There are so many retro-inspired JRPGs nowadays that it's hard to tell which ones are worthwhile. The Longest Five Minutes definitely has a unique story premise but does it offer a satisfying flashback-filled adventure?
The Longest 5 Minutes follows the journey of a young hero named Flash Back and his group of friends. However, this is no ordinary tale as the story begins at the final boss. Unfortunately, Flash Back needs to recover his memories to have the courage and ability to overcome the Demon King so this battle is frequently interrupted so you can play through Flash's memories and watch sequences from his past. It's an intriguing concept for storytelling and thankfully, it's engaging enough to keep you playing until the very end.
To complement the novel narrative, the visuals and sound of The Longest Five Minutes are very well done. For starters, the retro aesthetic looks quite generic when you merely observe screenshots but the animation is fantastic. I can't remember ever seeing pixelated characters come to life in such a charming way. On top of this, the enemy designs are very wacky which makes encountering new ones quite fun. Finally, the music is great and some tracks are sure to get stuck in your head for days after putting it down.
Of course, the interesting story premise wouldn't mean much if it didn't have a memorable and likeable cast of characters. It pleases me to say that the cast is delightful and varied enough that you'll fall in love with at least a few personalities. There are so many funny moments that'll surely at least get you to crack a smile, too. Anyway, as you adventure with these chums, you'll find that the story sometimes branches and there are in fact different endings to discover as well which can be a rewarding feat.
Although The Longest Five Minutes seems like a solid game, its gameplay didn't do much to impress me. Having played through the campaign and achieving two endings so far, I can easily say that the battle system and party growth dynamic is far too simplistic to remain even mildly entertaining after a while. All you do is level up and equip stronger gear whenever you come across it. In battle, you primarily just choose whether to attack or use magic. It's surprising but there are NES RPGs with more complexity than this.
In addition to the incredibly basic gameplay, there's an almost complete lack of challenge in The Longest 5 Minutes. I ran through most dungeons while slaying hordes of monsters as if I was over-levelled even though I didn't do many side-quests and I didn't grind even for a little bit. The bosses fall almost as easily. All you need to do is choose your most powerful magic (MP doesn't seem to ever run out as you have plenty of it) and have a couple characters attack while healing every once in a while and you'll be set.
Lastly, the dungeons in The Longest Five Minutes can get exceptionally tedious. Most of them consist of an array of massive rooms where you have to figure out how to reach the next one. This usually involves maze-like environments but there is the odd puzzle. That being said, the puzzles are so rudimentary that they needn't have bothered. Pushing blocks into obvious locations and stepping on conveyor belts that guide you to certain spots just isn't enough to break up the monotony of the mostly tiresome layouts.
The Longest Five Minutes is a promising JRPG with endearing characters that'll make you happy to experience their tale yet it simply doesn't offer enough fruitful gameplay to satisfy genre fans' gaming sensibilities.
- + Intriguing flashback storytelling concept
- + Great animation, music, and monsters
- + Charming characters and interesting branching storyline with multiple endings
- - Gameplay is far too basic to be interesting
- - Almost complete lack of challenge
- - Dungeon portions are super-tedious