Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut Review

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For some people, the concept of “ports” really seems to rile them up. Sometimes, it’s justified: After all, Nintendo has shown they could easily bring some of their old titles to their new consoles with minimal effort, but they actively choose not to and dispense the games in very limited, slow fashions, sometimes as very unintuitive extra pieces of software and sometimes as very expensive modern versions of the same game. Not that they’re alone in this: Bethesda and Rockstar both appear hell bent on milking the exact same games upwards of fifty times before finally moving on to a new sequel. For WayForward, however, there’s a sort of benevolent disbelief that comes with their games. They love the Shantae series, but apparently not as much as their fans. Despite there being a whopping three different, modern and fantastically animated Shantae games currently on the Switch (including the newest Seven Sirens), fans have called not only for the older Shantae games to come to the Switch, but to come without being retouched in any way whatsoever. Well, if there’s a request, WayForward will make it happen, so players are now able to take a look at the fantastic series instalment from 2010, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut.

Risky’s Revenge is a particularly great piece of video game history due to helping showcase the sheer tenacity of the series and of WayForward. After the original Shantae was released in 2002 on the Gameboy Color (which I’ll have to unpack THAT piece of information later), there was an eight year gap in which WayForward was finding their footing and parting ways with Capcom, who was busy trying to figure out how to make Street Fighter II sellable again. Determined and bolstered by the cult status of their first game, WayForward created Risky’s Revenge on the highly awesome, but massively underappreciated DSi Store as a digital download only. This game somehow got so much attention on such a tiny marketplace that it got ported to iOS a year later after the original DSi version won “Best DS Game” from IGN for 2010. That was a year that Ghost Trick, 999, Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes and freaking Golden Sun: Dark Dawn came out, and this DSiWare release beats them all. Think about that. Now Risky’s Revenge has been ported to Windows, PS4, WiiU and, finally, the Nintendo Switch, so you gotta think: this might be fantastic.

The game’s story is actually much simpler than most Shantae games nowadays. Picking up shortly after the end of the original Shantae (which you don’t need to play to appreciate Risky’s Revenge), Shantae adversary is ACTUALLY Risky Boots, instead of Shantae thinking it is but then we find out it’s something/someone else. Risky has stolen a magical lamp (that we don’t yet know is magical) from Shantae’s uncle Mimic (who was busy talking about his bowels at the time) and gotten Shantae fired from being a Guardian Genie (but Shantae certainly isn’t just going to quit).  If Risky gets all three lamps, she’ll unleash a Dark Power™ and it’ll be very bad for everyone, so Shantae’s gotta get going so she can jump, hair whip, dance and do all sorts of magic in order to defeat the bad guys and stay on top. Shantae, get going!

If you’re one of those people who need the best and shiniest game at all times, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge might be a bit of a letdown for you. After all, this game was a huge step up from the Gameboy Colour, but this was still originally released on the freaking DSi. Not even the 3DS (which was still a year away when Risky’s Revenge was released). The graphics are delightfully chunky but well placed pixels, giving a sufficiently “gaming” feel to the characters, enemies and landscape throughout. Everything has a strong detail, while still having a rough hew to it, really nodding to the bit era of gaming and what that entails for fans of consoles with the word “Famicom” in the title. To help keep it as authentic as possible, the fine folks of WayForward are giving you plenty of choices as to how to view Shantae, from the original screen size (that will really smooth out those rough edges and make it quite beautiful) to a widescreen that will stretch the hell out of the game but at least give you edge to edge gaming. My advice is to use the recommended 4:3 with borders to get the best of both worlds. The screen is bigger, the pixels are a little displaced, and it all works fantastically well in both docked mode and handheld. However, you might want to do original once in a while just for fun. It really gives a better idea of how great this game looked on the DSi.

Shantae’s abilities are also a bit tamer compared to later games where things like swapping powers with other genies or upgrading your transformations. Sure, Shantae is still able to buy magic spells and upgrades to them from the store: that never changes, and the incentive to grind and abuse the system to max out your fireballs before even really setting out is high. And you add some powers for dance transformation as the game goes forward, though they’re definitely more utilitarian than the later games. You got a monkey for small, tight spaces and climbing walls, a mermaid for properly swimming underwater, and an elephant for breaking down would-be walls. Most of the upgrades to Shantae, however, come from the store, so be sure to invest in hair cream and Pike Ball upgrades so that you can really stomp as you move forward.

What I think really sets Risky’s Revenge apart from the other Shantae games is that it’s one of the most satisfying versions of the Shantae saga. This is pre-voice acting, pre-smoother animations, and pre-side quests. Instead, you’re tasked with a very straightforward, minor nonsense metrovania that puts you on task to get three lamps and stop Risky Boots. You’ve got exposition to read on occasion, and Shantae is still a fantastic and often hilarious protagonist (kiss!), but most of the game is focused on driving you forward towards the Magic Seals and getting past some gnarly enemies and areas. Places like the timed escape from the Battle Tower (and the incredible Barracuda Joe) hold up as they’re genuinely a great test of skill and reflexes within the game. You can shape how your outcome for these types of games are by tried and true exploration and understanding of the game and not just what the game is, if that makes sense. Like, people can pick up and run through several stages of Super Mario World despite there being exponentially newer and better Mario games because the SNES version is a damn treasure. That’s the same deal with Shantae: Risky’s Revenge. Even though the game only comes out to like three hours or something to play from start to finish, it’s freaking enjoyable. Places like the Lilac Fields look great, sure, but it’s also just a great challenge to navigate around and find the newest and best ways to quickly dispatch Risky’s henchpeople.

It seems silly to touch on the Director’s Cut aspect, as this is the only version of Risky’s Revenge most people will have played, but might as well highlight. The original Risky’s Revenge didn’t have a dope costume you could change into that would reduce your magic use but half your defence in the process. This one does. It’s a minor thing, but for players who really like to keep re-running Shantae, it’s an important distinction because it was previously called Magic Mode in other releases. I recommend not changing into Shantae’s awesome gold costume until you’ve played through the game at least once, simply because it will ramp up the difficulty of it all and might seem unfair to new players. Also, her normal costume is revealing enough, you don’t need the gold aesthetic from the drop.

Anyone who’s previously enjoyed Shantae: Risky’s Revenge needs little to no suggestion to pick up this re-release for the Nintendo Switch. There’s a physical version you can get from Limited Run Games, the digital price is a mere ten dollars, and having a portable version that plays a hell of a lot better than the very outdated iOS version is worth the price of admission. If you’ve never given it a shot before but enjoy other Shantae games, I think this is a decent investment, especially in terms of affirming to WayForward that more Shantae games should be released. Hell, it’s tight as a drum, not too long, it takes one minute to install, and is a fantastic pick up and play metrovania with great action and upgrades. If you’ve never played a Shantae game before, I personally think that Risky’s Revenge is the best place to start. It isn’t as pretty as future games, but it does give you the best idea of what you’re in store for, and it helps to build a strong future with the series. Basically, if you like this one, you’ll LOVE the next ones (though I still feel like Half-Genie Hero is a small departure from the series). Plus, it’s always fun to dance and then turn into a monkey. Try it, you’ll like it.

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

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Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Graphics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sound - 8/10
    8/10
  • Replay Value - 8/10
    8/10
User Review
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Overall
8/10

Summary

Nintendo Switch owners can finally see what the fuss is about with a port of the Shantae game that made the critics take notice for amazing design and concept.


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