When the original Shantae was released in 2002 on the Game Boy Color, it was lauded for its amazing animation and challenging platforming action. Unfortunately, this was after Nintendo had launched its new Game Boy Advance system, and sales of the unique title never really reached the level many expected them to. Of course, that hasn't hindered the game from becoming one of the most highly sought-after cartridges on the second-hand gaming market or kept long-time fans from clamouring for a sequel for the past eight years. Now with the release of Shantae: Risky's Revenge on DSiWare, WayForward has finally answered the prayers of Shantae fans and kicked its rather adorable half-genie back into action.
Much like its predecessor, Risky's Revenge places a heavy emphasis on the platforming aspects that made the original so popular. As solid as the gameplay was in the Game Boy Color original, the developers have somehow managed to tighten things up even more for this sequel. Not only is the action a bit faster, but the attacks and jumping mechanics seem even more responsive this time around. You'll also find that there's quite a bit more exploration in this sequel and it really adds a nice added layer of playability to the overall package. You'll quickly find that you'll have to speak to the various characters and townspeople throughout the game in order to gain clues as to what you need to do and where you need to go next.
Long-time fans will immediately recognise Shantae's trademark hair-whip attack, and it's as deadly as ever. You'll even be able to purchase upgrades to make it not only execute faster but also more powerfully. You'll be able to purchase various items in the town store as well, including many different types of magic attacks and healing potions that can be quite useful in some of the more challenging sections of the game – not to mention the rather intense boss fights you'll face during your chase for the magic seals.
To add even more depth to the gameplay system, the developers have included a rather unique function that involves locating certain hidden animal transformations that allow Shantae to turn herself into various animals by using her belly dancing ability. These range from a monkey that can climb along walls to an elephant that can break down certain blocks and boulders by charging into them. Not only are these techniques useful in navigating Shantae to previously unreachable sections of the game, they can also be rather handy in taking out some of the tougher enemies as well.
One thing that can be said for certain of Risky's Revenge is that you'll never find yourself at a loss for things to do. There's plenty of platforming to test your reflexes and enough hair-whipping action to please even the most ardent side-scroller fans. Not only are the controls themselves perfectly implemented and responsive, but the sheer level of variety between the various attacks and magic – not to mention the animal transformations – is astounding. Toss in some exploration elements, and you've got one of the most well-rounded 2D platforming adventures you're ever likely to experience.
With the file size restrictions of the DSiWare service, it's understandable to see developers try to keep things simple from a visual standpoint, but someone obviously forgot to inform WayForward. Not only is the game chock full of lush landscapes, complete with multiple layers of parallax scrolling, but the individual characters and enemies show the type of animation that would even impress by retail standards. There are plenty of vivid colour schemes to go around and enough background detail to really bring the Arabian world of Shantae to life onscreen. It's clear that the developers put a lot of time and care into the visual production, and it pays off big in the final presentation.
To further complement the game's amazing scenery comes a musical score that couldn't be any more fitting for the type of environments you'll find yourself in throughout the game. The Arabian musical stylings do an outstanding job of carrying the unique theme of the game along and, much like the visuals, there's plenty of variety. There's not a bad track in the bunch, and you'll constantly catch yourself looking forward to the next section of the game just so you can hear what the next audio track has in store for you. The same can be said of the sound effects as they offer a good amount of variety as well. It's nice to see that even though a lot of emphasis was placed on the visuals that the developers still made time to get the audio presentation right.
While we've seen a lot of titles released on DSiWare since its inception, very seldom have we encountered a game that features this level of polish and refinement in virtually every facet. From the gorgeous multi-layered visuals to the spot-on play controls, there's really not a single area of the game that won't wow you. In truth, we could sit here and lay down an almost endless number of reasons why you should download this game, but at the end of the day it really all comes down to this: Shantae: Risky's Revenge is hands-down the best title available on DSiWare and quite possibly the best 12 bucks you'll ever spend on a video game.