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Video Game / Rent A Hero

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Cover of the 1991 title
Rent A Hero is an Action-Adventure with slight Beat 'em Up elements made by Sega's AM2 division in 1991 for Sega Genesis. It starred an ordinary boy, Taro Yamada (his default name), who one day phoned to a cafeteria and was given by the delivery man a battery-powered super suit. He wore it thinking it was just a funny costume... but when he discovered it gave him actual Super Strength and other nifty gadgets, he decided to become a Rent A Hero, a local superhero for hire employed by an agency named SECA. Now Taro/Hero goes around the districts of Aero City helping the citizens, with mundane tasks like delivering food or finding missing children, but later on more intensive missions involving corporate theft, counterfeit money and The Mafia.

The game is an Affectionate Parody of Sega, a decade before Segagaga, but also of Sentai, American superheroes and Japan's culture and society between the 80s and the 90s. Because of this, it was never released in English, and its many cultural references made it so that it never received a complete Fan Translation until 2015, when one was finally released on the site.

A remake, called Rent A Hero No. 1, was released for Dreamcast in 2000, receiving an upgrade from top-down and side-scrolling (for the battle sections) pixel graphics to a free-roaming 3D polygonal world not unlike Shenmue (made by AM2 as well), but keeping its quirky and humorous tone and adding even more cameos and nods to several Sega properties.

This time the game was supposed to receive a English release, and it was supposed to come out for the North American XBox in 2004. Unfortunately, though, a development delay resulted in a sharp decrease of retail orders, so the release was indefinitely postponed... and then the American publisher was shut down by the parent company. The almost fully-translated English release was even reviewed by some sites, though, and it can be found nowadays in some corners of the internet. In 2023, the Dreamcast remake received its own Fan Translation on

Most of the tropes listed use names found in the fan translation of the Genesis game unless noted.

The game and its remake provide examples of:

  • Acrofatic: One type of enemy seen late in the game in very limited quantities is a big fat guy who's also very fast, can jump high and hit hard. Quite difficult to defeat.
  • Advertised Extra: You would think that Rent A Hiroko from the remake is an important character, given that she appears in almost every single piece of promotional material. However, her role in the actual game is minimal. She apparently was supposed to have a bigger part in the sequel and/or star in a game of her own, but since neither has ever been made, we'll never know what Sega (and SECA) had in mind for her.
  • Bland-Name Product: In the remake all brands and product names are spoofs of actual ones, with one exception; see Product Placement below. The original game has parody names for the energy drinks, rendered in the fan translation as "Beast" and "Blue Bull".
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In one city there is an arcade where one man tells Taro to press Up and A during the title sequence to activate the sound test. The same arcade has, among several generic machines, cameos of actual Sega arcade games (Space Harrier, OutRun and After Burner to name just a few), and the arcade owner urges us to go to our local arcade and play them for real. Sadly, it's not 1991 anymore!
  • The Cameo: A few Sega stars appear in the remake, most notably Segata Sanshiro as the owner of a dojo. You can fight him to learn new moves for the combat section.
  • Captain Ersatz: It's probably unintentional, but the Rent A Hero outfit makes Taro look kind of like a younger Captain Commando. Fan artists were quick to notice this...
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Hero in the animated intro of the Genesis game is far stronger than in the game itself. One example is when he jumps down a building and lands breaking the asphalt but otherwise standing perfectly still; he's not quite as superhuman when you control him. The playable prologue counts as well: his father is Punched Across the Room when you fight against him. Sure, it's the very first battle in the game, meant to be a humorous scene and to convey how Taro is now much stronger than a regular person, but you can't do stuff like that any more in the game proper.
  • Deadly Doctor: Near the end a bad guy disguises himself as a doctor, to infiltrate the hospital where the journalist he himself has injured is held, and kill her for real. When Hero fights him he throws scalpels everywhere.
  • Denser and Wackier: The remake is notably goofier and more blatantly humorous than the original game.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Rent A Hiroko for Rent A Hero, remake only.
  • Fat Slob: A guest of the Yamadas whose hunger sets the plot in motion (Taro phones Sensational Cafeteria to order more food/pizzas in the remake, gets super suit) becomes this in the remake, while he was just a generic sprite in the original.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Good person example. Taro (and potentially every Rent A Hero) is just a normal boy who goes from delivering leaflets and pizzas to bringing down mafia families and criminal organizations, becoming The Dreaded to Aero City's crime who begins to send hitmen to eliminate every Hero.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Service Cafe (original)/Sensational Cafeteria (fan translation) = SECA. Additionally, it's eventually revealed that SECA also stands for Super Energy Combat Armor.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Rent A Hiroko's enormous ones and Alisa (Taro's sister)'s normal-sized ones. Alisa, being an actual little girl, is justified in wearing them.
  • Guest Fighter: Rent A Hero is an unlockable character in AM2's Fighters Megamix (1996) for Sega Saturn.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: You can give the protagonist both an actual name and a hero identity.
  • Heroes "R" Us: SECA is a heroic organization of sorts. They give out their super suits to random people and live off of the rental fees of said suits and of the donations to their R&D division, who makes the suits and their weapons (the only in-game method to gain armor and weapon upgrades is to donate money to SECA and then go to their HQ).
  • How Unscientific!: You spend the game fighting hitmen, hoodlums, loan sharks, mob bosses... then suddenly, 3000-years-old ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Also, how is a sarcophagus (and mummies in the remake) buried somewhere in Japan? Also counts for Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • The Mafia: Parts of Aero City are under their control. One mission has Taro hired by the police to help bust a meeting among the city of Molden's five most important mafia families.
  • Not Zilla: Supplementary material reveal that the kaiju parody Goofy Suit Taro's father wore is named "Gachalla". (Despite the game's name, it's not an example of Rent-a-Zilla...)
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Parodied. The Yamadas are the most typical Japanese family possible: businessman father, housewife mother, adolescent son and a little girl. However, they're all blond and blue-eyed! It's probably part of the Affectionate Parody of American superhero comics, though (look at the game cover above).
  • Product Placement: In the remake the batteries powering Taro's suit are made by Sanyo.
  • Punched Across the Room: Happens to Taro's father when his son is testing the super suit. The father is wearing a Kaiju costume to amuse guests and Taro "fights" with him after wearing the suit, unfortunately he doesn't know it actually works... The trope is also played more realistically than in most cases: Taro's dad does not die because the Goofy Suit he was wearing cushioned the impact, but he's still in terrible pain for a good third of the game.
  • Punny Name: Liberally used in the fan translation, probably to render the more untranslatable references. There are companies named Wurdy Books, Adguy Bay Chemicals (invert the two first words) and so on.
  • Random Encounters: Justified by the fact that at first Hero meets only a few thugs and hoodlums while going around the cities, but when he starts interfering with the affairs of criminal gangs and The Mafia they will send increasingly more hitmen and killers after him.
  • Red Herring: A journalist who's exposing Aero City's criminal families gets injured and Hero must protect her. The Dynamite Dogs, probably the biggest and baddest gangs, are the prime suspects. However, the culprit is a hitman who is not affiliated with them and wanted to kill her for unrelated reasons.
  • Salaryman: Many of them. This is the Japan between the 80s and the 90s, after all. One of them asks us if all that's needed to become a Rent A Hero is to phone SECA, and some time later we find him turned into a new Hero named Ultramanager!
  • Shout-Out: Several, not only limited to other Sega properties.
    • Alisa (Taro's sister) and Mieu (the SECA employee that gives us the tasks) take their names from Phantasy Star characters.
    • In the remake Taro's mom has a Opa-Opa apron.
    • The remake has a character, Ms. Naomi, named after the Sega NAOMI arcade board.
    • In the hospital one bed is always occupied by a man who says he broke a leg trying to do Michael Yakson's moonwalk. Some enemy mooks, guys in suits and fedoras who appear to be dancing at times, look like Moonwalker sprites as well.
    • Ultramanager. In the original version he was called "Urusaraman", a combination of Urutoraman and Salaryman.
    • Inspector Zenikase is most certainly a reference to Inspector Zenigata. The remake makes it clearer.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Literally embodied by Taro's mother at least in the original game. We first see her making food in the kitchen for her family's house party, and she never moves from that spot. She stays in the kitchen the whole game!
  • Theme Naming: Mr. Leek, a hitman, and Miss Tomato, an Intrepid Reporter. They end up together.
  • Unnamed Parent: Taro's parents are always referred to as "mother" and "father" in all promotional materials.