In recent years, I’ve had a bit of a falling out with 2D platformers.
Between the countless indie throwaway efforts to follow ups of notable franchises that left me feeling underwhelmed, it’s a clear case of overexposure to the genre. However, it’s not that I dislike them now, but I find that they have to be quite highly recommended for me to check them out.
The Shantae games in particular have been recommended to me many times, and with the brand new entry shifting its focus to high quality sprites, I felt as though it was the perfect time to finally check out what this cult-classic franchise had to offer.
As the titular heroine, Shantae is tasked with the job of being the guardian of a small town. Using her powers has a half-genie to transform into all manner of different forms, she uses her mighty hair as a deadly whip to beat evil-doers into submission.
The overarching storyline is as simple as could be, and the focus of the narrative is entirely character driven, with a nice variety of goofy denizens in the town and a rogues gallery to match. It’s just funny and charming enough to carry itself through the relatively short campaign.
Being a 2D platformer, the gameplay is fairly genre-typical with plenty of jumping, whipping of the hair and secrets waiting to be uncovered.
Shantae’s ability to transform into a large variety of different forms like the crab, elephant, bat and many more all serve a purpose in traversal as well as in combat, where some encounters can be skipped or completely trivialized by using the right form for the situation.
The process is as simple as pressing one button and choosing the desired form while Shantae does a little dance. These forms, along with other power-ups, are often hidden throughout the stages, and it’s up to the player to track them down by searching every nook and cranny the level has to offer.
This also meant a lot of backtracking, as once a new form is unlocked, previously inaccessible areas became available to explored, providing even more forms and powers as the process repeated.
Given that there were only a handful of stages to explore, I felt I was getting a bit tired of visiting the same stage for the fifth or sixth time trying to find the last few missing items.
Still, given the tight controls along with well designed levels and an OST filled to the brim with fun and catchy arrangements that never got old to listen to, it made what would have otherwise been a tedious last quarter of the game into something that was fairly enjoyable.
After completing the game, there is a “new game+” mode of sorts in the form of being able to play through the game from the very beginning with the essential transformations unlocked, making the second playthrough feel much quicker and streamlined.
Going into Shantae: Half-Genie Hero as someone who had no experience with the series has left me feeling impressed by the undeniable charm of the titular heroine, and has all but guaranteed that I will be going back to check out the earlier games in the franchise for some more half-genie action.
Fun Tidbit – Be sure to take good advantage of the teleport dance to quickly get around the stages during backtracking as well as the ability to leave a finished level at anytime.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.