Rent A Hero No. 1
What if you were a superhero? What would you use your powers for? Truth, justice and the American way, or food delivery? In this new remake of an old 32-Bit Mega Drive game from Sega out now in Japan, the answer is all these things, and more. You play Taro Yamada (the Japanese equivalent of "John Smith"), a young boy whose life changes forever when a pizza delivery man (yes, you read it right) drops off an unexpected package--a special suit that gives the wearer super-human speed and strength. Since the suit is only on rental and needs expensive batteries to work, you have to take various part-time jobs to earn money. You begin with lowly grunt work like handing out promotional fliers and delivering love letters, but eventually you'll be taking out local thugs and cleaning up the streets.
If it sounds silly, it is. From your dad dressed in a godzilla costume fetish, to the obvious parodies of McDonald's, and even the "Seca Creamcast" machine you use to check your e-mail and choose between jobs, this is one game that never takes itself too seriously.
Download Rent A Hero No. 1
Believe it or not, he's walking on air! When a mild-mannered suburban kid finds a costume that gives him special powers, he sets out to make good use of them. You'd probably guess he'd beat up criminals and foil an arch villain's plans-- and he does--but he also finds time for more lighthearted tasks. He reconciles feuding lovers, saves pets from trees, and runs errands (at superspeed, no less) for his neighbors. Although this quirky RPG was previously released in Japan for Sega's Mega Drive and Dreamcast, this spiffed-up Xbox version will be its U.S. introduction.
While Rent A Hero is certainly not for everybody, some gamers (read: Japanophiles, Sega fanboys, and the criminally insane) will sync to its weird groove. It's a goofball RPG packed with bizarre Japanese culture and funny Sega in-jokes. Fundamentally, its weirdly engaging gameplay isn't far removed from that of Sega's own Shenmue series--here, you also play as an easygoing lad who must contend with the rigors of everyday life. But the twist is that you don't have a higher purpose. Rather, you're a superhero-for-hire who's rented out by townsfolk to do hilariously menial tasks, like picking up groceries, finding missing puppies, or handdelivering love letters. If you stick with it, though, the missions eventually become a lot cooler (like battling a giant robot and rescuing survivors trapped in a cave). Since I dig Japan, respect Sega, and lack sanity, I had a good time with Rent A Hero. In fact, I'd recommend it to everyone--if it didn't look, sound, and feel so old. It's a direct port of a 3-year-old Japanese Sega Dreamcast game, and, welL.it shows. Try it if you're brave; you just might like it.
Rent A Hero is extremely quirky, funny, and loaded with enough references to the house of hedgehog to get die-hard Sega fans moist. But anyone else will find it very difficult to see past its dated graphics, bad camera, hackneyed gameplay, and digital-only control. It's a real shame that no one threw Hero's tights in the wash in time for his Xbox debut (which is CoolNet's fault, since they did the port). The Sega fan in me likes it--but more for its collector value than for being a good game.
I'll agree with my comrades that it's cute, but Rent A Hero is, nonetheless, a Dreamcast throwback as out of place on Xbox as Pope John Paul II at a Metallica concert and as out-of-date as last week's TV Guide. Would it have hurt the developers to port the game over with analog control, improved graphics, and the ability to replace the cheesy pseudo-porn soundtrack with real tunes? Apparently, yes. We don't need another hero.