Rent-a-Hero returns in a new adventure. Most of you will probably be asking, “Who the hell is this ‘Rent-a-Hero’?” One of Sega’s lesser-known creations, Rent-a-Hero starred in his own MegaDrive game of the same name. He was a hidden fighter in the Saturn mega-hit Fighters Megamix.
From the moment you open the Rent-a-Hero instruction manual, you’re in for a lot of Japanese humor. The manual is printed like a Sunday morning edition of the manga Vjump. You read it like a Japanese magazine, starting at the back. The manual’s printed on newsprint, the intructions are in the form of a comic book, with ads for products ... the whole 9. The Japanese humor doesn't stop there — it runs through the entire game.
You begin the game as Taro Yamada, a normal Japanese teenager, at a party your father is hosting for the neighborhood. There’s no food — your father tells you to call for pizza and goes upstairs to get the big surprise. Ding-dong, the pizza arrives along with a large box. You open the box to find a superhero suit and put it on. Your father appears dressed as a Godzilla-type monster and invites you to come at him in a mock battle. One little tap sends him flying through the air. The costume strengthens everything you do — it's not a mere child's toy but a tool to help save the world.
So now, you’re a part-time super hero, working for a company called SECA which has supplied the armor as well as a SECA Creamcast console that allows you to get work, save and read e-mails via the SECA network. At first your jobs tend to be lame — passing out flyers, delivering noodles and playing messenger for young lovers. But this is just training to see if you have what it takes to becom a true super hero.
Rent-a-Hero uses the Virtual Fighter system for fighting, so in the beginning of play, you may have problems controlling the character (like you would in Shenmue). You must progressively learn moves from other characters, you don't have all your moves from the start. All the battles are free-roaming, you can run all over. At first, you only get to fight your father in one-punch battles. You progress to fight the local kung-gu master and a punk in the park. The game is not about just doing odd jobs for the locals and kicking your father's ass. You will eventually run into major challenges and adversaries.
Graphically, the game is great; the animation is nicely done, but it's a little choppy and Rent-a-Hero tends to jump as he dashes all over the streets. Sega paid attention to a lot of little details to give that feeling of being in a real world. The camera tends to mess up every now and then as it automatically changes the view. The game is made for play on an S-video connection or VGA monitor. On those monitors, everything will appear crisp, and you'll even be able to read Taro’s t-shirt.
Will the game come to the U.S.? Unlikely, due to all the Japanese humor. The game may have a lot of action, but the RPG side is full of Japanese jokes that won't translate into American pop culture easily. There’s tons of dialog which will be costly for SEGA of America to translate, unless a third party picks it up.
Is the original version is easy to play if you know a little Japanese? The game is chock-full of dialog, more than Shenmue. Clues to Rent-a-Hero’s puzzles are given in Japanese, so solving them amounts to little more than guesswork. That makes it sometime tedious in an RPG game like this, much harder than Shenmue.
What was lacking in the game? Sound effects and voice acting. For all the humorous dialog, you’d think SEGA would bring in voice actors. But it seems that the development budget was cut and game was pushed out the door before voice acting could be added. You don't hear foot steps as you race across town to vanquish a villain; you don't get that nice echo of fist hitting flesh. The easy-listening sound track also doesn't seem to fit the action 80% of the time... except for the intro song.
I would definitely recommend Rent-a-Hero for anyone who enjoys running around a world on mission-based games — from saving the girl you love from Dr. Trouble or delivering noodles to the neighbors. There's lots of humor, extras (VMU games) and hours of play.
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