A Distant Memory
Just like a glass of water, one may say that The Longest Five Minutes is half full or half empty. I felt myself wondering if its title is accurate or if you could name it “The Most Streamlined RPG” instead. The latter certainly isn’t catchy, but there is a point to be made with the route the developers have taken and how they implement the major gimmick found in the game. The Longest Five Minutes is exceedingly longer than five minutes just to clear any questions, but also feels a bit short for the average RPG.
The game kicks off with our protagonist facing off against the Demon King. It’s an odd place for a game to start and to be clear this isn’t a meeting that spurs him to begin a terrific journey to gain revenge against the evil tyrant, but in fact is the final showdown. There is one major issue for the character, with the incredibly subtle name of Flash Back, and that is he has lost his memory as his name may have spoiled. Now he must try to remember just what exactly is happening in five minutes before it’s game over, and that’s where the player comes in.
As you make choices in your confrontation with the Demon King it will trigger Flash to remember something and you then get to play out that memory which has a specific start and finish. When you defeat the boss or complete the quest you’ll go back to your confrontation with the Demon King and make choices until the next flashback. It’s an interesting concept that does open up the possibility to access different memories and give a bit of replay value, but as a whole the entire gimmick is poorly used. Now it doesn’t take away from the title, but I did find myself being amazed at how many chances were missed.
Personally, I went in expecting the flashbacks to play out in a strange order and the developers would take advantage of this to tell the story. There are some memories not in chronological order, but for the most part the vast majority are and it just baffled me as it almost made the entire idea the game was built around pointless with some exceptions. Items don’t pass over from memory to memory which is fine, but again the items you have in the memory never really feel like they have any impact. The fact that you can’t carry items over also makes the inclusion of an armory a very weird choice as the gear you start with is always going to be enough.
No RPG is complete without some combat and side quests, The Longest Five Minutes being no exception to this standard. Combat is turn based and you face off against foes that look like they jumped over from Earthbound. Wine glasses, trains, and far more conventional enemies like wolves will get defeated at the hands of the travelling heroes. The fighting system itself is pretty much ripped from Earthbound as, well, its a basic system. Attack, magic, item, run, and a little bit more are your options. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this system — it is a classic way — but it certainly feels lacking especially when matched with the game’s incredibly low difficulty. You can comfortably breeze through the game just mashing a basic attack and healing the team every two or three encounters. Bosses require some more care, but not a great deal of it. The sidequests are the standard RPG set of tasks: handing out dinner, finding earrings, and more fetch quests of a similar variety. Some are a bit more involved and others will lead you to gaining special skills, whereas the majority give extra experience points for the final showdown against the Demon King.
Visually, the game is charming and pleasantly retro. It clearly has taken a bit of inspiration from Earthbound as when I looked at one sprite I was certain it was just a palette swap of the young hero, Ness. The soundtrack also fits nice and instills a sense of a nostalgia with its old school 90s RPG style.
Having played a lot of RPG’s I can say that the story is as generic as can be, but I get the impression that is just what the developers were going for. I mean, the final villain is called Demon King. You fight a dragon, get a special sword, start off in a small quiet village, and much, much more. Just like the whole flashback gimmick being under used I feel like this is the same case here. It is abundantly clear from opening of the game and the moments with the Demon King the title is poking fun at the genre’s tropes, but it never maintains this momentum to feel like it itself isn’t just a bit generic.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for The Longest Five Minutes was provided by NIS America.