By Leah McDonald / December 10th, 2021
|Title||Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – Ultimate Edition|
|Release Date||Dec. 20, 2016 (PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Steam); Dec. 27, 2016 (Wii U);
June 8, 2017 (Nintendo Switch); Feb. 23, 2021 (Stadia); Nov. 2, 2021 (PS5)
|Genre||Action Adventure, Platformer|
|Platform||PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Steam, Stadia|
|Age Rating||All Ages|
Our Half-Genie Hero is back and on another adventure to save Sequin Land from the nefarious Risky Boots. Our Queen of the Seven Seas is out to harm the Genie Realm, and it’s up to Shantae to stop her by using her own genie magic and some help from her friends – not to mention a ton of transformations. Much like the games that came before, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – Ultimate Edition is a fun, colorful romp through an assortment of danger-laden worlds. As she gains new genie powers and upgrades, Shantae can dive deep beneath the waves as a crab or mermaid, fly through the air as a bat or harpy, climb walls as a monkey, hang from ceilings as a spider, and stomp on enemies as an elephant.
As Shantae’s first real HD adventure, Half-Genie Hero is absolutely gorgeous. While I still, personally, prefer the sprites from the older games for Shantae and pals, there is no denying how fluid and smooth their animations are here, or how vibrant the palette is. The colors absolutely popped on my PS5, and everything ran smooth as butter to boot. Each region has distinct looks and environments, and I love the verticality of every level. I wish the level design had embraced a more Metroidvania-esque connectedness between zones, but there are still plenty of chances for exploration and backtracking as you gain more upgrades, so it’s not really a knock against the game itself.
In terms of story, it’s pretty simple, but charming. The Genie Realm is in danger, and an unnamed genie calls out to Shantae in her dreams to warn her of the coming disaster. Her Uncle Mimic, in his attempt to alleviate some of Shantae’s duties to Scuttle Town, creates a machine called the Dynamo that Risky steals in order to rip open the rift between the human and genie realms, thereby bringing about the disaster Shantae was warned about. As a result of Risky’s raid, Shantae is once again fired as the town’s genie, but that won’t stop her from doing everything she can to protect Sequin Land and her fellow townsfolk. The usual cast of characters make their appearances, with Sky and Bolo giving Shantae a hand, Rottytops being a nebulous friend, and Risky and the Barons getting in our Half-Genie’s way throughout her adventures. The writing remains witty and pun-filled. It’s comfy, fun and familiar, and I’m all for it in my wacky and charming adventure game.
One of my favorite things to return in this title is the hot spring in town. It’s a free heal and I love it. You’re once again spending money to upgrade your abilities, but gold is easy to come by, so I never felt like I was really missing out on skills. Sky’s bird, Wrench, can now grow to gargantuan sizes and fly Shantae all around Sequin Land, ferrying her back and forth at whim to each level. His whistle works similarly to the pirate’s flare from Pirate’s Curse, allowing players to back out of a level immediately whenever they want. New this time around is an art gallery, which showcases tons of art assets from the game’s development. I love galleries like this, and it felt like a great addition.
Half-Genie Hero – Ultimate Edition also includes all previously released DLC, including the Pirate Queen’s Quest, which adds a bit of story as we play from Risky’s point of view as she gathers items to power up the Dynamo in order to take over the Genie Realm. It retreads all the areas we already played as Shantae with a couple twists on boss encounters, but it’s fun to get in the pirate queen’s big boots, and I love her personality. She’s fun, plus her adventure adds a bit of difficulty that was lacking in the main game. Other DLC included is Friends to the End, where you get the chance to play as Sky, Bolo, and Rottytops; and the Costume Pack, which includes Ninja Mode, Officer Mode, and Beach Mode. Ninja and Officer provide alternate uniforms with unique skill sets, and Beach Mode has you rushing through each level looking for sunscreen before Shantae gets burned. There’s also the self-explanatory Jammies Mode, where Shantae engages in pillow fights as she traipses across the world.
I mentioned difficulty, and Half-Genie Hero is around the same level as previous titles (except the first). It’s absolutely a beginner-friendly action-adventure game, and that’s not bad. Challenge is few and far between, though that’s what Hard Mode is for. Without even trying, I completed the game with more than 80 percent of all collectibles found, because Half-Genie Hero doesn’t really try to make the discovery process frustrating. Every time I got an upgrade, I knew exactly where I needed to go back to in previous levels. Point in favor of WayForward for well-designed and telegraphed levels, I suppose, but it did take away from the wonder of exploration a bit. I applaud them for consistently making games that are friendly and welcoming to newcomers to the genre, though.
I can’t talk about a Shantae game without at least touching on the music, which is always stellar and a highlight of every title. That does not change here, and I often found myself bopping my head to the music or humming a tune long after I’d put the game down for the night.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – Ultimate Edition has a lot of fun to offer beginners and veteran adventure players, with adorable characters, vibrant levels, a great score, and plenty of replayability. While it isn’t particularly difficult, the various modes and DLC adventures offer a bit more challenge than the main adventure, and we can always use more Shantae in our lives. It took me just short of seven hours to beat the base game, and each DLC story is around two to three hours, so it’s the perfect length for someone who can’t dump too much time into a single game. For $15 USD, you can’t go wrong picking this one up.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Action AdventurePlayStation ReviewsReviewShantaeShantae SeriesShantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate EditionWayForward