Game: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Consoles: Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed), Wii U, PS Vita, PC
Publishers: WayForward Technologies, Marvelous USA
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Shantae’s shimmied her way into our hearts ever since her debut on the Game Boy Color. With each passing entry, WayForward Technologies has continued to improve upon her series’ foundation laid out by tight platforming. Before Half-Genie Hero, Shantae’s journeys stuck to the 16-bit visual makeup that’s reminiscent of the platformers of the past. Now that we’ve entered into the newest era of genie hopping ‘n bopping, Shantae and her colorful world have been brought to life in a much grander fashion. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero packs in everything we enjoyed about the last games and a beautiful visual sheen.
What makes this indie platformer pop so much are its stunning graphics and prodigious soundtrack. Shantae’s home town looks so much more livelier and sounds way more vigorous. The visuals reflect the character art featured in past releases, which means everything looks like the fully realized vision of the dedicated devs behind it. And if you’ve found yourself humming along to most of the BGM featured in Shantae’s previous capers, then you’ll find yourself doing the same thing here. You’ll be at ease (even after falling into a bottomless pit for the umpteenth time) as you listen to an assortment of poppy and jazzy tunes. The graphics and audio are what makes this platformer more attractive than every other installment within the Shantae series.
Gameplay wise, what’s featured here is as strong as it has ever been. Shantae flies from location to location to jump from platform to platform, avoid countless attackers, converse with helpless buddies and collect all sorts of visible/hidden goodies. Shantae amasses new transformations along the way (such as belly dances that change her into a high jumping monkey and an obstacle crushing elephant), which aids her in various ways.
Figuring out the best uses for each animal change-up leads to interesting moments, such as backtracking to past levels to discover new knick knacks that Shantae’s friends usually request. The vibrant stages are no cakewalk, but they won’t push you to quit them altogether. There’s always something new to discover, so it’s worth braving the dangers of each one. The boss fights themselves are fun spectacles that test your mettle greatly, too. We just wish there was a gang of newer allies/foes to contend with. This is a brand new sequel with stronger graphics/songs, after all. With such a big refresh, some new faces would have completed that transition into HD just fine.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero may not throw in a whole bunch of fresh faces/elements to get acquainted with. But there’s isn’t much else to complain about. The most familiar elements of the Shantae series (fun platforming segments, cool transformations, catchy tunes etc.) return along with a beautiful new take on the graphics. The art pops off the screen thanks to its HD presentation, which makes each stage, the enemies you encounter on them and the massive bosses you take on look even better than before. This platformer may have released late in the year, but it stands tall as one of the best 2D platforming experiences of 2016.
- Watching Shantae navigate a fully realized HD 2D world is an amazing experience
- The fun platforming, cool transformation system and awesome soundtrack are all great
- Each stage is full of secrets and cool boss fights
- There’s not a whole lot of new allies and villains to become acquainted with