Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was a standout release on the Wii U late last year, bringing an excellent and whimsical Metroidvania adventure to the platform which we deemed to be arguably the best entry in the Shantae series yet. Given the game’s pedigree and WayForward’s great relationship with Nintendo, it seemed a question of when, not if, the game would eventually be ported to the Switch. Now that it’s out in the wild, the question remains: is it worth the buy once again? The answer is of course a resounding yes.
We’ll get something out of the way up front: there’s very little, if anything at all, that separates this port from its Wii U predecessor. If you’re looking for any sorts of upgrades or extras that weren’t included in the original, you will come away from this sorely disappointed. For all intents and purposes, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero on the Switch is exactly the same game that was on the Wii U. However, this time around, it has the given benefit of being available in a portable form.
As ever, this is something that simply needs to be experienced firsthand in order to be fully appreciated, but it certainly does make this version the most convenient one. Though a beautiful game in its own right, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was never one that pushed system hardware limits, and as a result there’s no perceptible downgrade in performance or quality when playing away for the TV. In fact, the level-based structure arguably makes it better suited to gaming on the go. Whichever way you choose to play it, know that Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is an excellent fit for the Switch and that the option of playing it on either a big screen or on the go contributes greatly to its already high appeal.
For those of you that haven’t played a Shantae game before, it follows the standard Metroidvania format, wherein you explore a grander overworld in search of new abilities and upgrades to power up your character, so you can then go back to other areas and get other new abilities and upgrades. The difference here, is that Shantae: Half-Genie Hero breaks this up into a series of levels, rather than one interconnected world. While some may cry foul at this slightly more linear setup, it actually allows for a much greater streamlining of the experience. It’s much more difficult to be at a loss for where to go next, yet that sense of discovery and mystery isn’t lost. Some of the secrets are exceptionally well hidden — to the point that we had to turn to a guide every now and then — and there’s no shortage of them to find across the ten(ish) hour runtime.
Shantae’s transformative genie powers are back in full force, and there’s about a dozen different forms that she can take. Some of these are given to you as you progress the story and some of them have to be discovered in the levels, but all of them contribute in some way or another to helping you find more secrets and accessing areas that you previously couldn’t. However, some are more effective than others, and we’d even go so far as to say that some can feel downright useless. The Monkey, for example, allows you to jump higher and run faster than Shantae in human form, as well as allowing you to climb walls. That’s one that gets used all the time, even in basic platforming sections. The Spider, on the other hand, allows Shantae to shoot a web up that lets her stick to ceilings. That’s one that gets used in a few puzzles, and is quickly overshadowed once you get an ability that allows you to fly. In this sense, it would’ve been nice to have seen more of the transformations integrated into the main rhythm of levels in a more organic way rather than just being keys to some puzzles, but still, they all get their spotlight, even if some feel tacked on.
Shantae also has a whole host of upgradeable abilities on the side which add an extra layer of RPG-lite elements and progression. As you run through the levels, killing enemies and breaking pots will often net you a couple of gems, which can then be spent back in Scuttle Town at a local store. Here, you can buy haircare products that increase Shantae’s damage output on her basic whip attack, new magic spells that offer her a series of offensive and defensive buffs, and consumables that restore health and or magic at the push of a button. These go a long way towards empowering the player and lending them a satisfying feeling of progression, but the shop goodies perhaps go a bit too far once you upgrade everything. When it gets to the point that Shantae becomes an untouchable killing machine, the fun of the game is lost a bit as you steamroll through all opposition. Fortunately, the developers thought of this, and you can choose to turn off any upgrades like this in the pause menu, to make the game as easy or hard as you like.
Level designs are as inventive and satisfying as ever, spanning a diverse array of environment, such as a magic carpet racetrack or a mermaid infested cove. The controls are as tight as they’ve ever been in this series, if not moreso, and WayForward clearly knows what it’s doing when designing platforming levels. There are some cool ideas that act somewhat as the central themes of levels, such as a periodically returning sandstorm that can blow Shantae into pits, or a factory that has to be traversed by leaping between a series of fast moving rings on set tracks. Hazards are almost always fair, properly testing the player’s skill and not resorting to leaps of faith or cheap enemy placements to introduce artificial “difficulty”. When you miss a jump, and you’ll do that often here, it’s very likely the fault of the player.
The art style ditches the retro themed look that the first three games ran with, instead replacing it with the DuckTales: Remastered look of hand-drawn 2D characters juxtaposed against a 3D background. The animations and expressions of all characters are wonderfully drawn and detailed; in motion, this could be mistaken in some places for being a Saturday morning cartoon. And while the backgrounds could perhaps use a bit more visual flair, they utilize a diverse and rich palette of colours which pop off the screen whether you’re playing this game docked or undocked. You’ll probably find yourself using the capture button for plenty of scenes in this game; there are plenty of moments where the art is on point.
The soundtrack does a great job of rounding out the presentation, providing a series of catchy, bouncy beats that do a great job of adding additional value to the package. Make no mistake, there’s a few tracks here that will no doubt be stuck in your head for hours after playing, but the best part is that none of it is annoying or overly repetitive. You definitely won’t want to play this game muted, as the music adds a certain amount of excitement to the package that just isn’t there when playing silently. Staying true to Shantae’s dancing roots, the soundtrack generally has an Eastern theme to it, but it’s remarkable how much diverse sound WayForward is able to coax out of this template while still staying true to the theme.
The writing is another great addition to the experience, adding a whole new layer of charm that brings the world alive in a very special way. The narrative never takes itself too seriously and often relies on humorous events to drive things forward, such as when Rottytops sells a secret that could destroy the world for a bag of exotic coffee beans, or how a villain summons an eldritch monster so he can have the exclusive merchandising rights to it. The characters are usually written in a quick witted and light hearted manner, and it helps to keep the pace of the story matching the upbeat nature of the visuals and the gameplay.
With all that being said, it does feel like perhaps WayForward could’ve given us an adventure that’s a little bit longer than what’s present here. The introduction of a tough as nails, “Hard Core Mode” helps to add a bit more replayability once you’ve scoured ever corner of the map, but there’s a lingering sense that the game could’ve been longer than it is. Now, WayForward is working on a series of DLC expansions starring other characters which promise to offer campaigns of the same relative length, but these will each cost money to those who didn’t initially donate to the Kickstarter, and aren’t actually part of the base game anyway.
All told, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero has never been better; the enhanced versatility of the Switch lends the game a new sort of appeal and convenience that wasn’t there before, and the first DLC expansion is due out this summer. This is a charming, colourful, and sometimes challenging Metroidvania that will no doubt prove to be a memorable addition to your collection. While it could be a little longer, we would give this one a strong recommendation to anyone that hasn’t yet picked it up for the Wii U or any other platform. For those of you that have, know that you’re essentially just paying for the ability to play this on the go, but that’s still arguably worth the asking price. Either way, this is the most polished Shantae game yet, and we can’t wait to see where the Half-Genie Hero goes from here.
Port. Port. Port.
Bah, I prefer non-alcoholic beverages... Then again, I'm not Irish...
The game was awesome to play through, it was a shame it was so short but then again it was really cheap.
@JunkRabbit We don't like Port in Ireland. I don't like Port, it is putrid.
(But seriously... getting pissed so openly this early in the day... will no one think of the poor children who read this??? At least put a brown paper bag over the post for heaven's sake... and that goes for you, too @Frosty_09 for crying for more!)
This gets a 9.
So that means Pirate's Curse is worth a 10 as it is an objectively better game.
...and the 150 HD rumble events are nice.
@JunkRabbit Even with a winky face, this comment is racist.
This is an excellent game in the Shantae series though I personally think that Pirates Curse is slightly better. Hopefully we'll see a physical version for Switch soon.
Excellent but a bit short, still, even if the DLC will likely remedy that.
Also, I don't know about other translations, but the French one is utter garbage, and entirely ruins the clever writing, leaving us baguettes with a sour taste...
Loved it on Wii U and definitely worth of that 9.0 score. Great review!
Everyone knows it's the English that drink port. Sitting in the study after dinner smoking a cigar while the women folk go to the conservatory and discuss knitting and kittens while the help tidy up.
I haven't gotten around to buying this on Wii U thankfully. I'll pick it up physically for the Switch when it releases. Thank goodness for the Switch being region free as I couldn't buy this physically for the Wii U given it only released in the US.
On a side note, is there an easy way to play other region games on the Wii U? I'm thinking Free Loader easy like on GC/Wii, rather than any form of modding or chips.
"Now, WayForward is working on a series of DLC expansions starring other characters which promise to offer campaigns of the same relative length, but these will each cost money to those who didn’t initially donate to the Kickstarter, and aren’t actually part of the base game anyway."
That should be worded better. The people who backed the project will get the DLC for free on the the console(s) they backed. In my case, I get the DLC for the Wii U version for free.
The Switch has nothing to do with the Kickstarter project, so everyone will have to pay for the DLC.
I sincerely apologize if anyone took this the wrong way. No offence was intended in any way whatsoever. Despite existing stereotypes I personally do not view this specific one as particularly negative (if anything I have always been under the impression that most Irish are actually proud how they can hold their liquor), though I see from your comment how others may in fact do so and stand corrected. Last but not least I want to point out that I have nothing against the Irish in general, nor any one Irish person in particular. I would go as far as to say that the contrary is true.
Please accept my apologies to you personally if you did indeed feel offended by either of the two sentences. I didn't mean anything by it, it was just the first thing that came to mind, and I couldn't help but smile at the ambiguity. The second sentence was redundant and not PC however, I see that now.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE We can read. We can read. We can read.
It was my first time playing this and I'm thoroughly enjoying it so far!
The dlc, does that also hit the Wii u version?
@JunkRabbit No need to apologise. I didn't take any offence.
Thanks, glad to hear that.
And yes, I get that port is probably not the alcoholic beverage of choice for most people, but the poor "port" joke just lay there, orphaned, and I just had to pick it up...
"Beer. Beer. Beer." may have been a more elegant reply, but I really don't drink beer myself, and "Coke. Coke. Coke." could again have been taken the wrong way...
@Kosmo The translation in Spanish is awful too.. it's like they've used google translator :/
@Henmii Yes, despite every moron saying the Wii U is dead, the Wii U Console online services like the eShop and Online play are still working. The DLC is coming to all consoles, which includes the Wii U.
@Grauz I've heard a lot of people complaining about the translations. Apparently Shantae is refereed to as a "he"...
@junkrabbit and @sligo_eire, funnily enough I'll be paying a trip to sligo this summer and will make a point of having a small port , despite hating it
As for this game? It's a purchase for me. Hopefully not to hard for the daughter to get involved with it. You had her attention at Mermaid Cove
Glad I waited as it was clearly coming to the Switch! (Portability being yet a big part of that equation, as it's part of the history of the series)
I have to say that I didn't enjoy the game as much as the reviewer. Somehow the design felt off to me. The visual design is awesome, but the rest felt much less ambitious. One example for that is that you have all those magic spells which you can upgrade, but what for? I bought my first spell when I had almost finished the game. For the longest time I didn't even know what the magic bar was for. When I finally got spells, I never used them as combat is very simple and most of the time I could even run into enemies and whip them to death, taking some damage, as the healing dance made the game way too easy.
I really wanted to like this game, but in the end it was pretty disappointing.
P.S. On a side note: this is the first game that made me set my Switch from German to English, as the German translation was aweful.
I'll wait for the retail copy before double dipping. I've heard the HD rumble is quite good!
@Kosmo I tend to prefer the original language of a game/book/movie whenever possible, as something always seems to be lost in translation. That said, I only know English/Dutch, so typically I play most games in English.
An example is sayings/proverbs. Often times I see Dutch sayings/proverbs translated to English when there's no such saying/proverb in English. For instance, the saying "Hoge bomen vangen veel wind" translates to "Tall trees catch a lot of wind". Basically it means that those in a position of high responsibility catch a lot of criticism.
Of course, it's always good to see translations for those who haven't learned additional languages. That said, I feel bad when it looks like it's been translated by Google Translate or similar services.
@OfNullAndVoid I tend to do the same: read and game in English when it's the original language.
But here, for this game, it's not a matter of losing sense and humor in the translation, it's that it barely makes sense. For example, "relics" have been translated by the French word for "remains." We have cadaver bits in our inventory, yay!
And in some cases, it's totally innapropriate. One scene where Shantae and Abner are having a silly fight in English is translated by them throwing the French F-word at each other.
Truly a trainwreck.
Oh, dog, dog, dog
Just downloaded this to my Switch. Never played Shantae before, but most people seem to love her games and the footage I've seen makes it look fun!
Though I only played the Risky dlc for this game at E3 I can tell that I will love this game, I just need to decide what system I would like to get it on! Using Risky pretty much feels similar to like Shantae did in the Pirates Curse, with the addition of items like a grappling hook that you can attach to ceilings.
@CptProtonX Uncalled for, don't use profanity here please.
It's a lot of fun. I agree that it does look GREAT on the portable screen. Hd Rumble is fun too, for example when you dance the L/R joycons will rumble in time depending on which direction she is shaking her hips.
its the same game as wii u, naa wii u hus no hd rumble, or did you negate the hd rumble in your review, over 150 custom made hd rumble events, that tells me that its not the same wii u game, but dont mention the hd rumble in the review everybody will think its the same game, was thinking of getting the game but was holding out till i heard how good the hd rumble was,
did they make it work really well???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
WHO WOULD KNOW..............mmmmm
MIBBY A REVIEWER.............Dime Bar!!!
Like it a lot. I give a 9 to this game me too.
That's good to hear.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE give this drink a try, it's divine. Get a nice cold pint of Guinness, and pour one shot of port over the top. You can thank me later.
@chewytapeworm Sounds disgusting.
This review is disappointing.
Are the load times faster? Is it I'm 1080p?
Any details like that would have helped.
I can't decide which one to download first, Gunvolt or Shantae
With some great Switch games revealed at E3, I'm now more than ok with Nintendo pushing more ports to round out the offerings. Might pick this up.
I beat the game last month, but I forgot to come back here and put my thoughts here until now. As someone who thought The Pirate's Curse was a 10/10 game, I found myself both underwhelmed and enjoying the game for what it was. The story, boss fights, and overall structure without the dungeon setup was a disappointing to me. However the platforming is still fun, unlocking abilities and transformations is a blast, and the aesthetics are super charming. I definitely enjoyed it and recommend it, but if the series keeps heading down this path I'll probably fall off of it.
I will be brief on this.
This game art style, and in a certain way gameplay, reminds me A LOT of Shantae Half-Genie Hero.
And IMHO, and while I still LOVE Shantae Half-Genie Hero, Pankapu beats the CRAP out of it.
If Shantae deserves a 9 on NL, Pankapu deserves no less.
Well, I'll go a little longer...
It took me 12 hours to 100% the game, and I was in awe during all my playthrough. And the further the game advance, the more the gameplay improves with all the crazy power you get. 7/10 is a good score. But I believe this is an hidden gem that is worth at least a 9. At first, the floaty jump threw me off, but the controls are precise, and the longer I played, the more I appreciated them since they gave me more time to control my character in tight spot. This was a beautiful experience from start to finish.
Why are you trolling? I have the Wii u version. Makes sense that I want the dlc for that version. Why buying the Switch version if I have the Wii u version already? Makes no sense.
Not sure who will be reading this review now, but I just got the game (on the awesome 50% Black Friday sale) and it included all the DLC packs! Not sure why they are selling them separately still as they are all included here..: seems kinda like a scam.
As far as the game goes, I’m definitely enjoying it so far tho I don’t think it quite hits that 9/10 mark... more like a 7.5/8 to me..
@RadioShadow which shantae game should I start with?
@Reignmaker which shantae game should i start with?
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