Become a hero, face down the origin of all evil, and try to cope with the crippling loss of all your memories and abilities. This is the unique concept of The Longest Five Minutes – a new Vita adventure from NIS America. There's something really engaging and accessible about this old school Japanese RPG, despite the quirky time and memory dynamic which sees you ‘remember’ skills as opposed to the conventional levelling up found in other adventure games. It’s your memories that shape the narrative - the choices you make in your memories will affect the story in the present, and so in order to change the outcome (you get your ass handed to you, initially) you must remember things via flashbacks.
In fact, your character is even called ‘Flash Back’, and you get to add support characters to make up a party of four. What follows is a heartwarming tale of bravery, light comedy and some surprisingly good storytelling intermingled in a homage to the best classic adventures. Think the early Final Fantasy games and you won’t be too far off.
The action is presented in nice 16-bit style, backed up with retro-inspired music. It’s clear to see that The Longest Five Minutes is a game made by fans of RPGs, which will please those who have sunk many hours into such games over the years. The battling is strategic and turn based; it keeps you engaged with a host of new magic spells and attack moves that are added to your team as you progress. That said, combat can become a bit monotonous as you come to rely on certain attacks a lot more than others.
As you battle through random encounters and set off on a host of side quests, it's your allies' words and the Overlord's taunting that triggers flashbacks. However, during these memories, your equipment can be changed without warning, so be sure to check what you're wearing. This can lead to some frustration when you're suddenly tackling tough enemies without the right gear.
Gripes aside, once you get your head around the fact that you need to complete objectives to ‘remember’ your finishing moves, the name of where you’re from, and even the reason you’re trying to defeat a badass Overlord in the first place, it all begins to click and you’ll be adventuring for far more than five minutes.
If you’ve a hankering for a fun Japanese RPG, then The Longest Five Minutes is a decent option. Battles can be a little lopsided, but with an intriguing story and a unique structure, these are five minutes worth experiencing for fans of the genre.