Half-Genie Hero looks to bring more of what fans want.
Are we dancing with magical excitement after playing the E3 2016 demo? Not quite, mostly because of the game segment they chose to showcase. But was still really fun.
WayForward only showed off one level from its upcoming Shantae console game—the seemingly obligatory “Scuttle Town under Attack” introductory sequence. This setting hardly distinguished the demo from its predecessors, and unfortunately projected a same-ness to this entry that I suspect belies the creativity that will actually be found a little further into the game. The basic gameplay remains the same: Shantae uses her ponytail to whip baddies into submission, and she also had two relatively unremarkable magical sub-weapons at her disposal. (Disclaimer: I rarely used sub-weapons in the prior games.) She must also at times traverse platforming challenges, evade danger, and solve environmental puzzles.
The biggest change from Pirate’s Curse is that Shantae has her magical powers back. Although presumably unlocked later in the full game, the demo showcased Shantae’s ability to transform into a cute little monkey and a spider. In her monkey form she can stick to and climb walls, as in the DSi game; after collecting an upgrade she could also dash horizontally off walls for short distances. Shantae lumbers along in her spider form, which is capable of grappling upward with her spider web to grab onto ceilings and pull herself up. Her spider form can also crawl along ceilings, and after picking up an upgrade can also shoot venom as an attack. While players can duck down to make Shantae scurry along a little faster in spider form, she cannot jump very high, clearly making the Spider form most appropriate in particular situations. These spider and monkey upgrades were tucked away in chests for the E3 demo and fairly easy to miss, hinting that exploration will once again be an important part of this game.
The presentation was also very familiar. The “2.5-D” art style is very reminiscent of DuckTales Remastered, which isn’t much of a surprise given that both games run on the WayForward engine. While I personally prefer the crispness of the 3DS game’s pure sprite artwork, Half-Genie Hero and its polygonal environments still looked good, on the TV and on the gamepad. What little I heard of the game’s soundtrack, once again composed by Jake Kaufman (a.k.a. Virt), was as energetic and upbeat—just as fans would expect. I’m very much anticipating the full game’s soundtrack.
It’s a little disappointing to see WayForward continue to use the same set-piece as its introductory sequence so many times, but being Shantae’s hometown it is certainly understandable as a plot device. Hopefully the full game will bring surprising new environments and situations for long-time fans of the Shantae series, as well as challenging dungeons to conquer.