Get Raring and Ret-2-Go once more!
The Shantae series by WayForward has a rich and interesting history. The Shantae series was originally supposed to be released for SNES and PC, but it moved to Game Boy Color due to the small size of WayForward at the time. Capcom published the first game, but thought it would be best if they held it back for several months so the Game Boy Advance could get off the ground. This move killed the series and cancelled both the sequel and it’s would-be port as a standalone plug and play console. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, was given the greenlight in 2010 and was a smash hit, and then came Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse in 2014. These titles were followed by a spin off for the Apple Watch in 2015 without fanfare, and the most recent, Shantae: Half Genie Hero was released in late 2016 before being ported to the Nintendo Switch in early-mid 2017.
I’ve been going on too long (man, you should see the cutting room floor for this review! Filthy!) So, let’s get into the game. There are 3 game modes to choose from: normal, a mode with all transformations already unlocked, and hardcore mode. They’re all quite self explanatory. Choose a mode, and head into the game.
*Spoiler warning for minor story details ahead*
The story starts with Shantae in bed. It’s late at night, when Shantae hears noises from the forest. As the town protector, she immediately gets up and heads out to see what the noise is. After unsuccessfully traveling through the forest, she ends up in her uncle Mimic’s workshop, but there’s a mysterious trap door under the carpet. She heads through, and finds herself in an underground cave.
After touching the waters in the cave, she’s whisked off to the fabled Genie Realm. A ball of light, strongly hinted to be Shantae’s mother herself, tells her a powerful evil desires freedom. Shantae wakes up in a cold sweat to find herself dreaming. She heads off to Uncle Mimic’s Workshop where we find he’s in the process of building a machine to supposedly help Shantae, called the Dynamo.
Shantae’s enemy, Risky Boots, starts to destroy scuttle town with the help of her army of Tinkerbats, and steals this unfinished Dynamo. With the help of Shantae’s friend, Sky and her bird Wrench, she’s whisked all across the world to get parts, with the occasional trip to the Genie Realm for new transformations. More importantly, she also attempts to foil the 3 Barons (Ammo, Techno, and Hypno) from doing their usual gig and trying to take over the world. After successfully re-building the Dynamo it turns out Risky double-crossed you and you actually built it exactly to her specifications. Risky uses the Dynamo to steal all the magic and corrupt the power of the Genie Realm, also corrupting Shantae in the process.
There are optional relics scattered throughout the area that will be your key to saving the Genie Realm. They’re optional, yes, but if you don’t get them all you get the bad ending where the Genie Realm is destroyed. Collect all of these relics, and Shantae will successfully save the Genie Realm in a great ending. No spoilers, but you also get a bonus boss fight.
Overall, the story is pretty good, but there’s definitely a lot of wasted potential. The two major examples I can think of are Holly Lingerbean and Nega-Shantae. First off, the problem with Holly is how little she does. She is supposedly the main antagonist, but she does so little and is dispatched so quickly. You don’t even get to fight her, you just fight her pet sand worm. The other, and in my opinion, worst case of missed potential was Nega-Shantae.
…itty bitty living space.
Anyway, Nega-Shantae had the potential to be so much more. Shantae becomes corrupted and her friends just talk her out of it in a single cutscene. Nega-Shantae doesn’t even do anything but crouch and look menacing. She was a boss in Risky’s Revenge, so why not here?
Well, the apparent reason is the game never hit the $1 Million dollar stretch goal, even though it came quite close. If it did hit that goal, she would’ve gotten a whole chapter with the name “A dish best served cold!”. Since it was never hit, it was left out.
Let’s head on to the gameplay. Shantae has the classic platformer control scheme, with everything where’d you expect. The game is mainly a 2D platformer, but it keeps some of it’s MetroidVania roots. The first area of Mermaid Falls, in particular, is the most maze-like. A few items are rather cryptic, like having to go up a very specific waterfall to go into a cave with 3 more waterfalls, and choose them in the right order to get an item. I also did not get my first health upgrade until about an hour in. There are a few cylindrical levels, most notably Scuttle Town and the final boss, but they’re few and far between. On a random note I was never able to remember the name of the chef of scuttle town’s dog, Wobble Bell, so I made up a name on the spot and nicknamed him bone marrow. It’s one of my few inside jokes.
The most major change in gameplay is the return of transformations from the first two Shantae games. Thankfully, the transformations have been streamlined. Before this title each transformation had a sequence of buttons you needed to press, but now you simply press the dance button, wait for the transformation you want to pop up on screen, and press the corresponding direction.
When it comes to the graphics and sound, simply put, they’re great. The art style is bright, colorful, and adorable. The sprites are drawn well, and in full HD. The game runs smoothly and there were no framerate issues. Unfortunately, the game never hit the $1.3 Million stretch goal, so no animated cutscenes or full voice acting. I almost forgot to mention there’s also an art gallery. Basically, you find keys throughout the game which gain access to these galleries. There is plenty of concept and even fan art to gander at in here. Collecting all of the keys also unlocks a tiara with a special infinite magic power which is pretty neat.
The last thing I want to cover before we end this review is the DLC. Unfortunately, none is out yet, but it will all be free and will contain things such as extra story mode based on characters such as Shantae’s zombie friend Rottytops, Risky using her Pirate’s Curse moveset, and Bolo.
Shantae: Half Genie Hero is an absolutely amazing game any fan of platformers should purchase for their Nintendo Switch.
The review will be updated when the DLC is released.