By Josh Speer / June 11th, 2015
Today I finally got the chance to get my hands on Shantae Half-Genie Hero! As an Early Access Backer, this momentous event kind of snuck up on me, but I was overjoyed to spend some time with my favorite bellydancing genie via Steam. The Early Access demo allows players to try their hand at three different levels — a Forest area, a Desert and a Slide unlike anything I’ve experienced in Shantae previously. But before I get too far ahead, a quick note. I backed Shantae Half-Genie Hero just to experience the series on my Wii U. At the time, I couldn’t have cared less about it being HD, since so many games have joined that craze of late. However, after playing the game, I realized how much the HD treatment only served to magnify the already charming and delightful series. There is a range of visual storytelling that has been unlocked by the HD graphics, and I couldn’t be happier about it. With that out of the way, let’s discuss the various stages.
The Forest area is the most basic of them, focusing on platforming, with swimming and relearning transformations. I remember how convoluted this process was in the original Shantae, but it’s super streamlined in Half-Genie Hero. You simply hold the Y button and then let go. While this might become somewhat complicated in the final version — given that Shantae can transform into a range of animals — in the demo, each transformation was gated to a level. In the Forest, that transformation was the adorable, wall-climbing Monkey! I will say, transforming wasn’t my favorite gameplay mechanic in the first two Shantae games, but it feels more fresh and necessary in Half-Genie Hero. That could be nostalgia talking or simply better level design. Speaking of which, though the Forest wasn’t that complicated, it was pretty large, and I actually got a bit lost wandering about, bashing pots for money and dispatching foes. Luckily, the Steam demo is compatible with an XBox 360 controller, so the whole thing played flawlessly. Upon reaching the highest point in the stage, I came across a group of girls in cages, who get whisked away as I chase them, thus ending the Forest.
The Desert area was a great study in contrasts. On the one hand, you have blowing desert winds, angry cacti and malevolent cyclopean centipedes, but on the other, you have vast hidden underwater grottos filled with loot and fish with too many teeth. Though seemingly smaller than the Forest, the Desert more than made up for it in challenge. It took me a while to get used to the Crab Transformation, since this is the first time Shantae can turn into a cuddly crustacean. I kept trying to attack foes with my claws, which seemed reasonable, but, alas, is not an option. It wasn’t until I tried going underwater that it all made sense. While Shantae can swim, she cannot dive, at least in human form. In Crab form, Shantae sinks like a rock, and is able to recede into crab armor by holding the Down button. More passive than I would expect from a crab, but it nevertheless was a fun addition to Shantae’s repertoire of animal forms.
The final area, while being the shortest, was also the most exciting. Why, you ask? Simply because the entire stage is Shantae sliding down a series of ramps and avoiding barrels and airborne Crocodile foes. All you can do is move back and forth and jump to avoid barrels, whereas the Crocodiles require a good hair whipping to be put down. I’m not used to stages like this in Shantae, expecting it more from the likes of Mario or Donkey Kong, but I felt it worked well to mix things up. It also hints at more creative touches in the final build of the game.
Overall, I was very happy with my time in Shantae Half-Genie Hero. Beating all three stages took me about a half hour, but it was time well spent, and a delicious taste of things to come. My only complaint is that playing it made it even harder for me to wait patiently for the final build to come to my Wii U. If you haven’t backed Half-Genie Hero, I would strongly recommend you check it out once the game launches. Shantae has never played or looked quite so good!
Early AccessHalf-Genie HeroShantaeSteamWayForward