Rent A Hero #1


Review by Greg Wilcox



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 8

Let me tell you folks, Rent A Hero and me go way back. I remember seeing a screenshot from the original Mega Drive version in an issue of Gamefan about 10 years or so ago and hoping Sega would localize it. They didn’t, and I ended up getting the game a few years later courtesy of a friend in Japan. Although I didn’t speak a lick of Japanese, I managed to fuss my way through much of the game for a few weeks before sticking it in my growing MD collection. When an updated Dreamcast version was released about 3 years ago, I didn’t take any chances and snapped one up right away from an import shop. Not too long afterward, the DC went belly up in the states, and I was a bit bummed that gamers here would never get a chance to play this hoot of a game in English.

Well, thanks to the folks at AIA (yep, the same folks who brought you that hysterical horror homage, Illbleed), the Xbox is the new Dreamcast (and that’s a compliment by the way). Rent A Hero #1 is one of those great games that refuses to be deathly serious while making the world of console gaming a safer place. There’s way too much gloom, big guns and black leather out there on the shelves, so the wackiness contained on this disc is a big breath of fresh air. If you’re looking for something decidedly different from all the me-too sequels and copycat titles, you’re in for a real treat.

Throw all your expectations out the window- this isn’t some jury-rigged horse trap of a game with forced humor or “mature” situations involving polygonal or digitized breasts, “extreme” sports, and bizarrely designed, focus tested mascots. What we have here is a cool action RPG that combines elements of classic Sega 16-bit games, slightly enhanced colorful Dreamcast graphics, wrapped around a goofy plot and gameplay that’ll remind some of Shenmue without the dull parts. RAH is set up to keep you playing with a big smile on your face as you punch, kick, and rescue your way through the game.

The plot is a total riot: everyone wants to be a superhero, but what happens when your powers are delivered to your doorstep? You play as a young guy who gets a super-powered suit delivered to his doorstep with some pizzas by a company called SECA, who just happens to pick you to test out their creation. With the suit, you gain great powers and get a chance to earn money doing some truly odd jobs for the public at large. The suit runs on batteries, which aren’t cheap initially, so your main goal at the beginning is to earn enough loot to not worry about running out of juice.

Anything you do in the suit consumes BP (battery power), so you’ll have to use a bit of transformation strategy in certain areas. The first stage (and your job selection) is fun but fairly limited, but once you get the train station open, the game becomes a real blast to dive into. You soon find out that there’s a certain evil genius out to raise some hell, and being the guy with the super-powered suit, you’re just the right one for the job. The game has 5 stages with over 20 different scenarios, from rescuing cats and miners, delivering flyers, and yes, lots of hand to hand combat. You start out with a few basic moves, but you can learn combos and new moves from certain characters in the game. Diehard Segaphiles will get a serious kick in the pants laughing at all the in jokes here. You get your missions and in-game email via the Creamcast system SECA gives you, Segata Sanshiro makes a cameo, and some of the fighting moves have a nice Virtua Fighter feel to them. Close your eyes for a second, and it’s 2000 all over again (isn’t time travel fun?).

You’ll definitely be feeling as if you’ve got a DC sitting inside your Xbox, and that extends to the graphics and control. Visually, if you’re looking for the next big piece of Xbox eye candy, you’ll be a bit disappointed. Rent A Hero #1 is chock full of strictly “old school” DC graphics (running at what looks like 60 fps) with enhancements like a bit more bumpy and shiny here and there. I’m rating the game according to other Dreamcast titles released at the time, not newer, prettier Xbox ones. Hey, you’re dealing with someone who still plays his Genesis, Turbo Duo, and NES on a regular basis.  The game’s looks didn’t bother me one bit, although I can see some of your eyes out there rolling back when you start comparing this to Ninja Gaiden or Halo 2. You also probably won’t be grooving to the appropriately wacky soundtrack as you play either. Of course I loved every second of it, especially the remixed version of the original Mega Drive intro. The game works for me because every second of it fits where it should, and as crazy as the whole thing is, it makes perfect sense.

If anything, the one thing that should have been added was an analog control option. While the Xbox D-pad is a hell of a lot more comfortable than the DC’s thumb wrecking hard plastic cross key, it’s still not the perfect means to get about in a game this cool. There are also a few camera issues, notably in tight interior spaces, but it’s not something that’ll keep you from enjoying the game. The best thing about Rent A Hero #1 is that all it asks you to do is kick back and zone out in its crazy comic book world for a spell, and laugh with and at it as you play, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. If anything, I’m hoping Sega decides to do another game in the series, full of as many Xbox enhanced bells and whistles as they can fit on a disc. This is one cool character that needs as wide a fan base as Sega’s other, more popular blue guy…uh, what’s his name again?


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:30 PM