Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition Review

Shantae has been around since the early 2000s when we were first introduced to the half-genie in Shantae for Game Boy Color in 2002. It is surprising to know that there have only been four entries in the series. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is the fourth entry in the series, and is the first game in the series to offer DLC. WayForward decided to release Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition, which contains all the DLC as well as an extra exclusive costume. This means that now is the best time to purchase Shantae: Half-Genie Hero if you want to experience the complete package.

The story of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is fairly standard for a Shantae game, and just like the previous games I found it to be somewhat forgettable. To summarize, Mimic (or Uncle has Shantae calls him) has come up with an invention named the Dynamo which will ensure that Scuttle Town is powered at all times. Thus, this ensures that enemies within a radius will stay away. However, in order to make this machine, Mimic requires parts and Shantae needs to find these parts which develops the story. You are not required to play the previous games in the series to understand the story here, and the game does well to reintroduce the many characters. The characters within the Shantae universe for the most part are beautifully designed and characters are very likeable, which helped me stay engaged. Furthermore, story developments and key moments in the plot resulted in keeping the story varied enough for the play-through.

If you have played any of the previous Shantae games, then you can expect the kind of game-play to find here. It is a 2D action platforming game and the game-play is as solid as ever. Expect platforming and combat that is highly responsive with tight controls. However unlike the previous titles, the structure of the game has changed. Scuttle Town acts as a Home Hub per se, and Sky will fly you to other locations that you unlock as you progress through the game. The locations are essentially levels that are made up of about three different sections. This means that for the most part, the Metroidvania aspects of Shantae have been diminished. Therefore, if you enjoyed the Shantae games for this aspect then you may be slightly disappointed. I personally found this structure to be fairly refreshing and liked that I would need to re-explore these locations as I learned new transformations, to discover new things.

Transformations are a core aspect of the Shantae games and allow Shantae to transform into different animals ranging from an elephant to a mouse. The variety of transformations was very nice and I liked that the mouse for example, took advantage of the new 3D landscapes. Thislead to some fairly clever moments. Furthermore, I felt that puzzles were designed very well. In relation to transformations, I found transforming into different things cumbersome. Since there are many transformations and the way the game approaches this is slightly awkward.

The difficulty of this game is once again fairly similar to previous games, however I did notice a lot more trial and error sort of game-play from this entry. This lead to some moments where I felt that I was not in control of my character’s life and therefore cheap deaths. In addition, a lack of checkpoints on made the game frustrating occasionally. However, it was not enough to negatively dampen my experience with the game. Moreover, the hint system ensures that you know where to go at all times. Though I never felt the need to use hints it was nice to know that if I got stuck I could always resort to a hint rather than wander aimlessly. In relation to wandering, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero features a lot of backtracking through the levels, which results in obtaining new transformations or fulfilling requirements to unlock the next location. Whilst I never really felt repetitiveness, some may find constant backtracking through already completed levels a chore. Its worth noting that a warp dance, can shorten backtracking by instantly teleporting you to the next area of a level.

One big change from previous Shantae games is in the graphics department. For the first time in the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero introduces high-definition visuals and the presentation itself is highly polished. Furthermore, the art style has been completely changed, no longer are we looking at pixel based graphics but now 3D based landscapes and hand drawn characters. It is similar in appearance to WayForward’s previous remake of Duck Tales. The visuals in some moments are simply breathtaking, for example, looking at a 3D version of Scuttle Town was a breath of fresh air. Furthermore, gorgeously drawn 2D characters and artwork fit incredibly well into these newly acquainted 3D environments well. Animations are also on par, being both fluid and a joy to watch. I really liked the boss battles that utilized the 3D. For example, one battle involved me circling around a 2D boss and the animations of these bosses were every bit as impressive. In relation to enemies, they are varied and mostly well-designed, like you would expect from a Shantae game.

The 3D adds a form of depth that was not originally possible in Shantae and has contributed to new and interesting mechanics that were not possible in an entirely 2D game. In relation to the boss battles, I found them to be fairly well-designed and fun to battle, though some were fairly straight forward. The visuals are reminiscent to those found in Paper Mario games. Maps are varied and for the most part are visually impressive, however, some areas can be bland and uninspired, the genie world is a noticeable example of this. Additionally, on occasions I also found the platforming to be uninspired, some platforms felt out of place in the environment and didn’t fit well with the backgrounds. Furthermore, although I personally liked this new visual direction, some may prefer the visuals of the older games and their equally beautiful pixel graphics.

The sound direction is also as good as the visuals. The music is what you would expect from a WayForward game, it is very upbeat and catchy and a lot of fun to listen to. Some music could be perceived as repetitive, but on the whole the soundtrack was excellent if somewhat similar to the previous games.

The main cast of characters has occasional voice acting which adds character, and helps bring them to life. However, the voice acting is minimal, and some characters may literally speak one or two words. Furthermore, characters would often sound familiar which led to some confusion as to whom was actually talking. Sound effects also helped bring engagement to the overall package, they did however sound similar to previous games resulting in making Shantae: Half-Genie Hero feel fairly mistakable to closed eyes.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition brings much greater replay value than what the standard package offered. The main game excluding DLC, can be finished in around the same time as previous games. However, considering Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition includes all the DLC you can expect much more content after you finish the main game. This includes a slew of extra game modes, ranging from a Hero Mode which provides you with all of Shantae’s transformations which are unlocked from the start, to Pirate Queen’s Quest and Friends to the End which are short new stories that were previously paid DLC.

The additional content that has been included for the Ultimate Edition is enough to increase the game’s replay value by a couple of hours. The Ultimate Edition also includes an additional costume that can be used in the Beach Mode. If you have already played through Shantae: Half-Genie Hero as well as the DLC, I don’t think there is enough new content here for even the most hardcore of Shantae fans for it to be considered worth a purchase at full price.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition is the most complete version of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero with all the DLC included, along with a few extras. If you have already experienced Shantae’s latest outing and her extra stories then you are unlikely to find much more that is new here. The extra content that the Ultimate Edition presents will provide with a couple more hours to the overall playtime, though it is really just filler. The main attraction of the Ultimate Edition is still the base game. If you have yet to play Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, you can expect to find tight platforming, a fresh new art direction and an up beat soundtrack that should keep you entertained, even if the new content is limited.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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