Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is the latest entry in the acclaimed Shantae series, a wonderful series of exploratory platformers starring the titular half genie, Shantae. I’m quite a fan of the series, admittedly, having played almost every release thus far, and even helped fund this game on Kickstarter along with tons of other fans. How does this entry shape up compared to the others, and was it worth the wait?
The gameplay sees you utilising Shantae’s powers as a half-genie (and duties as town guardian) to adventure throughout several areas, finding secrets, solving problems of town residents, and ultimately trying to learn more about Shantae’s mysterious heritage and missing mother. Your main abilities are attacking by whipping her long purple ponytail (reminding me of the quirky platformer Kabuki Quantum Fighter), and transforming into many different forms, of course, by bellydancing, as any fan of the series would expect. The controls are tight and responsive, starting out with the basic jump and attack capabilities, and learning additional moves as the game progresses, such as double jumping and transformations.
All the transformations are well-designed and animated, with unique abilities for each, each allowing access to new hidden areas in each level, increasing replayability and giving you incentive to return to earlier levels to re-explore. The many forms Shantae can take are a myriad, including a monkey, bat, spider, crab, mermaid, and many more. Along with the various quests you get, there’s always something to do in most levels!
The game, in typical WayForward fashion, looks fantastic. It carries on the visual style from 2013’s Ducktales Remastered, with a gorgeous hand-drawn look to the sprites, which look like they could have jumped out of a cartoon, with extremely fluid animations and tons of personality. Combine that with the well-rendered 3D environs, and you’ve got one very smooth, slick-looking game.
The music can be very catchy, particularly the memorable main theme “Dance Through the Danger,” which was catchy enough I replayed the opening stage more than once just to hear it again, actually. The sound effects do the job well, along with some rather decent voice acting (what little of it there is).
The story is entertaining enough, with all the characters having great amounts of personality and some rather cheeky and self-aware dialogue. The game starts with Shantae in bed, finding a hidden basement under her adopted uncle’s shop, after which you’re thrust into the action as Risky Boots the pirate lays siege to the town you guard. From there, after a particularly humorous first boss (thank you for making me giggle like a second grader, Part Omni-Organic, Partially Titanic, Ocean-Optional Tinkerslug, or P.O.O.P.T.O.O.T.), you’re fired as town guardian (again) and you’re out to earn your rightful position back. The tasks given to you take you to tons of different areas, from your own destroyed town, to mermaid-infested ruins, a flying carpet race in the clouds, and many others.
No game is without faults, and this is certainly no exception. The main flaw, besides it occasionally being tedious to revisit an area for just one thing you missed due to not having the correct power to access it, is the difficulty. Simply put, it’s rather easy. I simply haven’t had much trouble breezing through the game, and while that may be due to having played the far more challenging previous titles, they’ve recently put out some free DLC for people who experienced the same issue I did; hard-core mode! This mode seems to make the game much more difficult, including stronger enemies and fewer hearts (that also heal you less than in normal mode).
Aside from the base game (which is already a great time), there is a load of forthcoming DLC, adding new playable characters such as main antagonist Risky Boots, Shantae’s friends Bolo, Sky, and the zombie Rottytops, new transformations and new modes. If you enjoy quirky stories, great animation, or just want a fun exploratory platformer, you’d do well to check out this wonderful adventure!