Half-Genie, Once More
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Developed by WayForward Games
There’s just something charming about sinking back into a Shantae game, be it the witty dialogue, colourful characters, enjoyable environments or just the classic Metroidvania gameplay with a genie twist. It’s probably all these things and more, as the Way Forward team has been delivering a level of consistent quality over the years with the long running franchise, and Half-Genie Hero is no exception.
Time to Save the World Again
Kicking off after the events of Pirates Curse, it doesn’t take long for Shantae to find herself a new threat to face off against, as the once again Half-Genie finds herself running across Sequin Land to combat threats new and old in order to defend the realm of the Genies, and possibly learn about many long unanswered questions in the process. The true meat of the story though, as always, comes through in the gameplay itself and the many long running characters that drive the series. The old faces of Uncle, Sky, Bolo, Rottytops and many more will be around as always to give you objectives and open new areas to explore. It wouldn’t be Shantae without all her old friends and enemies to make puns, play on gaming conventions and prod at the 4th wall. It’s as charming as always, and it’s nice to just sit down and enjoy the ride with the familiar faces and settings. It’s not only witty dialogue though, the gameplay and side scrolling action have not been forgotten.
Each map brings with it a new task to complete, a new boss to beat, and more powers and abilities to unlock. All of them interweaving with that Metroidvania style gameplay the series has made its own. With her magic now restored after the events of the last title, you can once again hair whip enemies, cast spells and transform into a host of new forms. Scuttle Town once again serves as the hub to your adventures, letting you buy the majority of your upgrades and spells, get new quests and plan out your next move. You’ll be doing a lot of back and forth too, as returning to old areas with different forms and abilities will slowly unlock more and more to do in each area, usually centering around your many transformations.
Though sadly the large variety of transformations tend to only give each form one very specific function, rather than giving more freedom to tailor your gameplay. It’s a small complaint however, as you still have more than enough options to approaching the many puzzles and combat situations you’ll find yourself in. Most of the spells and abilities are returning powers, such as fireball, storm cloud, monkey and elephant forms. There are some new additions to spice things up however, but it would have been nice to see more unique moves here and there. On the whole though, Shantae has come back with the classics after it’s risky dive into the waters of crowdfunding, and the classics are good stuff.
0.5 Genie, 2.5 World
It’s not all revisiting the tried and true however, as the visuals have definitely upped their game in the new title. Colourful, cute and stylish, the world not only packs in the level charm you’d expect, but it looks damn good too. Whether you’re playing on the PC or the Switch, the world of Sequin land really looks at its best with popping 2.5 visuals and beautiful stylized graphics. Something about the scenes just pop out and give the world more depth than I expected. Couple this with the artwork behind all the sprites and characters and it’s just honestly a joy to look at. Pairing excellently with the new and improved look is some truly great music on display for the levels, the opening “Dance through The Danger” alone was a perfect opening to the action packed beginning. Each level has their own tones and themes and get some great tunes to match, if you’re playing this on the go with the Switch, it would be a shame to not use some earphones when you do.
All the graphics and abilities aside though, even without the bells and whistles Shantae is just a mechanically solid game. It’s a side scrolling action platformer in strong form, and whether it’s fighting through the environments, jumping across airships and shifting zones or just navigating the boss fights, the controls are tight and everything feels great. It’s not exactly a breeze either, you’ll need those great controls to get through the challenges it throws at you. While never frustrating or truly mean, Shantae hasn’t forgotten that old school used to be cruel, and it can certainly put up a fight.
I played this on the switch myself, and it’s a perfect portable title to bring to the new console, regardless of which mode it’s played in. The gameplay runs smoothly without any issues I’ve ever found, and while it’s slightly disappointing that the majority of skills and powers didn’t evolve as much as the rest of the title, it’s simply a solid experience all around. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a great addition to the franchise, regardless of what it’s played on.
A Risky Venture
It has to be said that this whole thing could have never seen the light of day if not for crowdfunding. Shantae, while retaining a loyal following, has always had a tough time on the marketplace. Luckily for Wayforward however, they more than reached their goal for the project and have been enjoying success with new platforms and expansions to the game. The game has only just arrived on the Switch alongside the new campaign for Shantae’s rival, Risky Boots, thanks for all the support received in its development.
It’s been a long and troubled road for the series, but Shantae is known by many as a rare gem of charm, lighthearted storytelling and truly solid gameplay. Despite a few nitpicks, it’s simply just fun, something that feels overlooked too much these days. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a great action platformer that captures the spirit of a witty, fun adventure. It delivers on the experience it wanted, and makes a great little game for doing so.