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A Pirate’s Life for Me

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    Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    A Pirate’s Life for Me

    The first game in the Shantae series that I played was Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. From there, I went back and played Shantae on the GBC, then Risky’s Revenge on the DS, and finally took this recent Half Genie Hero adventure. So as much as people probably imagine a lot of animal-transforming and dancing when they hear the word "Shantae", I’m the weird one who envisions pirate hat para-gliders, cannon ball double-jumps, and bomb shots. The cool part about Half Genie Hero is that no matter which type of Shantae player you consider yourself, you can enjoy playing the way you like (as long as you’re willing to pay a little extra for the Queen of the High Seas DLC, anyway).

    Shantae: Half Genie Hero plays smoothly, and is an excellent platforming action game in the classic style, with creative bosses, great humor, some fun voice acting, and a superb soundtrack. I really appreciated the many transformations that the game allows Shantae to make, as well as the ease and speed of changing forms, making it fun and hassle-free to play through levels in a way that suits your play style. I still found myself giving most of the enemies a good hair-whipping, but I also made regular use of the pike balls and scimitar that spin around me constantly. Of course, I could see others using the shields and invincibility to stroll through levels defensively, and the lightning attacks look like they could be fun to use as well, considering how the ultimate version lets you hover in place while you attack.

    For the most part, Half Genie Hero lets you go through the game at your own pace. Want to transform into a monkey and speed-run the whole level while mostly avoiding combat? Sure! Want to dance in and out of forms and find everything? That works too. Unfortunately, I must admit that as for the latter, you won’t really get away with completely ignoring the great item search even if you want to, since progressing forward in the game is quite often tied to finding particular items, and generally you have to go BACK to levels previously beaten to find said items. Now, if you enjoy Half Genie Hero’s game play, you probably won’t mind these little retreads, and you’re likely to discover new sections of the levels that you hadn’t previously found before. However, let’s just say that you end up missing the item the second time as well as the first. How enthusiastic would you be about searching for it again? The characters in town do a pretty good job of clueing you in to where you should be looking, but I did find myself getting a little tired of certain level sections after a while, especially when I had to keep searching the same areas over and over with a fine-toothed comb because the game doesn’t map and therefore doesn’t help remind me where I might have run into a roadblock before and skipped over an item, despite the fact that I had already searched there.

    For this reason (and because I entered the Shantae universe in Pirate’s Curse), I really enjoyed the Queen of the High Seas DLC. Even though I still had to return to some levels later to get a few necessary items to progress, the game gave me much more agency over how to level up my skills. Therefore, I was able to level up my exploratory skills first, find items faster, and in the end, I didn’t have to return to any one level more than once. Honestly, even though Half Genie Hero is essentially only six stages long, they’re rich enough that spending 3 hours playing them once or twice (Risky’s DLC) was a lot more fun than spending 8 hours playing them way more times than I wanted to (Shantae’s main game).

    However, repetition aside, I must re-state that Half Genie Hero has some of the best classic platform action out there, and though I got a little jaded by the end, I still enjoyed the game enough to keep playing, whether the territory was familiar or not. Wayforward knows how to make a game worth playing, and I recommend this enjoyable adventure to anyone who has ever enjoyed Mega Man, Contra, Castlevania, or any of the platforming greats of yesteryear.

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