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Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU

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Thanks for these extensive write-ups everyone. When I initially purchased the Wii U with Smash Bros. it felt a bit like a bad purchase and I let the machine untouched for 2 months after the Smash novelty wore off.

Shantae & The Pirate's Curse got me back into it though and led me to seek out a Nintendo website to talk games. So naturally I was keeping an eye out for reviews of its sequel. Not sure yet if I'll go for it (maybe later, I got a bunch to play), but did really enjoy reading y'all's thoughts on it! :)

Interesting backstory, Steef. I'll be honest when I say that while I would consider myself a Wayforward fan, out of all the Shantae games I only really love Pirate's Curse, mostly because it's the only game in the series that is actually great. That's not to say the rest of the series isn't good, but there seems to be questionable design choices in each installment that hold them back from being "great." Hell, Pirate's Curse almost loses that title because of the awfully-designed stealth segment halfway through the experience.

Again, I'm not saying Half-Genie Hero is bad- it actually might be the second-best Shantae game. As Clex said, the platforming controls are on-point, but the level design still feels a bit inorganic and there's plenty of awesome ideas that are underused. I would still recommend it pretty highly.

I'd actually more describe what Evan is discussing as each game had a strange thing fettering them that they couldn't overcome. The original Shantae was something that was envisioned as a late SNES release but became a Game Boy Color title, and at the time Wayforward din't get  Screen Crunch. I think if it got remade for better harddware and maybe say... made the hair whip a little longer and replaced the lives system with what they did in Risky's Revenge that the original Shantae would by and far be the best game; the TRUE sort of spiritual successor to Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest.

Risky's Revenge was a game that got horribly truncated by the limiting factor of being on DSiWare. having one of the dungeons essentially be a combat gauntlet and the various outlets to get gems via playing other Wayforward games took it to task over balance.

Pirate's Curse was a game that felt like it was their proper vision and they didn't have the restriction of platform to work with. it was paced great outside of a few of the backtrack-y segments and the Aformentionedd Tanline temple by Evan.

I said it above about Half-Genie Hero. It's a game that was design doc'd to be modular and linear with more impressive setpieces and less puzzle solving. the only part that really gave me a flash of old shantae dungeon exploration was revisiting the desert tower to find all the remains.

So, that was a thing...

Further using my backer privileged, I received my free copy of Shantae: Pirate Queen's Quest. Before I get to that though, a quick addendum to my Shantae Mode review. still haven't played hard mode...

The Backer Tinkerbat Transformation replaces Dryad dance with something that... might be helpful? you have a slower walk speed, but a double jump. it's hard to glean any real utility considering you first get access to it in Mermaid falls after you already have monkey and potentially bat Shantae.

With that out of the way, I need to talk about Risky Boots, and how I don't think she can carry a game on her own. This really pains me to say it too. I was VERY unimpressed with Pirate Queen's Quest. it should be considered a fluffy extra to the main game, and not a necessary purchase unless you are a big dumb Shantae fan like I am. in spite of superficially possessing it's skeleton, this mode will NOT hit the highs of Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. Heck, I'd play ANY of shantae's adventures before I'd play Risky's first playable outing again, but... let's just get into it.

A LOT of the rebalancing to the level design that happened here I feel was VERY misplaced. Risky Boots can access any of Half Genie Hero's 5 levels (Scuttle Town Siege, Mermaid Falls, Tassel Town, Carpet Race, and Hypno Baron Castle) from the outset, and work DID go into making sure all 5 of these levels could be completed by Risky Boots without any upgrades. Enemy placement has been remixed to provide comparable challenge through all levels in theory by adding new foes and placing far more late game foes into earlier stages.

This is 'cute' and 'quaint' in theory because in practice, it fall apart the moment one realizes that the bosses weren't rebalanced at all to reflect this. this is ESPECIALLY disappointing since the game very clearly uses HP Values for it's enemies and bosses. the game actively punishes you for trying to tackle the later levels earlier because of this. I took on Hypno Baron's castle first and found trying to brute force that boss with an unupgraded Risky Boots with the scant amount of Food items one has first starting out to be a total chore. one I was able to do through pattern memorization, but I wasn't doing the damage I needed and so I was there hacking at Hypno Baron's knees for seemingly 10 minutes while he did the really basic fly in a figure 8 thing that Dr. Wily does in Mega Man 2.

Imagine my shock when all this effort rewarded me with... The Hat. It's very clear that your reward for beating a boss is based on number of bosses beaten rather than which boss was defeated. this was a HUGE disappointment. What was even MORE disappointing was the realization that they clearly nerfed the ever loving crap out of the Hat, which hardly slowed Risky's descent and effectively was a very tiny double jump. I questioned if this was done in effort to make it not break the platforming?

The answer is no. no it was not. this nerf was done solely to justify the Dark Magic collectible so you can beef up the hat and return it to it's former, floaty glory. upgrading the hat to full power ASAP made the game FAR more easier. not only that, but it seems like some level of hat upgrading as well as upgrades to the returning Cannon seem required given some of the tight maneuvering and timing that's required there, as level design goes unvarnished at points from the Shantae playthrough. of course, these sections were balanced for Harpy Shantae...

some techniques seem super superfluous, such as Risky's ability to summon tinkerbats or the spread shot option on the pistol. the new Grapple hook is neat, if only because it's better implementation of a power they gave Shantae, which is what i felt a lot of the Pirate tools from Pirate's curse were.

I will say one thing about Pirate Queen's Quest, is that it cuts out a lot of the fat. there's no Scuttle town to go to for shopping, talking with NPCs, viewing the art gallery, or receiving side-quests. Naturally, because fo that, there's also no Gems... which seems REALLY weird when you consider that one would think a pirate would be all about acquiring ill-gotten monetary gains.

Risky Boots only has an array of food, Hearts, ammo types for her Pistol, a single main quest item type (similar to the Iron hunks from Shantae's playthrough) and the new Dark Magic items to worry about collecting. Dark Magic at any time lets you allocate it to many attributes, from Risky's health, upgrading her scimitar, upgrading items you acquire from beating bosses, upgrading risky's various ammo types or her ammunition cap in general. I think it makes it easy to tailor Risky to the challenge at hand on the fly, although focusing on upgrades for the hat, the Scimitar, Ammo Count, and the homing ammo type were enough to carry me through the game on their own.

Unfortunately, a BIG thing that's lost is the charm. Risky Boots, although a cool lady villain who we get a bit more insight into, just isn't as charismatic as Happy-go-lucky and air-headed Shantae. Her dialogue has to carry the game since the Tinkerbats she commands are all mute, and the only other thing she communicates outside of the opening and ending moments of the game is with the various bosses, whom she just threatens them. Christina Vee once again provides Risky's voice, and provides far more voiced dialogue for the lady pirate than she did for Shantae. That being said, her performance wavers between Posh evilness and trying to sound Gruff and manic and it doesn't quite mesh well between lines. She sometimes between bits of dialogue will sound like she's voicing two different characters.

There's 0 new track for the soundtrack. Did Wayforward use all their budget on new Christina Vee lines and forget to pay Jake Kauffman for a new tune or two? Kauffman bothered to arrange new tunes for the shovel knight expanded content!

Anyhow, My first playthrough clocked in at 2 Hours and 39 minutes. that's... abysmally short, especially considering the game attempts to pad itself out via the same backtracking tricks that the main campaign does. The backtracking IS required too, as a few of the Plot Macguffin sidequest items are sealed off via the last item you get for beating all the bosses, and all the levels are designed to have items that will require 4 of the 5 pirate tools to get everything.

Given the really lackluster conclusion, I really wish Pirate Queen's Quest would have maybe not been so anxious to get out there. there really needed to be something more to set it apart. as it stands, it feels like a half-step above the tacked on extra character modes of a late Castlevania game. I would personally pay no more than $5 for this DLC Curiosity, unless you are the most ardent of the lady pirate's fans.

I feel that, for the most part, the DLC being free for backers means that Wayforward kind of knew their audience going in to the Kickstarter and wanted to make the package as appealing for them as possible, and any extra sales atop that were kind of icing on the cake.

That being said, it doesn't really excuse the DLC being a bit mediocre.


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