Review of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

shantaehalfgenie

My faith in Kickstarter is restored! After the disappointment that was Mighty No. 9, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero makes our wishes come true – by proving it is possible to crowd fund a quality 2D platformer. How ironic that a game based on the iconic Megaman should flop, whilst a title with a modest cult following shows Keiji Inafune how it is done. Shantae the mystical belly dancer, who is for all intents and purposes WayForward’s mascot, has been around since 2002. You may not have heard of the character though, as her debut game appeared on the Gameboy Colour back when the handheld was on its last legs. Timing can make or break a release… just ask Gearbox how releasing Battleborn in the same month as Overwatch turned out! Hopefully Half-Genie Hero will give Shantae more exposure, because from what I hear all her games are excellent.

OVERVIEW

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero sees the titular Djinn/Human hybrid return once again to protect the citizens of Scuttle Town from pirate harassment. In this soft reboot of the franchise Shantae travels across the land procuring materials that her uncle requires to assemble a giant dynamo, which can supposedly repel any attacker who may decide to target the settlement. Whilst on the scavenger hunt for components Shantae is periodically interrupted by a rogue’s gallery of villains (whose nefarious schemes include afflicting the populace with amnesia and fabricating counterfeit mermaids.) Hmm, I had a feeling that mermaid was a fake… there was something “fishy” about her.

Unlike previous titles, Half-Genie Hero is broken up into levels rather than being set in one massive Metroidvania style world. This doesn’t mean the need to explore has been abandoned though. Revisiting completed stages is mandatory, as each area houses secrets that can only be reached once Shantae has progressed far enough in the story to unlock new transformations. In her default form Shantae can whip enemies into submission with her lengthy locks and she can also cast a range of magical spells. Her humanoid body cannot overcome every obstacle though, which is where the ability to turn into critters comes in handy. As a crab for example Shantae can travel underwater, as an elephant she can use her bulk to smash through blocks and morphing into a spider allows her to traverse ceilings (spooking any Arachnophobic gamers in the process.)

VERDICT

My rating for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is four-stars. If you grew up enjoying 2D platformers I can highly recommend this game. The levels are well designed, the bosses are fun to battle and the soundtrack is top notch. Visually Half-Genie Hero must go down as the finest looking Shantae adventure to date. The pixel graphics found in earlier instalments have been replaced with 3D environments that are populated with gorgeously drawn two-dimensional sprites. High definition Shantae is sure to be a hit with toonophiles, especially during the loading screen were she wiggles her hips. Gameplay wise Half-Genie Hero is one of the better platformers I have played in recent times. Breaking up the game into bite-sized levels may be controversial for series fans but it worked for me, as my sense of direction is terrible (so I often get lost in expansive Metroidvania worlds.)

The only thing that I disliked about Half-Genie Hero would have to be the final level, were the developers decided to ratchet up the difficulty by sprinkling the location with instant death pitfalls and spikes. Other than that I have no complaints. Some more levels would have been nice, as I completed the story in just five hours, but I accept the game’s duration is ultimately constrained by the amount of Kickstarter revenue WayForward was able to attract. All that said I have plenty of trophies yet to earn and a new DLC character is on the horizon, so I still have a few more hours of entertainment waiting to keep me occupied. On a budget of $776k WayForward Technologies has done an exceptional job. Makes you wonder were all the money ($3 million) went in the woeful Mighty No. 9. If Shantae is a genie then shyster Keiji Inafune must be Jafar.

23 thoughts on “Review of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

  1. If it weren’t for that damn airport security bullcrap after I came back I would have played this game by now. Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a while longer. Darn it. I love me some and knew Wayforward would not let us down with their (debatable) flagship series.
    Mark my words, I WILL get Half-Genie Hero sooner or later.

  2. Great job on this review! I will be picking mine up at some point, after I get through some Christmas games. I love the Shantae series, so I had every bit of faith that this game would deliver, Kickstarter or not. It’s a shame that this game’s crowdfunding happened around the time of Mighty No. 9, if I recall. The money ended up going to that one.

    • Cool. Maybe when you buy this game the second playable character will be out. What games did you pick up over the holiday season? If they are long games be aware that you can complete Shantae in a handful of hours.

      It’s a shame that WayForward didn’t get more investment. Half-Genie-Hero looks and plays better than Mighty No. 9 despite only having a fraction of the budget. From what I hear a bunch of shady stuff happened during Mighty No. 9’s development. Fingers crossed that Bloodstained will turn out better.

      • I did get a lot of RPGs like FFXV and World of Final Fantasy. I know that Shantae is short. I’m just very engrossed with the games I got this year, haha.

  3. Yooka-Laylee was the only thing I Kickstarted so I hope they do not disappoint me. Great review! I’ve heard of Shantae but never played the game. I’ll have to add this new game to my To Play list. It’s actually impressive they created a good game with that tiny budget!

    • Ah, you must be a Banjo-Kazooie fan. Kickstarter is always a risk, but you should be okay as the team making that title are a bunch of former Rare employees. Hopefully you didn’t pay for the Wii U version because I hear they scrapped development on that console.

      • Banjo-Kazooie is my 3rd all time favourite game, so yes I am a fan. šŸ™‚

        I did go for the Wii U version, but I also have an Xbox One and a PS4 so it doesn’t really matter what version they give me.

    • I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard of Shantae. Her first game appeared on the Gameboy Color in 2002. By then most people had moved onto the Gameboy Advance. Thankfully some of her older games can now be played on the PS4.

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