It's bad enough having amnesia at the start of the adventure, but picking it up at the end is just disastrous. Pascal Tekaia got to experience just how much of a problem that creates at E3 as he tried out NIS America's The Longest 5 Minutes.
Tropes are an RPG's bread and butter; there's just no way to get rid of 'em — that's what makes them tropes. Rather than try to ignore them, however, developer Syupro-DX along with Nippon Ichi Software have decided to grab the bull by the horns. The Longest 5 Minutes isn't just a game featuring some well-worn tropes; instead, its entire reason for being is actually based on one massive trope.
Here's the deal: A group of intrepid adventurers has reached the final boss of its quest. Just before the party can fight him, the main protagonist Flash (last name Back — I see what you did there, Syupro-DX...) suffers a sudden case of amnesia. Without any memories, Flash cannot use his abilities or be a remotely useful ally. Seeing his chance, their adversary readies his most devastating attack, intent on wiping them out in one strike. Flash has only five minutes to recover his memory before it's too late, and the on-screen timer has already started ticking.
PlayStation Vita in hand, I sat down with Travis Shrodes, NIS America's Senior Product Marketing Manager, and played through the first fifteen story-laden minutes of The Longest 5 Minutes. It's quite evident that the game takes a very tongue-in-cheek approach to humor, even ignoring its amusing premise. After some skeptical reactions to Flash's sudden ailment from his companions, they start filling in details about their long adventure together. The way they tell it, it sure sounds like a grand adventure; too bad we, the players, weren't privy to any of it. We're just as clueless as Flash. The group realizes the only way to get Flash to remember is to start back at the beginning, so while the doomsday timer in the here and now inevitably ticks ever closer to the dreaded 5:00, Flash begins to remember his tale. Thus, a game is born.
Things start out innocently enough. Intent on going on an adventure to slay the evil lurking out in the world, young Flash must gather his friends in the village they all grew up in. Of course they first have to convince their parents and get permission to leave. Things are off to a rocky start: Flash's would-be group contains a wizard who doesn't really want to be the wizard, and a bard whose father is against his son traveling the land "in a band, dressed like that", because, honestly, nothing good has ever come of that. Assuming the rest of the game follows suit, these opening minutes do the job of dialling in the tone at not too serious. It's a nice change of pace from all those times our games make us shoulder the burden of saving the world.
Graphically, The Longest 5 Minutes is right up my alley. I love throwback pixel graphics, when utilized correctly, and the game's easygoing attitude and the fact that it is, you know, a flashback fuses well with this decision. But there is a more high-res side to things as well. Early on, during the introduction segments, the characters were blocky sprites, true, but the background and final boss, as well as some on-screen fire attack effects, showed a different side to the graphics, used in appropriate amounts that work best with the story.
Sadly I did not get to experience any actual combat scenarios — five minutes takes longer than you'd think! I never quite managed to convince my wizard to leave the item shop she was loitering around in, and everyone knows you gotta have a wizard with you on a quest. However, I saw enough of the tone to have my interest at the very least piqued to learn more in the coming months prior to the game's release, sometime in 2018, on PC and PlayStation Vita.