When I was younger, I spent many hours on RPG Maker, which if you couldn’t guess, is an application that lets you build RPGs. The customisation and ease to produce games with it is phenomenal, with the limit being only what you can come up with in your head. Well, for the most part anyway. Due to my experience with RPG Maker, I can always spot a game built using it, and I’m always keen to play it. I was never much good at creating a decent game using it, but I love seeing what other people are able to come up with. The Longest Five Minutes is one such game, developed by Nippon Ichi Software, who also developed the Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana title. Having enjoyed the Ys game, I was more than just a little excited to hop into The Longest Five Minutes.
If you liked Flash Gordon back in the day, you’ll love the protagonist of The Longest Five Minutes – a perhaps slightly lesser known member of the Flash family, Flash Back. If you couldn’t guess it from the name, this is a game that will be set mostly through sequences of the main characters past, as he tries to reconstruct events in his head to remind himself, and to tell us, who he’s with and how he got there. Amnesia is a well-trodden trope in video games, but seeing it deployed in this game is a little more intriguing. You start this game at the end, fighting the Demon King, for a reason you cannot remember, with allies who have escaped your mind. This ‘boss battle’ is more of a glorified conversation really, as you progress through the chatting, you’ll hit certain decisions which will throw you back in time. Sometimes you’ll be cast back quite far, and sometimes you’ll be walking through the near-present.
These flashbacks to previous events are what makes the game so interesting. Instead of treating it like an old school RPG where grinding is king, you’re under no pressure to do so. You may, in one chapter, be near the start of the tale, but in the next one be much more advanced. This can get a little confusing, as you’re essentially playing the story out of order, but it does lift some pressure off your shoulders as you don’t need to waste countless hours beating up various enemies. Instead of the grinding, you’ll have some objectives to complete. Usually these come in the form of completing side quests or visiting places, but more often than not, they end up the same way – crawling through a dungeon. There will be enemies here to defeat, and an end boss, but it’d be quite generous calling it challenging. I think it works in the game’s favour though, as it tries to veer away from the standard RPG elements in favour of the absorbing story.
RPG Maker Hell
I’ve a very keen eye for RPG Maker, so I feel that even though I generally enjoy the games, I can be a bit over-critical at times, and I feel I’m about to be that here too. There are a few things that I’ve seen far too often in an RPG Maker creation, things like the battle screen, or conversations are pretty standard and out of the box in RPG Maker. From what I remember, it’s possible to completely re-do everything about how the game is presented, but it takes a little more work. The Longest Five Minutes, unfortunately, decided against putting in that extra effort and nice touches to differentiate it from the norm, and stuck with the out of the box functionality. I can understand it for the battling, as it’s not a core part of the game, but the text boxes for conversation just look so ugly to me. They’re not quite the bog standard ones, with a couple of modifications, but they’re still pretty poor.
The Final Word
The ease of the battles and the lack of customisation to the base RPG Maker templates aside, The Longest Five Minutes is a pretty solid game. You’ll easily get ten or so hours out of it, and it’s pretty enjoyable throughout. The story is engaging and well told, with some wonderful music and decent visuals to boot. There are definitely things I’d say the developers could benefit from having included, but definitely a solid game overall.