Shantae is a well known old school platformer from developer Wayforward Technologies. The latest game in the series was originally presented in a Kickstarter and managed to achieve its goal with ease. This shouldn’t be surprising considering how the past Shantae games have achieved a cult status among the fans.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is the first in the series to be made in a gorgeous mixture of 2D and 3D art style. The visuals are bright and colorful and retain the original spirit of the series, while also providing some gorgeous backdrops and character models that shine on the big screen. The only weakness that I could find was that sometimes the mix of the 2D art style with the 3D didn’t work well, as an example, some of the 3D backdrops or the design of the pots that we break doesn’t mesh well with the art style at times.
If you are new to the series and haven’t played any of the past Shantae games, then you can still try your hand at this latest entry because of how this game is designed. It often works as a reboot but also carries references to the past games. There is also lovely meta commentary related to the status of this new game from one of the NPC. It is nice to see the developers acknowledging the confusion surrounding the state of game’s release. In my case, I had no issue getting into it since the game does a great job at introducing and establishing its characters. Although fans who have played the past games will appreciate the nice throwback and references to some of the villains and characters.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero plays mostly like a typical 2D platformer and it is almost too easy at times. It will be hard to die in the game since it is full of checkpoints, so even dying doesn’t really carry much of a risk because we can just continue from a previous checkpoint. However, the game does have some fun boss fights that require dodging and attacking with precision. These boss fights usually include a nicely detailed boss with its own unique attacks. Since most of these revolve around a pre-determined set of attacks, it is easy to figure them out and exploit their weakness.
Developer WayForward Technologies has successfully created the world for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero with a lot of charm. It is full of interesting characters that serve the purpose of advancing the story. Majority of our time in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is usually spent in doing the quests presented by these NPCs. While they mostly exist as fetch quests, they often have some nice backstory added to them along with NPCs that have unique personalities so that they don’t end up being a chore.
Shantae has the power to transform into various forms in the game by using her special Belly Dancing skills. The transformation are unlocked as we gradually progress through the game and each transformation has its own set of upgrades that will be hidden through each of the game’s level, offering players replay value by exploring them again to unlock these abilities. Each transformation manages to bring in new gameplay enhancements with it, which then allows the player to explore parts of the levels that they wouldn’t have been able to do before the transformation.
Shantae has the power to defeat enemies by whipping her hair and she can also utilize magic along the way. The ability to use magic comes at the cost of magic points but it is often so low that we can practically spam it without having to worry about running out of magic points. There is a basic RPG based skill system here which allows us to upgrade the whipping speed or the attack power among other things. These skills can simply be purchased and then equipped on Shantae by using the in-game currency, which is also rather easy to get by breaking pots scattered throughout each of the level. There are upgrades and secret skills hidden throughout each of the level which usually requires a specific transformation in order to be reached.
Shantae isn’t really a long game when we are done with it. It will take a few hours for the main story and then there are secrets to discover in some of the levels, but when all is said and done, the game is often a short experience. This shouldn’t be taken as a bad thing since despite its short length, the game is visually spectacular and provides an engaging gameplay experience with unique platforming quirks that is hard to come with the advent of 3D platformers.
While the game has more than enough content in its current stage, it is interesting to see that the developer WarForward is working on more content after its launch including the addition of Shantae’s rival, Risky Boots. This should be available at a later date although it remains to be seen what type of new gameplay this character will offer in the game.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is avaialble now for the PS4, Wii U, Vita and PC. It was developed by Wayforward Technologies and published by XSEED Games. This review covers the PS4 version of the game.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Review (PS4)
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a visually striking platformer with top notch production values.