We have a review this week on an action-platformer that uses the greatest skill known to mankind: the power of dance! Brought to you by WayForward as the fourth installment of the series, we have Shantae: Half-Genie Hero! Let’s go!
In this game, you play as Shantae, the titular half-genie protector of Scuttle Town, a seaside village that knows pirate attacks all too well by this point. Defeat enemies using your whip-like hair and magic spells you bought at the local store. Travel across a multitude of areas to gather the pieces to your Uncle’s defense apparatus for the town. Dance your way through the danger, by using your genie powers to take on different forms, such as monkey, elephant, and spider-person. Talk to literally everyone you see, as they all have important information for finding all of the game’s collectibles so you can reach that 100% completion achievement. Stand up to familiar evil faces once again as they try to take control of Sequin Land. Find out more about your secret genie past (maybe) in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.
First things first, the visuals. The latest installment of Shantae has some packing graphics. Not to say that any of the other three games did not look good, but that Half-Genie Hero, with its move to more high-definition animations, looks fantastic. Shantae herself animates well, through all of her attacks, dances, and transformations, as do many enemies. There are some points in the game where it’s a bit obvious some corners may have been cut, like where an enemy doesn’t animate at the same framerate, or an item, as opposed to being fully drawn out and detailed, is just a flat shape with a particle effect. These moments are few, fortunately, and don’t detract too much from the overall experience.
The second thing most notice about the game is the soundtrack, and man does Half-Genie Hero have an amazing soundtrack. The music for HGH is fantastic, upbeat and with a certain techno feel to a number of its tracks. A lot of the music for this game reminds me of Mega Man X games, which is another fantastic action platforming series. The music was composed by Jake Kaufman, who composed music for not only the three previous Shantae games, but also Shovel Knight, Mighty Switch Force, and DuckTales: Remastered. You can listen to it over here.
As a 2D side-scrolling platforming game, you can jump, walk, run and maneuver around the stage from platform to platform. As an action game, you can attack enemies, using your magical genie hair or spells to throw fireballs, lightning clouds, or spike balls at your foes. As a genie game, you can use the powers of belly dance to transform into different forms, which all allow for different ways to move, attack, and interact with the levels. As a monkey, the first form you get, you can jump higher, making jumping between platforms easier, and cling to walls, which allows for vertical platforming. As an elephant, a form collected later in the game, you can charge over enemies and rush into large blocks, which can make platforms or bust open to new areas. At the end of each major level is a boss, which all have unique mechanics to progress the fight that are usually tied to the environment, like hitting a switch to activate a bomb, or knocking enemy projectiles into nearby cannons.
After you’ve beaten a level, you receive a new transformation, which allows for new exploration of levels. This is where much time may be spent, in backtracking to previous levels looking for hidden secrets. Much of the backtracking is optional, for extra heart containers and unlocking art gallery pieces, but some backtracking will be required for progression. To get to the next level, you might need to go find a resource hidden in a previous level, which while looking for what you need may have you finding the optional secrets. When you come back to a level, it will be different in some regards, often with new enemies. If you can’t remember where you have and haven’t explored already, you might be spending a lot of time going back and forth between areas, which can be mitigated by items you can buy in the game. Or you can use an online guide if you get too frustrated.
One of the thing I like most in this game are the characters, because they have so much character. Dialogue is well written, for both the major characters and minor NPCs found around town, and is absolutely hilarious. The humor ranges from silly and goofy to slightly more esoteric stuff, revolving around breaking the fourth wall and meta-humor, including jokes from the characters recognizing the fact that they are in a video game. This culminates in a joke where a character wants their own spin-off game. Some of the dialogue may not make the most sense, as this is the fourth game in the series, and a soft-reboot of the series itself, such that the characters are all familiar with one another, but major events of previous titles have no impact on this game’s story. There will be references to previous games. If you want to get all of the jokes, either fill in the blanks based on what you know, or try playing the previous games.
Altogether, I had quite a bit of fun with Shantae: Half Genie Hero. The soundtrack is amazing, the visuals stunning, and the dialogue entertaining. The bosses are cool, and the platforming is fun, the backtracking less so. If you enjoy action platforming games like Mega Man or Shovel Knight, or if you’re a fan of metroidvania titles, think about giving Shantae a shot. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is available on Steam, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch. If you want to catch up on the series, all but the first of the Shantae titles are available on Steam, PS4, and Wii U.
That’s all for now, see you later!