Review: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Over the past couple years, I’ve grown to really appreciate WayForward’s Shantae, not just for a series of really solid platformers, but also because Sequin Land is just a fun place to return to. The Shantae series and its characters are always bursting with so much personality. These games are carefree, self-aware, and silly – in many ways an adventure with Shantae feels sort of like an old Saturday morning cartoon. Whenever I jump into a new Shantae game, I’m confident that I’m going to have a good time and that continues to be true with Half-Genie Hero.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is more of a soft robot rabbit reboot than a direct follow up to Pirate’s Curse. There are some very loose ties between games, but nothing that’s really required for anyone looking to jump in with this latest entry. It also means that Half-Genie Hero is a return to transformation-based gameplay instead of the kind of powers Shantae inherited in Pirate’s Curse. The monkey, elephant, and mermaid transformations return from earlier entries in the series, while plenty of newer additions are added throughout the game. That said, while the gameplay feels like a return to “classic” Shantae, this is also a much more streamlined game that doubles down on the lack of an interconnected world present in Pirate’s Curse.
The story this time around kicks off when Shantae wakes up in the middle of the night and is led to a secret passage beneath Uncle Mimic’s workshop. Here she receives a warning message that something really bad is about to befall Sequin Land. The premise is simple enough, but as always the fun is in interacting Shantae’s friends and taking part in all of her various misadventures. There’s even a part where an elderly blobfish moves into Scuttle Town, eventually trading out her old hat for one that reads “Foxy Grandma”. Talking to the residents of Scuttle Town, completing trade quests between NPCs, and hanging out with Shantae’s friends is always a good time. The good vibes this time around also benefit greatly from Half-Genie Hero’s move towards high-resolution sprites. Similar in style to 2013’s Ducktales Remastered, Half-Genie Hero looks fantastic and works as a really great adaptation of the art style found in the previous games. Everything down to the idle animations of characters makes it clear just how much care went into crafting this game.
Shantae started out as a game with a small, interconnected world, with a focus on exploration and backtracking to unlock new locations. It felt sort of like a scaled down Metroid in some ways, while still carving out its own identity. Pirate’s Curse traded out the interconnected world with an island based selection of smaller areas that still maintained the solid level design and exploration that made earlier titles fun. Half-Genie Hero continues in this direction with a series of levels that are each split up into a couple sections before culminating in a boss fight. The game still relies heavily on backtracking to prior stages, but the game’s linearity makes this feel a bit more egregious than it has in prior entries. I don’t feel a strong desire to return to different areas the way that I did in past games, here it starts to feel more like a chore. The game is still lots of fun and I quite like the level design, but it’s a bit of a bummer that so much of the game is retreading the same areas multiple times. (Thankfully the game features a couple items that make backtracking far less of a hassle than it could’ve been.)
Don’t let the backtracking scare you off, Half-Genie Hero is still great and I loved seeing the old transformations return just as much as I loved discovering new ones. Level design and boss encounters are strong and the game itself just controls so well. Whipping enemies with Shantae’s purple hair and wall jumping as a cute little monkey has never felt so good! Though, I do wish some of the later transformations were used a bit more. I don’t want to spoil them, as they’re really cool, but some newer transformations are only ever used once or twice.
Half-Genie Hero doesn’t quite hit the highs of Pirate’s Curse for me, but what’s here is still a really solid platformer. As always, I’m glad I got the chance to return to Scuttle Town and highly recommend that you make the trip as well.
A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Good vibes
- Solid level design
- Best looking Shantae game
What I Dislike:
- Some transformations are underutilized