Time as a game mechanic has always been my jam: travel, manipulation, stopping, you name it. The Longest 5 Minutes manages to meet me on two fronts here, with jumping back into your character’s past being the core of the gameplay and beating a clock. Thankfully, there’s no need for extensive memory maps or overthinking here, as the game embraces its identity to become a brisk, yet charming spin on RPGs and the power of friendship.

The Longest 5 puts you in control of Flash Back, a designated hero journeying across the land with his three dearest friends to help the needy and vanquish evil. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it absolutely should. The game revels in RPG traditions, paying these expectations their due in an overall lighthearted and endearing way. Simple as things could be, I ended up caring about this party — with their friendship effectively being the main character here more than any one of them.

Of course, you won’t be experiencing any of that firsthand. What sets The Longest 5 apart and elevates it is its unique storytelling convention putting a twist on one of those RPG traditions I mentioned. You begin the game already facing off with the “final boss,” the evil, powerful Demon King. The only problem is that Flash has no memory of how he got there or how to fight at his best. It even takes a bit before he remembers these precious friends of his, setting the stage for the game’s main hook.

With only five minutes to go until the Demon King clinches victory, you need to remember why you’re even here and what you can do in the face of such charismatic terror. Amnesia may be played out, but it’s put to fantastic use as the means with which you play through the game: trying to recall your adventure in the first place.

This is accomplished by jumping to specific, key moments of the journey with a single quest at its heart and couple of extra objects. Playing through shows more of the group’s dynamic and builds up to your already in-progress battle. I was sold on this when the game was first announced, and the implementation doesn’t disappoint — and all of this is carried out in a very unexpected way.

By condensing the experience into snapshots of your memories, the Switch now has a pick up and play RPG. Each memory can be cleared relatively quickly with the pacing to match. You don’t have to worry about grinding or gathering or much of anything really. This can turn be a turnoff if you’re into developing your skills and equipment or exploring a vast world. But for anyone who just wants a story and the overall feel and aesthetic of an RPG, this fits the bill.

Speaking of aesthetic, the pixelated presentation will more than impress you. As a big fan of EarthBound and the Mother series, I was instantly into the sprite work here. Just like nearly everything else in the game, it’s intentionally simplified, though it more than gets the job done.

While you’ll find yourself blazing through random encounters that, admittedly, feel inconsequential, the game never made me feel like my efforts were for nothing. Instead of leveling up, your memories “grow brighter” as you go out of your way to fulfill the missions in each section. These end up more important and bountiful than grinding, shifting the focus and highlighting what makes the game unique.

Between each of these memory sections you’ll be placed into visual novel-esque back and forth sequences with the Demon King and your party. You’ll have to make choices both in the moment and in shorter memories, like going through sword training in order to successfully parry a devastating blow. This is all via dialogue options, but it does give the impression of your choices and past making a difference in this fight. It’s all too easy to forget the journey once you’re staring down your greatest challenge, but The Longest 5 turns that journey into your greatest tool.

The tension is kept in these moments by the presence of a clock display in the top right corner, moving towards 5:00 with your every action. Like the Majora’s Mask moon or Pikmin’s own timer, it’s the kind of stressor I really like in a game, though with the ability to freely revisit your memories there’s nothing too overbearing about it.

I’ve enjoyed my own time with The Longest 5 Minutes and I feel it really shines as a quick fire, pick up and play game. It might be a tough sell for those unfamiliar or uninterested in the RPG genre in the first place, what with how it leans on their conventions, but it’s also a brisk and rapid fire game that takes away one of the biggest hurdles of the genre. No need to worry about time running out on this one though — it’s available in the Nintendo eShop starting today.

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Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.

Ricky Berg