Review: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (PS4/PSV)

2016 Golden Minecart Awards:

  • Best Platformer (PSV)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox One
  • Wii U
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro, Vita
  • HDTV 4K

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • PlayStation TV Compatible No
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Format: Blu-ray Disc / Game Card / PSN (PS4 1.81 GB) (PSV 953 MB)
Release Date: December 20, 2016
Publisher: WayForward Technologies
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Original MSRP: $19.99 PSN / $29.99 Physical
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero harkens back to a time when platformers were released every other month and a new side-scrolling hero adorned the shelf space of the Electronics Boutique every time you’d walk through the door. In creating this game, WayForward did such an amazing job capturing the spirit of the best platformers of the past that I almost forgot that I was playing a brand new game.

As the ever-dancing protagonist Shantae, you must battle minions of evil in order to thwart the efforts of the evil pirate, Risky Boots. This endeavor will take you across distant lands and pit you against the hardiest, and cutest, enemies to have graced a screen since Wonderboy.

Gameplay is simplistic in that Shantae’s primary attack is a hair swipe that damages the baddies along with jumps to avoid danger. But the pacing and level design that surrounds you is masterfully designed, challenging you to complete each stage without taking damage because checkpoints here are merciless.

As a fan of the classic Wonderboy games, I found myself excited for the light adventure elements such as shops and item and spell enhancements. Defeated enemies drop money, and cash can be used to buy upgrades for Shantae including, but not limited to, the ability to transform into different creatures. For example, turning into a pink, also cute, monkey allows you to climb walls, encouraging exploration and suggesting various ways to approach a problem.

Since the game is pretty merciless with its checkpoints you might venture far into a level only to die and have to start again from the very beginning. Initially this discouraged my exploration, because I just wanted to reach the end.

As I learned the game more, I found myself taking more care with certain enemies, dispatching ones that would damage me if I accidentally fell upon them from above after missing a jump in a vertical stage. This afforded me the time to explore more and earn some loot.

Deaths cannot be blamed on poor controls with this little gem. There is a familiar tightness to the way you handle Shantae and it’s one that returns muscle memory to the days of Sonic and Megaman.

… so charming that I kept coming back for more …
In fact, that’s what kept me coming back for more, despite my initial struggle with staying alive. I knew that I was at fault and I simply needed to be patient, because the game was playing great, but I simply was not. In the end, Shantae is so charming that I kept coming back for more.

It’s unfortunate that the Vita version doesn’t support Cross-Save, as of this writing anyway, since the game plays beautifully on the handheld and it would have been great to continue the game on the go. But if you are considering this game on the Vita instead of the PS4, you will not be disappointed.

Visuals:
This is as smooth and colorful as one can expect from this type of game, only better than that. Shantae herself is so freakin’ adorable that even her idle animation dancing is a level of ridiculous cuteness that has no equal.

I seriously struggled to determine whether or not the characters were polygonal or hand drawn, because their animations were so smooth that I assumed 3D models. I never figured it out, but, if they are 3D then they achieve a beautiful drawn look, and if they are hand drawn, then bravo to the artists for a masterful level of character animation.

The level art design also explores various types of environments, all rendered beautifully and matching the style of the cartoony foreground characters. While some indoor environments lack background elements, the outdoor stuff is lush and vibrant, contrasting the danger you must navigate.

… fantastic, addicting gameplay …
Parallax scrolling adds depth to the environments, giving that old 3D illusion that we used to love on the Genesis and SNES. The Shantae games have always been lookers, but this one definitely takes that a step up.

Little to no sacrifices were made in porting this game onto the Vita. The visuals are just as sharp and move just as smoothly on the handheld. In fact, the color really pops on the smaller screen.

Audio:
I am going to purchase the soundtrack. Long after I stopped playing, I found myself humming certain tunes from the game. The music style is reminiscent of a similar one found in those older Sonic games: high energy, jazzy and catchy.

All of this is, of course in theme, as Shantae is a dancing genie, half-genie anyway, and her entire arsenal revolves around the dance. So music is of the utmost relevance here and it totally shows.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Charming as hell, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero welcomes you with a beautiful art style and keeps you going with fantastic, addicting gameplay. It’s not a very long game as you can probably complete it in a few hours, but there is enough hidden content to keep you entertained. All of this combines with a wonderful soundtrack, giving you a once-in-a-blue-moon platforming experience that you will not soon forget.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature and the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Renegade Bastard

    Nice write-up and review, Rey!