Memories. Proof of a life lived. I don’t think that I have ever come across a game that has been built around as captivating a concept as The Longest Five Minutes. After defeating countless enemies and facing hardships in his quest, our hero, the 17-year-old Flash Back, and his friends have reached the final boss and now stand face-to-face with the origin of all evil, the Demon King. But then, he suddenly loses all memories related to his adventure.
Unable to recollect his signature move, the name of his hometown, or even the reason why he is trying to defeat the Demon King in the first place, it is down to his childhood friends that fight alongside him – the wandering bard Regent Nightfever, shy priestess Clover Shirotsumekusa, and martial artist Yuzu Nanakorobi – to help him remember what has happened so far in his quest to restore peace to the world.
That our adventure starts near its end and, through understandably panicked conversations with your friends, sees earlier events relived through flashbacks, is a structure that soon allows The Longest Five Minutes to bewitch those that are prepared to fall for its charms. Beat the Demon King and your quest is over, but, in order to do so, you must re-experience your past to strengthen yourself and your friends in the present day.
It’s more than compelling enough to keep you transfixed for the game’s 10 hours or so duration, but, read up on it beforehand, and you will see that it has been labelled as a classic role-playing game. You will certainly find yourself regularly facing enemies and bosses in turn-based battles, but the relative ease of the whole experience will lead those that pick up The Longest Five Minutes expecting something meatier to sink their teeth into being left with disappointment. It isn’t without its challenging moments but these are few and far between, seeing as equipping your party with sturdier gear is more than enough to keep everything swung firmly in your favour – with the usual character levelling only helping to maintain that imbalance.
Personally speaking, I would prefer to describe The Longest Five Minutes as an adventure game with basic role-playing mechanics thrown in for good measure, and not least for the fact that they resonate with its gripping premise. With the player able to overcome nearly all enemy encounters by mindlessly using standard attacks, I became far more fascinated by the party of four characters and the predicament that they are faced with.
That’s because, as the Demon King continues to taunt you, the memories that Flash starts to piece together from the quips and interactions that you have with your friends are meaningful ones. Whether that be remembering when you first left your hometown Souvenir to set out on your quest, your horror at discovering that the mysterious Fog that threatens the world had suffocated everyone at Gastonbury, or when Flash and Regent decide to leave Clover and Yuzu behind so that their lives are no longer at risk, it’s a game that is not short on its darker or heartfelt moments.
Fret not, as the script is also packed with more than enough puns and humour to keep it lighthearted – leaning on Regent’s melodramatic behaviour for the most part. Each memory that you relive also has optional side quests that present the chance to earn bonus experience points (or ‘reexperience’ points as they are referred to), for those that want to complete their objectives and elongate their time with the game. You can also choose to replay any memory, although you won’t be able to keep any additional experience that you gain while doing so. And, if you ever need a change of pace, you can also play minigames such as the penguin-bursting Stardust Arrow or the endless runner Haunted Run.
The Longest Five Minutes may falter in the lack of difficulty that it poses the player with, but the game will upend your expectation in how absorbed you will become in the story that it unravels. It is the central cast’s squabbles, funny one-liners, and the weight of the mental and emotional burden placed upon them that allows the game to stand out among the increasingly crowded Nintendo Switch library. With unpredictable surprises keeping you second-guessing what will happen next, it delivers an experience worthy of your attention that will linger in your memory for a long time to come.