Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Shane Jury 24.06.2018

Review for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Primed as a strong example of the Game Boy Color's capacities and one of its last hurrahs, the original Shantae was released way back in 2002. Made by developer WayForward, Shantae's critical reception was positive, but it ultimately sunk into obscurity for many years, until a sequel emerged on Nintendo DSi eShop. From that point, the series has seen two more entries, stronger sales and recognition, and is now considered to be the flagship franchise of WayForward as a whole. The Kickstarter project of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero graced the Nintendo Switch last year and saw continual mode and content purchase options, all of which are consolidated together into this Ultimate Edition (reviewed here on PC). Is this Arabian adventure worth a play?

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero continues the tale of the titular dancer in her role as Town Guardian, as she clashes with foes both old and new, and explores the neighbouring islands for essential building parts. The game is somewhat secluded in its narrative, so knowledge of previous games isn't essential, and the quality of writing and character depiction in this one make for a compelling story, although series' fans will likely enjoy the remixed classic tunes and small references. A light-hearted and fun tone with cheeky humour and fan-service elements give Half-Genie Hero a strong identity of its own, coupled with a limited number of, but varied, level designs, all backed by gorgeous visuals and animation; radiant regardless of docked or handheld Switch form.

Like its trio of forerunners, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a 2D platformer, but follows a much more linear style of gameplay in the main story as opposed to the 'Metroidvania' framework of previous entries. Scuttle Town acts as the central hub, where items and weapons can be bought and upgraded, a gallery can be accessed, and health can be replenished. There are a low number of levels, but they are designed in such a way as to reward repeat play with item and power-up discoveries, particularly after gaining new transformation powers during the course of the adventure.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Shantae's most notable trait, aside from using her hair as a whip to damage enemies, is her ability to become an animal or object upon command. Multiple choices include a monkey that can climb walls, a block-busting elephant, and even a mermaid to gracefully glide through the oceans; all of which add greatly to level exploration. The actual button and animation trigger for these transformations does tend to halt the flow of the game, but, thankfully, not to a major degree and even if it takes a moment to automatically scroll through the button matching prompts, the most useful forms are always on the first screen.

Together with the Main Story mode come two variants on its formula, Hero and Hardcore. Hero Mode unlocks all the story-sealed Transformations right from the start, which cuts down on the number of times a stage needs to be replayed, and Hardcore is essentially hard mode; limiting health and increasing enemy number and hazard placements. Each of these modes has a separate save file, so can each be played without affecting the other.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Making up the Ultimate Edition part of this package are the five new modes, which all play very differently to the main game, although to their detriment reuse the same individual level structures, albeit with little-to-no revisiting requirements. Pirate Queen's Quest follows Shantae's nemesis, the villainous Risky Boots, as she seeks parts for her diabolical plans, doing so with sword in-hand and gadgets galore. This mode is layered much closer to a traditional A-to-Z platformer game as new gadget moves are unlocked after each level, even if all techniques can be upgraded with optional Dark Magic items. Controlling Risky is far more intuitive due to the button mapping for each of her attacks and techniques, and although the mode is rather short, there is enough variation in hazard placement to the main game to keep things fresh.

Friends to the End involves three of Shantae's allies braving the world of her memories to dispel an evil possessive force. Each of the three has their own move-set and attributes; Sky can use her birds for height and momentum, Bolo has a hookshot gadget for landscape traversal, and Rottytop's undead nature can clear obstacles the other two can't. Due to the memories setting of this mode, the levels are again the same as the main adventure, but with obstacles and enemies changed to challenge the abilities of the characters, and a handy new tutorial area at the beginning to ease players into the controls.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Ninja Mode casts Shantae in a newly purchased gear-set as she seeks to learn the ways of stealth and agility. Wall-jumping and teleportation, together with handy blade strikes and throwing knives/shuriken, make for what is almost like a speed-running version of the journey. Beach Mode has the heroine in her seaside garb and moving through intense heat, which can only be kept away by picking up suntan bottles and using Bubble and Beachball techniques to beat foes.

Officer Mode is the most substantial of the three new Shantae-focused offerings, adapting the mechanics of one of WayForward's other series, Mighty Switch Force, directly into Half-Genie Hero's systems. The result works and plays beautifully, giving the titular character the ability to swap blocks and grids to the foreground and back with a mere button press, and the inevitable level environmental changes that comes from it makes them feel fresh to play again. Exploration is given even more incentive with optional Space Hooligans to find in each level, making for a mode that while short and sweet rivals the enjoyment of the main game, and nicely rounds off an aesthetically repetitive but still enjoyable package as a whole.

Screenshot for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Comparing this bundle to its cheaper original on the eShop, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Ultimate Edition's value is greatly boosted by the deviation of the extra modes to the main game; some being far more substantial than others in gameplay but still featuring heavy asset reuse. Players new to Half-Genie Hero will find the base game more than serviceable, while the Ultimate Edition is tailor-made for long-time series fans.

Developer

WayForward Technologies

Publisher

WayForward

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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