Rent-A-Hero No. 1

released on May 25, 2000

A remake of Rent-A-Hero

Rent A Hero No. 1, a remake of the original Mega Drive game, was released for the Dreamcast in 2000. It features similar events to Rent A Hero, this time adding Rent A Hiroko, a female counterpart of Taro. The fighting engine used for the game is the same used for Sega's Spikeout games and allows the player to receive hints via in-game email.

The game was enhanced and given online capabilities by Coolnet Entertainment for the Xbox in 2003, and also translated into English for a North American release in what would have been the first Rent A Hero overseas release. However, the English version of the game was never released due to distribution problems, and the Xbox version remained only in Japan as had previously happened with the original Dreamcast version.

In 2008, the unreleased English-translated version of the game got leaked and appeared on torrent sites in an apparently complete state, with only minor text errors present. This version was very close to completion and was reviewed by GamePro and Electronics Gaming Monthly in February 2003.

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First off, big thanks to VincentNL and the rent-a-modders for the english translation patch! Wouldn't have been able to play this without their hard work.
Now onto the game itself... I absolutely adore it! It's a very entertaining Shenmue-like superhero beat em up adventure game, with tons of heart and soul in its comedic action writing, and top tier Dreamcast-era cozy vibes.
The game sets the tone very well, with a housewarming party that immediately introduces the quality of its writing, and the level of whimsyness you'll encounter throughout the game. Not to mention the wonderfully fitting opening music video, nailing the vibes of a lighthearted Tokusatsu romp. Also, how fun is it that the device you're using to keep tabs of your hero-for-hire work is called a Creamcast?
After that it slows down a bit, as it introduces you to all the areas you can explore one by one, and the general mechanisms of completing objectives in the game. It's a nice tutorial period that mimics the experience of exploring a new city that you've moved in. You'll quickly notice that although you can't move around your camera freely, you don't have tank controls like in Shenmue, which makes the movement feel quite natural. You should also notice the catchy track that plays when you're in the middle of your requests.
There's an economy system here, where you can get cash from completing requests, and you need it to stock up batteries for your superhero suit, buy food for your health points, pay rental fees for the suit, and also for suit upgrades. You'll lose half of the cash you have on you whenever you're beaten, so it pushes you to regularly visit the bank to deposit your money. It's not exactly a challenge to manage this as long as you don't overspend on items and such, but it's a nice feature that further grounds you into the game's world.
The variety of the requests is quite strong, as its not just a bunch of rowdy baddies you have to deal with. Being asked to help find somebody, shopping duties, solving family issues, bodyguarding, and so on. Most of it is quite simple in execution, you usually just have to figure out where to go and what to interact with, but a lot of these missions require a knowledge of the city's various services. For example, knowing where to buy groceries. This obviously rewards the player for taking the time to explore and paying attention to things.
When push comes to shove, it's time to beat em' up. It's a pretty straightforward combat system, if you played any old school beat em' up games then you should be quickly familiar with this. Aside from the usual fundamentals of knowing when to attack and keep your distance, there's combos that you can unlock by practicing against Segata Sanshiro in the college gymnasium, and special powers you can buy from your employers' basement hideout. Although not being able to control your camera can lead into surprise attacks by off screen enemies, I find this to be a quirk that I have gotten used to relatively quickly, so it's not exactly a big issue. I say that the combat is more than fun enough for this game, even if the last few missions have too many forced battle encounters. Being able to avoid random enemy encounters completely by staying in your regular human form is an appreciated feature.
In my view, a big design theme of this game is not overcomplicating itself. A lot of the game's mechanics, objectives and mannerisms aren't that deep, but they don't need to be. If you keep talking to people and paying attention to what they say, you can figure things out on your own quite easily, and it still feels very satisfying. The combat isn't particularly complex, but in turn it asks you to always be careful because enemies can damage you quite heavily if you let them. It's a philosophy that I very much resonate with.
Rent-a-Hero is easily my favorite Shenmue-like game. It overtakes its influence in many aspects, and I just can't help but smile at the games' silly characters and scenarios. It's a comical, but genuine portrayal of how strong people can positively impact their surroundings.