The purple hair whipping, creature-transformation belly dancing,half-genie Shantae is back with another adventure. This time around, it's a little bit different; this particular title (the fourth installment of the series after Shantae, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, and Shantae and the Pirate's Curse) is the first one that was developed for consoles. Developed and Published by WayForward Technologies, the game was originally funded via Kickstarter back in 2013, where it hit its target goal with ease.
The game opens up as Shantae is sleeping peacefully in her bed but is quickly woken up by a whispering voice outside. As she leaves her house in her pajamas to chase it down through the woods, she arrives at her uncle's shop, where inside she finds a hidden door in the floor. Continuing through the opening and into a cave, she comes across a glowing light with the voice of someone from the Genie Realm warning her of a growing evil that threatens both worlds. Shantae believes the emissary could be her mother, but just after the voice began to warn of the impending threat, it disappears.
After this scene, Shantae awakens in her bed again, but this time to a sunny morning (it was perhaps just a dream). As she begins her day just like any other, the hometown (known as Scuttle Town) gets hit by canon fire from the crew of Risky Boots. In quick timing, you seek for your friend to give you transportation on her bird, who will continue to be your way of transportation throughout the game. As things begin to unfold for Shantae throughout the story, more bosses, enemies, friends, and secrets will present themselves to make for one really fun and exciting adventure.
The game plays with a lot of simplicity and typical platform game style but keeps everything feeling like a progressive game of diversity. Think something along the lines of Kirby or Super Mario Bros. You'll side scroll through levels, jumping to reach new platforms or obstacles, and throwing in the crouch action to avoid enemy attacks. The levels are designed with a specific theme to them and Shantae's genie transformations will come into importance at different moments or areas. Perhaps you'll need to be in mermaid form so that you can progress through underwater levels, or a big purple elephant so that you can push boxes around and stomp through floors, or maybe even a monkey so that you can climb walls and super jump between vertical platforms. Occasionally you'll need to re-explore a level so that you can reach the hidden/secret rooms and areas located throughout that were unreachable before.
The combat is easy to grasp (and easy in general at first). Sitting back and smashing the hair whip attack as an enemy slowly makes their way into it is an extremely safe option. Additionally, you'll learn magic attacks that will allow you to attack with a greater range such as throwing fireballs. You'll find moments of being thrown curveballs when the game sends a bunch of enemies in your way at once, but usually, any health lost in the harder moments will be replenished quickly (almost all enemies drop health). At the end of a level, players will face off against a boss opponent who, once beaten, will deliver Shantae a transformation. The bosses are tricky in regards to their attack patterns and have a great amount of uniqueness from each other that makes each one feel really exciting. You'll face off against a large pirate ship-creature with a funny abbreviated name, a large one-eyed centipede, and more.
Sound and Graphics
Taken out of the world of handheld designed pixel art, the game looks and sounds really good. The graphics are bright and colorful, and the world moves with a fluidity that makes it feel alive. For some existing fans of the series, the change from pixel art may make it feel like a backwards move, but for many, I imagine that it will be much appreciated. When you first start playing and moving Shantae, you'll be in the main area of Scuttle Town, where things act as a hub. The camera feels as though it's on the inside of a circle (while still playing as side-scrolling) and allows travel of background by entering the shops and buildings. It's hard to explain, and that might be a little confusing to picture, but when you see it yourself, you'll love it.
Musically the game's main theme song is about as "genie" feeling as I could imagine a song being. It's nice female vocals and intense rhythm make the combat feel upbeat and with purpose. The other music surrounding it match the overall theme nicely, with very similar feeling beats and rhythms. There's a few moments of voice acting but not mainly just at the beginning of a sentence here and there, while everything else is text based dialogue. It's unfortunate it couldn't have been fully voice-acted because the characters and conversations are always light hearted and funny in a dorky, almost childish, way.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is exactly what the series needed; a gorgeous-looking, classic-feeling, adventure that was made to be played 1080p at 60fps on current consoles and even PC. It's light hearted but fun story will take players to multiple areas that will feel open for exploration, boss fights that will feel outmatched yet unique, and interactions that will be funny and pretty meaningful. It all works together perfectly and gives players a truly fun adventure to dive into, almost playing out like a cartoon show. If you're a fan of the side-scrolling platform games, a fan of the Shantae series, or just interested in enjoying a colorful and lighthearted game, this title is a great option to add to your collection sooner or later.
|+ Great graphics and performance||– A few tricky moments that take repeated attempts|
|+ Fun characters to interact with||– Some may wish for the older pixel style graphics|
|+ Diverse gameplay with the transformations|
|+ Simple yet well made story|