|Shantae: Half-Genie Hero: Costume Pack
|April 10th, 2018 (Wii U release delayed slightly longer)
|Steam, PS4, Switch, XBox One, Wii U, Vita
|T for Teen – Suggestive Themes, Cartoon Violence
It’s hard to believe the original Shantae: Half-Genie Hero released 2 years ago. I happily backed that project on Kickstarter, and it’s been exciting to watch the successive waves of DLC crash upon the shores of several consoles. While it’s true Half-Genie Hero wasn’t able to dethrone Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for me, it’s still been a blast to see the talented folks at WayForward craft new approaches to everybody’s favorite genie. Now the final DLC has released, Costume Pack, introducing three new ways to play – as Beach Shantae, Ninja Shantae or Officer Shantae. Was this final release three times as fun as Pirate Queen’s Quest and Friends to the End? Or did Half-Genie Hero end with a whimper?
Each of Costume Pack’s adventures plays as more of an arcade mode than a full fledged story mode. There are no HUB areas and minimal plot, instead it’s all about getting from level to level in sequence, crushing bosses and trying to find all the deviously hidden collectables (Dream Squids and Officer Shantae’s escaped convicts). In essence, they play like side stories showing off Shantae’s more whimsical side, which is a nice approach. What sets them apart from each other is how they all play, since each of Costume Pack’s experiences features totally different attack setups. Though there is no new content in terms of the levels and bosses you face, each mode mixes things up pretty dramatically.
Let’s start with my least favorite and work my way up. You would think that playing as Beach Shantae was the best. Adorable genie in a swimsuit? Check. Snazzy glasses? Double check. Attacking with beach balls and tons of funny banter? Triple check. The problem, though, is that Beach Shantae is essentially a time attack mode. The justification for this is that Shantae wants to soak up some rays, but forgot her sunscreen. As such, if she spends too much time out of the water, she’ll develop a nasty burn. One could say life threatening. You will last about twenty seconds before your sun meter gets too hot, and then you’ll rapidly lose health. To prevent this, you need to constantly collect sunscreen bottles sporadically placed throughout the levels. While this is fine in theory, most stages are rather large, so if you aren’t good about keeping track of your sun meter and mapping out the right path forward, you’re gonna be restarting again and again. The result of this design is that I quickly stopped caring about side tasks like collecting all the Dream Squids, and instead rushed through stages as fast as possible. It also meant that some boss fights were a huge hassle. You won’t find sunscreen bottles in boss arenas, other than when you damage them enough. This means that you’ll be racing the clock and forced to act rather recklessly as you battle the many colorful bosses. The one thing in Beach Shantae’s favor is that she can float in bubbles and make crazy strides through levels, with one caveat. If anything touches your bubble, it pops, often hurling the beach bum to her death. All in all, this made my experience with Beach Shantae a rough ride. Thankfully, Ninja Shantae was better.
Unlike Beach Shantae, Ninja Shantae isn’t racing the clock, though she does run rather fast. In fact, of all three of the Costume Pack variants, the Ninja is the most manuverable. She can wall jump, teleport, backdash, hurl shuriken and she swings a nasty katana. I had a lot of fun playing around with her teleportation, using it both for exploration and avoiding foul beasts. Best of all is the plot of this mode, which focuses on Shantae’s harebrained attempts to be an ideal ninja genie. Let’s just say she’s a much better genie than ninja, but it’s all in good fun. While all three modes feature leveling up with gems, you’ll seem some pointed differences in the ninja’s attacks, especially her shuriken attack patterns. Though I will say that, maneuverable as she is, she still has a rough time with some of the bosses, mostly due to there being no healing items in Costume Pack. Nevertheless, a fun mode, but I saved the best for last with Officer Shantae.
I will preface this by saying I’m not a huge fan of Mighty Switch Force. As such, I didn’t think I would enjoy playing as Officer Shantae all that much, since it’s based on that particular game. Mostly this was due to the often very tricky puzzle solving involved in Mighty Switch Force, which often ended in my abrupt demise. Thankfully, WayForward implemented features from that game very smartly, making Officer Shantae more action packed than puzzle oriented. The result is the best of the three modes, in my humble opinion. Officer Shantae essentially plays out like the love child of Patricia Wagon and Mega Man, and I couldn’t be happier with it. As you level up your blaster will get progressively more powerful, culminating in massive shockwaves that will hit foes all around you. The only downside to this powerful bionic genie is that she can’t duck, but it’s a small price to pay. Most surprisingly was how well they implemented the 3D blocks from Mighty Switch Force into the levels from Half-Genie Hero. I honestly thought they would be half-assed, but in execution it works really well and lends a lot of strategic thought into how you platform. I enjoyed this mode so much that I even 100%ed it, unlike the other two modes, finding all the escaped convicts in every stage. But perhaps my favorite aspect was that Officer Shantae’s mode features a totally unique soundtrack, of course styled to be similar to Mighty Switch Force.
You know how Costume Pack plays, but it wouldn’t be fair to not discuss the aesthetic and auditory design. While they reuse many assets from Half-Genie Hero, that’s not a complaint, since that source material was already gorgeous. The HD art really pops, even on the Wii U. That said, the mannerisms and attack frames for each version of Shantae are really impressive, and each has their own special personality they show off. Musically, I am happy to report that Costume Pack fixes one of my biggest complaints from Friends to the End, and has new musical themes for each version of Shantae. This really spiced things up, and helped lend each playthrough it’s own flavor. Though I mentioned Officer Shantae has its own soundtrack, it merits a special mention how great the jazzy final boss song is for that mode. Altogether, the game is visually and musically delightful.
Costume Pack costs $7.99 and I ended up spending about 4 hours with it, which is longer than any of the other DLC adventures (Pirate Queen’s Quest was 3 hours, Friends to the End was 2+). All in all, I feel this was a great sendoff to a game I was happy to crowdfund. Though I didn’t get 100% victory for every mode, it’s pretty good incentive, since the new victory art is pretty phenomenal. I may still feel that Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the high point of the series, but Half-Genie Hero has firmly cemented itself as the next runner up. If you love platforming or just like retro, you can’t go wrong with Half-Genie Hero or Costume Pack. I’m happy WayForward is so dedicated to retro inspired games, and can’t wait to play my favorite genie’s next adventure!
Reviewer backed the game and received the DLC for Wii U version