weapon is the Knight’s body. You can fling the Knight into enemies, knocking them back and stunning them; or you can lunge and grapple onto an enemy, causing them to stop and spin around to try to shake him off. None of the enemies can be killed, so you have to keep the Sage alive to escape the onslaught in one piece.

Between stages you are allowed to build a trap that might be useful for the next stage, as well as spend time resting up. The items can be decoys to distract enemies, bombs to blast away terrain as well as foes, or walls and caltrops to keep the baddies from digging their claws and fangs into the Sage. The items can come in handy sometimes, but resting up gives the Knight increased health and stamina for the next stage, which I found exceedingly more useful.

You see, the Knight has a certain amount of hit points, and he loses those hit points by being pummeled by monsters or using his body as a living battering ram. When the Knight dies, you can walk his ghost back to the Sage to become resurrected at his body. Also, the Knight loses stamina when he runs, and you will have him running in this game. A lot. Like, most of the time. You will be trying to knock out bells at the end of some maze and will have to rush back immediately to kick away a few monsters that have inched their way into the Sage’s colon or something. Also, you have two options for moving the Sage if things get too dicey: 1) calling him over to your location and hoping that his arthritis-ridden ass doesn’t bump into any demons or wolves or anything, or 2) picking his fat ass up and running it to the other end of the g*****n stage!

You can guess which selection I opted for.

Speaking of bells, in later stages there is a new enemy/mechanic that is introduced as a combination structure and enemy – a big bell hanging on a crescent tower being walloped by an anthropomorphic blue ball with a hammer. These bells send out notes of discord that disrupt the Sage’s concentration, causing the timer to climb back up to start every time a tone collides with him. These tones can reach across the stage, which means you have to hunt them down and either destroy them or stun the monsters and haul them far, F-A-A-A-A-A-R-R away. This becomes problematic when you also have swarms of enemies lumbering towards the defenseless sage, so you pretty much always have to carry him with you.

But guess what? When the sage is in motion, he can’t concentrate. Yeah. So you have to come to a full stop and set him down in order for the timer to start ticking back down. I suppose otherwise the game would be far too easy as you could just piggy-back-ride the Sage around away from enemies until he obliterates them all.

But one shining beacon in this game are the squares of holy ground. Some stages have these white runic tiles laid out in certain areas. If the Sage is chanting in these areas, the timer drops to zero at double speed! So after all of the s**t that I mentioned earlier that you have to put up with, there is a mechanic built in to help you zip through some of the stages (and some times it is nearly impossible to beat the stage without the use of one of these zones).

Overall I didn’t like this mode of gameplay as much as Evil Lord 30 and Princess 30. While it is a new style of gameplay that takes a bit of time to get used to, and newer concepts and challenges are thrown in at a reasonable pace through the game, I just got bored with it a little quicker. Maybe it’s because the concept of the game is a little more passive. Don’t get me wrong – you are still swatting away monsters and rushing around the levels to complete them. However, I suppose the idea of waiting for victory rather than rushing towards victory puts me off a bit. I still enjoyed it more than the super-short and rehashed “neo-graphics” version, but I found some of the stages frustrating when I couldn’t just smash the s**t out of the monsters and wipe the area clean of evil myself. I guess it’s because the entire game is an escort mission, and there is some gene or nerve or something deep down in most gamers that H-A-T-E-S escort missions, especially if we are escorting a helpless individual like the Sage. So while I enjoyed the game and played through the whole damn thing, I couldn’t help but think along the way, “Man… this is a little boring. It’s like playing as a bus stop that has to bat away zombies with a pool noodle in order to keep the commuters alive until the bus shows up and saves the day.”

But what can I say? I’m a man of action.

Usually.

… I mean, when it comes to video games, at least.

…… What? What’s that look for?

HERO 300

Here it is. The final showdown. All of the previous games have been leading up to these five minutes where Noire finally summons the Ultimate Evil Lord and you have to have the ultimate final battle.

The sage and knight from the previous game are successful in resurrecting the severely groggy and severely naked Hero of Time. This mode puts you back in control of said hero, and it plays just like “Hero 30” mode – move from area to area, level up, buy items, acquire allies, etc. The only difference here is that the Goddess of Time is dead, remember? So there’s no way to reset time in this mode.

Not that you’ll need it here, through. There are five different zones to this last stage, and after each minute, one of the areas falls away and ceases to exist. You see, the summoning of the Ultimate Evil Lord has kinda sent the whole space-time continuum into a conniption fit, so different time lines are existing simultaneously. And as we all know from countless other popular entertainment mediums, when the space-time continuum gets out of whack, s**t gets f****d real fast, son. So as a result of time and matter getting smashed with a hammer, different parts of space and time are becoming lost forever in the void of nothingness. Thus, every 60-second interval that passes forces the earliest existing zone to vaporize. However, as bad as this sounds and as much as you think you’d feel rushed to save all of the everything in only five minutes, you really have ample time to get through the game.

All of the protagonists from previous games (the Knight, Sage, Beautiful Evil Lord, and Princess) join the Hero along the way, making this final game a sort of “curtain call” for the whole series of games. After defeating the Ultimate Evil Lord and finally smashing the s**t out of Noire, everyone is blasted far into the future where the battle between Noire and the Hero is a distant memory. The party exchanges glances and the general sentiment is “Well… that’s really cool, but now what?”

Then, the Sage – exhausted from using so much magical power in the final battle – drops dead, finally at peace that the world is safe.

And then, the freakin’ Time Goddess shows up out of the f****n’ blue and explains that when Noire killed her she was reborn as a human. She lost all of her memories, but wound up working towards the same ultimate goal as the Sage. And THEN, we get the fourth wall completely demolished when the Goddess explains away this “twist ending” by saying: “You can’t end this GAME without me, you know?”

Right, so then the Goddess sends everyone back to their respective time periods, the world is safe (I suppose…?), roll credits, The End.

Hold on a second – so we defeated Noire in the final battle when space and time were being torn apart. Did he get stuck in the vortex of nothingness that was consuming existence? I mean, that would make sense. Otherwise, everything in previous time periods would still be in tumult since Noire would still exist in the past. In fact, the heroic band bump into a local lady in the future that tells them that Evil Lords and Noire are a thing of a past since they were defeated 200 years prior. So since current history knows of Noire, that means that Noire had to exist, which means the Goddess has sent everyone back to their times to relive all of the hardships that they’ve already been through! So while the future is saved, the past is still really f****d up!

Ah well – maybe I’m reading a bit too far into it. I mean, it’s just a silly little game and all.

HERO 3

Same as “Hero 30” except all the gold and experience gains are ramped up, the stage is small, the sub-zones in the stage are itty-bitty, and it is FRUSTRATING AS ALL F**K!!! And the main reason that this game mode is a devil’s butthole is because of the controller. Not the controls – the controller itself. I played through these games on Steam using an Xbox360 controller, and as you may know, the directional pad for the controller pivots almost as a joystick. This means that if you want to head down on the map, you have to hit directly down on the D-pad. If you roll even slightly to one side or the other, the hero goes running off to the left or the right, which pretty much kills you instantly here. If you are not precise and damn-near-perfect in your navigation and interaction on the map then you are boned.

Remember my review that I wrote up about “They Bleed Pixels”? Remember all of the frustrating rooms and obstacles that I got stuck on, and all of the times that I said I growled and screamed and shook the controller and all that over-dramatic nonsense (which all happened, by the way)?

Yyyyeeaaahhh…… this was even worse than that, if you can imagine. And the reason being is that in this scenario I know what I have to do, and I could do it, but the CONTROLLER is keeping me from succeeding. There was a whole mess of colorful language thrown around when trying to complete this stage. There were threats aimed at the game makers and at the hero himself. I think I created an effigy of the creator of the Xbox360 controller out of socks, and then I burned that effigy in my apartment (that actually didn’t happen). I bit the damn controller in a blind rage (… ok, that one actually happened).

It was pretty messed up. I was frazzled in a bad way.

BUT! I did conquer the stage. It took patience, timing, and not going too far off the deep end, but dammit I beat it.

(woo?)

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So that’s my tale. That’s my story. That is how I beat “Half Minute Hero”. That is also what I thought of every game mode. I don’t know if it’s possible to summarize down here everything that I’ve written above, but I’ll try:

Did I 100% the game? No.
Did I get every achievement? No.
Did I get every item? No.
Did I enjoy the game? Yes.
Did I have fun? Yes.
Will I play through it again? Proooooooooobably not.
Should I quit taking things so seriously and not get so stressed because – after all – it is just a game? Shut up.
Should I take this time now to get up and go outside? Yes, I think I shall. Thank you.

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