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Gaming Forums => Nintendo Gaming => Reader Reviews => Topic started by: ClexYoshi on December 18, 2016, 06:15:58 AM

Title: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: ClexYoshi on December 18, 2016, 06:15:58 AM
Hoo boy. I know, I need to get the other part of my pokemon review up, but... this kinda plopped onto my lap over a week that's been financially and emotionally trying for me, and I think I needed it. Shantae is a series of catharsis for me. Hell, I rank the original game among my top 3 favorite games of all time. There is so much heart and charm put into these games.

Disclaimer before we begin, I obviously obtained my copy of the game as a backer via kickstarter. I backed at the $75 tier, but if I had had the funds at the time, I initially intended to back at the $350 tier.

Whereas with Pokemon my review wasn't for the consumer who is on the fence about Sun and Moon, but rather was for the grizzled veteran or casual fan who needed a different prism to look at the game through, I aim to make this review with the uninitiated in mind, since this may very well be the last third party but officially licenced game released on physical disc for the Wii U.

Shantae Half-Genie Hero is a 2D platformer with wonderfully animated 2D HD Art. if you're more familiar with Nintendo product, it's easy to compare this game to Wario Land Shake-it! or Wayforward's previous Ducktales Remastered, with 2D art and 3D environments. The game looks like a very high quality Flash cartoon. Whereas the pixel art of the series' previous entries were all manually animated, there's some spots where you can tell that maybe bits on each character look a little bit like they're animated with Flash tweens, but I think this looks fine and completely acceptable. the modeled out environments can look a little muddy in a spot or two. this was also present in some of the environments of Ducktales Remastered, which I imagine is where the engine this game is running on came from. This isn't the case in most of the environments though, where the use of warm pastels or deep cool colors really work towards painting the mood in each environment.

Further bolstering the presentation is another amazing Soundtrack from Jake Kaufman. I feel that the instrumentation veers a little closer to that of the Mighty Switch Force games, that is to say... there's a lot more electronic instruments employed here. Pirate's curse more appropriately tried to use Accordion to get more of a pirate chantey feel going on, and previous games have stuck to trying to sound more middle eastern sounding with use of oboe and such, but here it's certainly more modernized. it's still a wonderful listen, and only minimally utilizes past games' themes outside of the opening stage and character themes.

The plot is where this game feels the most odd to me. The events of Half-Genie Hero play out much more like a serialized saturday morning cartoon than a right and proper adventure with a central theme. there is a secondary plot that comes to the forefront at the end of the game, but most of the time, Shantae is off doing one-off adventures in this game that have nothing to do with one another. The writing is still hilarious and infused with that humor and charm that I love SO much from this series and characters are consistent with Shantae being the well meaning but sometimes Ditzy heroine and her friends being total doofuses. it doesn't get as much into those characters' motivations like Pirate's curse did, but I still enjoy Sequin land greatly. It should be noted that while they did not meet their goal for full voice acting, Cristina Vee did provide vocals for the game's theme song, Shantae, Risky Boots, and one or two other female NPCs including one particular one that was added by a backer.

I think what compounds the whole 'episodic' nature of this tale is how the game is structured. whereas Previous Shantae games took you through an overworld to a dungeon with key finding and puzzle solving with new abilities found in the dungeon, Half-Genie Hero plays out more like a slightly more traditional 2D Platormer, where each area in the game is very much a world divided up into levels. you can't backtrack between levels besides with use of the Warp Dance upon revisits, and most of the 'exploration' of these stages occurs after you've beaten them once and then the game demands you backtrack with a new transformation dance and collect goodies! more on that later.

What I want to get at first is that between the structure of the kickstarter and how the final product turned out, I theorize that this game was planned to be an episodic game in nature. they had a design document at hand and were prepared to essentially add in chunks or remove chunks they had planned based on the success of the kickstarter. possibly if crowdfunding the base game would have failed, they may have developed this game on the slow as an episodic title. there is a few items they crammed into some of the stages that feel like they were going to maybe distribute them more evenly about the game as well had they met their extra stretch goals. 

This shift from a metroidvania style of game to something more linear has... a strange effect in that certain mechanics no longer work. The original Shantae was a game that had a lives system and that was horribly out of place in a metroidvania game where you're meant to explore, but now this is the opposite, where you are in a situation where falling down a pit or getting hit by an 'instankill' only takes a piece of heart and sends you to the beginning of a stage or the last door you entered. All of the metrodvania progression is here with finding life upgrades, buying things from the shop, finding upgrades for the animal forms, doing NPC fetch quests...  but it's for linear levels that need to be replayed in sections again and again and again and again and AGAIN!

don't do what I did. Invest in the warp dance early, and if you're going to trade it with Tuki the Naga for the Gempot dance, make sure you grind out all the money you will ever need first in the hot spring in scuttle town and then get your warp dance back ASAP. it will save SO much time on your playthrough.

Another casualty of the mentality of trying to focus this game in on the raw platforming is that there's a very powerful couple of platforming tools you can find early on that allow for intended platforming challenges to be bypassed for free. as a matter of fact, this game's difficulty curve is VERY much out of whack, and attempting to get 100% completion will result in buying and finding a combination of items that provide shantae with a god mode. Challenge runs will be a must for any challenge to be had here whatsoever. As a tip though, getting all the gallery keys is well worth your trouble, even if you don't get the reward of seeing one of my pieces of art in the game because I couldn't afford to get to that backer tier at the time...

Even still, each chapter is bookended with mandatory side questing. this was present in Shantae and the Pirate's curse, but never was so invasive, so time consuming as it feels here to go around on a Macguffin hunt for random NPCs. there's lots of trying to remember what you can and cannot collect in each level every time you get an upgrade, and while the warp dance will let you cycle between levels, you can't exactly quickly get to the spots where you abilities may be applicable. Also, make sure to look at items in your inventory, as Shantae will often instruct you as to how to use an item. I got stuck at one point because I didn't understand the application of a fairly late-game item I had discovered.

As for the game it'self? Shantae handles like a dream. Wayforward knwos how good platformer controls work, and here is no exception. Dancing to transform in previous games was a time consuming process, and thankfully there's an item to speed up shantae's dance tempo and make it super quick to jump between the myriad of forms she has at her disposal. the shoulder buttons quickly cycle through her sub item magics and back-dash and use them. there isn't any fancy moves outside of the necessities here. One thing to note is that time does stop when dancing between forms too, and one of the half-genie's animal transformations has completley invincibility as long as you stand still and hold down on the D-pad. there is no special use of the gamepad. it just mirrors the TV for off-TV play and... yeah, tha tlooks good too.

Overall, the game took me 7 hours to complete 100% on my first go-through, with a new mode unlocking,a nd several DLCs planned to add new playable characters. there's also an unlockable extra gallery for speedrun times and such.

should you get this game for your Wii U? HECK yes! it oozes personality and in spite of my complaints of padding and metroidvania mechanics being at odds with a new focus on linear level design, this is still a wonderful game. Shantae has not felt better. there are plenty of characters coming, and it's a fun little romp! If you can look past the mandated backtrack padding, by all means, enjoy~!
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: Evan_B on December 18, 2016, 02:58:53 PM
Clex, stop posting reviews that I want to do first, it kills my enthusiasm for doing so, especially when you are so positive despite flaws.

For a series so deeply rooted in action-adventure design, it is a bit surprising to see Shantae transition into action-platforming. While the implementation of her genie powers is well-executed in the level design, the overall product feels more like a tease of a much larger, more expansive product than what is delivered. If there is one thing I can say about the game, it is that it feels economic. Very rarely does it feel like space is underused, with many areas of the levels opening up more and more as Shantae gains new transformations. I was very pleased to see how much mileage Wayforward was able to squeeze out of what is essentially five levels.

However, while returning to old locales in an adventure game can feel rewarding and empowering, Half-Genie Hero's reliance on set pieces to tell narratives leaves the areas feeling a bit barren after a second run. This also clashes with the action-platforming design a bit- I was frustrated by my inability to nab a treasure chest containing a powerup during my initial run of a chase sequence, only to find that there was no way to do so during the first playthrough of the stage. On the other hand, one of the levels loses a fair bit of its charm once the background activity no longer cycles through. Side quests feel like organic ways to get the player to return to certain stages, but the indicators in the hub world are a bit superfluous at times, and some quests only reveal themselves to service the continuing plot. Eventually, the narrative boils down to four separate fetch quests, and while some of them feature specific challenges, others are straightforward and simplistic.

Shantae has always been known for her dances, and they are on full display here. However, there are a number of them that are in no way useful, with some becoming obsolete with the addition of new transformations later. While this allows the developers to craft platforming-specific sequences within levels, I would have liked to see each of the eight(!) useful transformations expanded upon in a bit more depth. A few of them feature additional tiered abilities that are used sparingly in execution, which is disappointing. And why do none of the boss battles take advantage of these transformations? This was a fascinating part of Pirate's Curse and certainly possible with the developers' knowledge of what transformations are available to the player at certain times.

Despite all of this, Shantae's charm shines through. The soundtrack hits all of Jake Kaufman's usual notes, though there are few standout tracks. The character banter is as cute and self-aware as ever, and even the newer characters are fascinating to behold. It is surprising to see the villain make such a drastic turn in character after the events of Pirate's Curse, but much like Star Fox Zero, Half-Genie Hero feels like an anthology Shantae story, filling in a few details about the titular hero(ine, this has been driving me nuts), but nothing all that substantial. It's fluffy, but a good kind of fluff.

With the Risky Boots campaign still unfinished, it's hard to say Half-Genie Hero is a complete product. I wonder if the game will take on more of a Sonic the Hedgehog sort of feel, myself- where Risky will unlock new areas with her unique abilities. As it stands, however, Half-Genie Hero feels worth my personal pledge price: 15 dollars. It does little to break the mold of other action-platformers that already exist, fitting the pieces of the beloved series into the formula instead for some interesting- and passable- results. But as a celebration of the character and a work of passion between fans and developers, it manages to do what it can with the series' trademark charms.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: ClexYoshi on December 19, 2016, 03:00:45 AM
I actually whole-heartedly agree with Evan's words above. Keep in mind that I may be the one person who interacts with this website that loves Shantae more than Zach Miller.

Also, on using transformation dances for bosses? that was a key feature of the ORIGINAL Shantae that I deeply miss. the boss of dribble fountain had a big screen nuke attack that was only avoidable by using monkey shantae to climb to the top of the wall, or the Golem Mines boss was only vulnerable via Elephant Shantae's charge.

The bosses here are non-challenges, especially should you have plenty of magic to power any of the level 3 items.

Judging from the concept art of Risky's sprites in the concept art gallery and some other late game factors, Risky mode may just use the Pirate's Curse moveset.

Also, Wayforward has their work cut out for them, as not only Risky Mode needs to be added, but there was promised playable Rottytops, Bolo, and Sky in the Stretch Goals, as well as alt costumes for shantae that would give her alternate abilities, including Patricia Wagon cosplay.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: Halbred on December 20, 2016, 08:03:40 PM
A wild Zach Miller appeared in the NWR forums! Do I count as a Shiny?

I'm pretty much in agreement with Evan. I'm writing an article right now that breaks down what I liked and didn't like about the game. Pirate's Curse set a high bar, and HGH does not clear it. As you've both said, the game's structure is bizarre and extremely front-heavy. I like to speed-run these games, and it's VERY irritating having to grind for gems to get all the shop items. I found that actually going through Mermaid Falls or the Desert Tower gets you more gems faster than sitting there as the Gem Jug tapping Y, which seems crazy.

I feel like the Gem Jug dance was added specifically because they knew grinding for gems was a chore, but the Gem Jug doesn't do its job very well.

Clex, I'm not sure the Bolo/Rotty/Sky stories made the final cut. The alternate costumes/stats for Shantae certainly did, though, so I look forward to playing through those, and Risky mode. I feel like the game presents a lot of weirdly missed opportunities, including with Shantae's animal transformations. They are strictly utilitarian and even then, just barely. You use the Spider form like ONE TIME along with the Bat to get the Data Chip in the factory. It is otherwise completely superfluous, as is Mouse Bite (which doesn't work in mazes) and Spider Venom.

Anyway, happy to see more opinions of the game. I love it to pieces, but it's got issues.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: ClexYoshi on December 22, 2016, 08:34:52 AM
They made the Bolo/Sky/Rottytops stretch goal right before they cut off the paypal/Backerkit based funding. they'll come as paid DLCs later down the road, but will be free to the backers.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: Order.RSS on December 24, 2016, 08:43:50 PM
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! :)
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: Evan_B on December 24, 2016, 11:24:12 PM
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.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; a backer review.
Post by: ClexYoshi on December 25, 2016, 07:34:43 PM
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.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; NOW WITH RISKY MODE
Post by: ClexYoshi on August 25, 2017, 11:01:16 AM
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.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; NOW WITH RISKY MODE
Post by: Evan_B on October 29, 2017, 11:58:03 AM
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.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; NOW WITH RISKY MODE
Post by: ClexYoshi on October 30, 2017, 02:42:07 AM
Funny... I had almost forgotten about Pirate Queen's Quest altogether until I saw the post in this thread and refreshed myself.

I do agree, though. these DLCs feel developed more for the crowd that backed the kickstarter then they do for the mass public who'd buy it afterwards. I kinda feel like the opposite is true of Shovel Knight, which is why that's so puzzling that these guys with the right idea laid a good template for their previous employers to follow, and they missed the mark so hardcore on Pirate Queen's Quest being such a dud. :C
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; NOW WITH RISKY MODE
Post by: Evan_B on October 30, 2017, 02:30:49 PM
That's why Yacht Club is made of ex-Wayforward employees.

I think a big problem comes from the art direction of he game, believe it or not. It's harder to reuse assets when you have backgrounds in 3D, so it's easier for Wayforward to reuse the same level templates with minimal changes rather than make new sections. Which is kind of a shame. I was hoping the Friends' Quest would be a bit more S3&K-ish in design, but I doubt that will be the case.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; NOW WITH RISKY MODE
Post by: ClexYoshi on November 02, 2017, 04:28:15 AM
I'm fully expecting Julius Mode style from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; NOW WITH RISKY MODE
Post by: ClexYoshi on December 23, 2017, 07:04:28 AM
Hey, Folks. sorry for the double post. just updating to let you know I FINALLY got my download code for Friends to the End. it's been out for a bit, but my backer code only now just came in. I already have pretty strong opinions of this. I can already say this is a hell of a lot better than Pirate Queen's quest was, but I still have issues. I'll also say that I might have had a higher opinion of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero overall and thought it was brilliant if it would have been a spin-off game that used Friends to the End as it's foundation.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: ClexYoshi on December 31, 2017, 06:27:55 PM
This took a bit to get to between sick and Wayforward taking a while to get the Backer codes out, but it's time for the next part of the Shantae Half-Genie Hero review! Without further adieu, it's time for Friends to the End! Spoiler Alert, I'm very polarized on this.

Let me get this out of the way; This left far more of an impression on me than Pirate Queen's Quest. Heck, I'd even say it ALMOST flows better than the base game. Actually, I think if Friends to the End would have gotten the bulk of the Kickstarter budget and the TLC it needed, it'd probably be the brightest spot in this whole package. as it stands, it errs on the end of 'frustrating difficulty spikes' and 'mechanically unpolished', which are things I would seldom associate with Wayforward games of the modern era. Let's get the good out of the way first, though.

Level design is once again recycled from the base game with a few minimalistic changes to level geometry here or there. This time, however, a lot of it is redone to take advantage of our heroes' unique platforming abilities. this means that Friends to the End can actually have a difficulty curve and the levels aren't filled with bullshit meant to make you replay them, and the platforming goodness can take advantage of it knowing you have all the tools you'll ever need at any given time to complete the levels. there are little Memory Squid collectables in each stage, but those are easy enough to collect along the way. the lack of padding here is SUCH a breath of fresh air. There's also a couple of completley new levels in the form of  tutorial areas and the final stages, which... I'll be talking about later in this review.

This means that effectively, Friends to the End turns half-genie hero into the sort of linear action game that the level design hinted at this whole time. again, there's no town. heck, there isn't even any sort of between level breaks of any sort besides cutscenes and a visit to the black void that the save guy lives in. This structure makes for a pretty satisfyingly paced game in theory.

I feel that they did a fairly good job at balancing the heroes as well, in both their platforming and combat abilities. there's nothing that's really overpowered between the three, so that means you actually have to play the game and pay attention to boss and enemy patterns.

Bolo is our medium range fighter that does decent damage and has good options for attacking foes at angles between his grapple hook and his rebound stone-like spiked ball that he can throw. he overall feels the best of all the unupgraded heroes, and his swinging around is a lot of fun, if a bit nonsensical in how some of the mechanics of it work (Such as him losing his grapple if he bumps into collision of any sort or how he can effectively suspend himself vertically upwards at the peak of a swing.)

Sky's birds she throws do next to no damage, but are good at taking out threats from afar, and although her glide is weak and the little egg toss platform feels akward and slow, I still got a lot of use out of her birdspam if only because it lets you take out enemies at safe distances, even though she's weak. her sub-weapon is basically a neutered version of Shantae's pike balls.

Rotty is the close range fighter of the group, with slow, damaging, short ranged attacks. other than that, she's got a brain she can eat to heal the party's shared health bar, and her head toss, which freezes time (for the most part) while she takes aim and lets her teleport to her head, all while giving her body I-frames.

it must be said though that this game incorperates a Cave Story style level-up system. Gems, when collected with each hero, cause them to level up when you reach certain threshholds. While they share a health bar, they have their own individual pool of gems, and when they take damage, they drop some gems, and a few scatter around, but not enough to recover everything you lost from the hit. this means that taking hits will downgrade the party's power, attack speed, or other properties such as the range on Bolo's attacks or the number of birds Sky can have on screen at once. This system worked well in Cave Story because you had a hero who's weapons were all ranged, varied in number, multi-directional, and in some late game instances, either ignored the EXP system or were more powerful downgraded. as it stands, I found myself reloading saves when I'd take too much damage through a stage, or I'd go back to the first level if I had collected tough memory squids to save my progress collecting those and farm to get back to max EXP level with the party again so I'd have a chance at fending off the more dangerous threats in these levels with Rottytops' highly damaging leg-cudgel.

the levels for the most part also tend not to iterate on the platforming abilities of our heroes until late game. Rottytops' head throw is pretty much exclusively used to pass by inpassable laser barriers or maybe to make a jump that not even sky's Bird platform and glide can get to. Sky's glide is never used for things like the gusts of wind that the pirate hat in pirate's curse is used for. Bolo's grapple is used exclusively to swing from posts or ride on moving posts. there's never things like say... throwing switches, pulling in enemies, latching onto other bits of level geometry that isn't the one specific type of post that he latches onto. I suppose this is criticism that can be somwhat leveraged on Shantae's various animal transformations, but they gradually add to her versitility and the levels evolve with her growth. I realize I'm nitpicking something that's my own expectations instead of the game's own shortcomings, but wouldn't it be cool if the platforming challenges were the things that evolved instead of the character evolving to the levels? I digress.

The BIG thing is that there's also some serious lack of polish with some of these abilities. I found myself more often than not falling because I'd bonk on something while trying to swing with Bolo or a leap being essentially blind with trying to use Sky's bird platform in conjucntion with the head toss to try and make it to platforms. Both Bolo and Sky can activate their sub-weapons with the R button, and that's how the tutorial tells you to activate these. however, Rottytops' brain can't be used unless you specifically hit the A button. that made the earlier parts of the game really rough in that not only was the game punishing me for each hit I took in the form of dropping gems and powering me down, but also I effectively had 3 hearts to get by on... which granted is like... 12 HP, but some of the enemies start taking a whole heart away later. In Hypno Baron's castle, there's an instance where there's a fairly large circle of light around the characters meant to obscure the periphery/add atmosphere/hide just how labyrinthine the level design is in that part a bit, but the light doesn't follow Rottytops' head when you toss it, which... again, leads to the 'leap of faith' sort of thing going on. in the final stage, there's a part where you play as Rottytops solo, and you have to do the head toss onto moving platforms, but in this one place, time doesn't stop when you're aiming and it makes everything unreasonably more tricky then it needs to be. it feels really, REALLY unpolished when it doesn't need to be. Unlike the original Shantae on GBC, which had serious problems with leap of faith style platforming, there isn't items that can be bought to mitigate this or the excuse of a low resolution screen making the quality of the platforming be the compromise for graphical fidelity. This is just pure sloppiness, and it made me frown.

All the music used here besides boss battle themes and the Dance through the Danger track playing in the credits, is lifted directly from Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. Again, it's a little disappointing they couldn't get Kauffman on the horn to compose a little bit of new music, but I suppose that's a product of their budget. as usual, the art all animates really well, and I feel like everyone is really expressive, from Bolo's really dorky victory pose to the squash and stretch on Rottytops when her body teleports to her! the levels are the same besides for the Final one and the tutorial, as those are basically tiles from the genie realm all dark and corrupted, which makes me think maybe there was going to be a level like that in between the first and second phase of the Tinkerbrain in Shantae's story.

Unlike Pirate Queen's Quest, the story here is cannonical to Half-Genie Hero, and takes place in the gulf of time between Risky Boots stealing the dynamo to make the Tinkerbrain, and Shantae overcoming her Nega Shantae half. It turns out her friends all dived into her head and used the magic of friendship and the elements of harmony to save Shantae from being teh ebilz! But first, they have to learn to get their heads out of their own asses.  The party of Bolo, Rottytops, and Sky all play off each other incredibly well. you get the sense that these three only play nice off of one another in front of Shantae because they really care for her personally, but secretly despise one another, and that boils to the surface in their interactions. yeah, it's a bit cartoonish how mean they are to one another the moment they don't have to worry about others watching them, but it gave a chance for some funny dialogue. we don't really go deeper than the surface with these characters like say... the sort of things we learn about them in pirate's curse, but I appreciate them far more than I did Risky in her story. Shout-outs must be had for the trio of NateWantsToBattle, Cherami Leigh, and Karen Strassman for the wonderful voice work too.

This DLC I can reccomend a little bit more than Pirate Queen's quest. yeah, it doesn't have backtrack padding and it's not unreasonable to brisk on through in an hour and a half, but just be prepared for a LOT of frustration. The second area of tassle town, all of hypno baron's manor, and the rottytops segment of the final level made me put the game down for long stretches because of spikes in the difficulty or mechanically unsound platforming challenges. I almost feel like most of the budget here went to royalties to pay the new voice performers and to modeling out the new endgame area. I think it speaks wonders to the fact that they couldn't even be bothered to make new renders for Sky and Rottytops for your speedrun Bikini wallpaper ending reward. It's all very... slap-dash, and I hope Wayforward returns to the idea for a stand-alone game about these three. There's potential here.

Also, totally called it feeling like a "Julius Mode" from dawn of sorrow with the switching between characters and the fat cutting.

... oh, right. I also got a code that makes Shantae Blue and Risky look all red and black like her GBC Sprite. I mean... they're palette swaps. I do like seeing Shantae in blue, I guess?

I'll be back here one more time once the costume modes get released and if they add anything substatial. I'll then be able to give my final thoughts on the whole package, but... really, you can probably guess from my posts here what my final thoughts will be.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: Evan_B on January 02, 2018, 09:08:48 PM
So my very late impressions of Pirate's Quest are dropping TONITE, BABY!

I just. I don't get it. How could a studio that made a game like Pirate's Curse make such stupid design choices? Well, the fact is, the same people didn't work on these two games. So. You know.

If you are going to make any stage available from the start of the game, then you need to do this wild thing called- yeah, I know this is going to sound crazy, but here we go- DIFFICULTY SCALING. As Clex mentioned, some of these bosses are just absurd damage sponges, which doesn't feel rewarding in the slightest and really shows how little effort they put into making this mode non-linear.

But is Risky's moveset bad? Well, not really. It's redeemed by the absurdly high power of the cutlass early game, although there's still areas where it doesn't work so well.  The flintlock has some cool utility and there's a couple of moments where the preexisting level design redeems the choice of powerups- but it's all in the late-game which is rather unfortunate. Again, it's a shame that the unlocks are gifted based on the amount of levels cleared, because if you could get the grappling hook early game this mode would be SO much more fun. Speaking of fun, you know what isn't? Pointless upgrades! What is with the underwater upgrade in this mode? Talk about a waste of potential.

Still, I'd say that Pirate's Quest excels the more it feels like a Mega Man game. Okay, not really, because the rate of fire and range you can attain in this mode are way better than most Mega Man titles. Shooting things down from across the screen is really fun and kind of makes the cutlass feel a bit superfluous by the end of the experience. I can honestly say that the pacing and feel and chaotic nature of Pirate's Quest just escalates at an exponential rate once you acquire all of the progression-locked powerups, which is cool, but takes a lot of dedication in order to stick around for. Keep in mind, this mode clocks in at around two and a half to three and a half hours max, so that should tell you a bit about how disappointing and drudging the opening moments are.

Is Pirate's Quest worth the price of entry? Well, if it were packaged with the main game, I'd say yes. As it stands, I'm beginning my Friends to the End run right now at about eleven hours of playtime and Pirate's Curse had me max out at around ten and a half, so. I don't know how to feel. It kind of further proves that the defining traits of Shantae don't really gel that well with action platforming in any way, even with the quality of life aspects such as mid-stage warping. I would say Pirate's Quest is fun for the last half hour to forty minutes of gameplay, so take that as you will.

Now to do some stuff with best girl Sky.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: ClexYoshi on January 07, 2018, 11:59:52 AM
Amen, Evan. It's not like Pirate Queen's Quest is outright bad. It just feels superfluous in a game that already pads it's play time out so much. it's a neat experiment to try and bend the genre of the game, if nothing else... but I also feel like Friends to the End does a better job at that.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: Order.RSS on January 08, 2018, 10:52:31 AM
Meant to read through all of this when it went on sale recently, but never finished the thread until now. I've always kinda sat on the fence with 1/2 Genie Hero but I think you two may have talked me down from it. Hope their next effort will be better once again, though I wonder if Pirate's Curse will hang over the series as a Sword of Damocles for the forseeable future; it's just a rather high bar they set for themselves now.

Could be down to preference; I rather like the Metroid style of traversal with backtracking becoming way faster thanks to new abilities. From the sounds of it, perhaps Half Genie Hero could've still done the animal transformations if the sections (and entire game?) were shorter. But people like me would still be whining about the lack of permanent "use these anywhere" upgrades, I guess.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: Evan_B on January 08, 2018, 06:23:58 PM
The thing is, HGH is already short. The padding comes from running the same levels over and over again in order to obtain the hidden collectables.

Now, I hate to compare action platformers, especially since I'm no real fan of the genre myself. But a game that does powerup-based collection right is one that, in theory, is pretty similar to Shantae. Kirby telegraphs its powerup unlocks pretty directly and challenges the player to hold on to the correct powerup until they reach the unlock point, which means you return to levels with a sense of purpose. However, HGH gives you multiple transformations that have upgraded forms, mainly so that they can make certain segments difficult on an initial run and let the player go off and explore on a second visit. But even then, the most expanse level is arguably Tassel Town, while the others feel very claustrophobic. You'll often get a powerup that will allow you to explore a new area only to be roadblocked by another powerup unlock point. The real sin is that there's no way for player expertise or exploration options to circumvent this, either- you just have to progress further in the game to retread that familiar ground.

Where the first three games used powerups to encourage experimentation in their large environments, HGH is attempting to mix exploration with action platforming in a way that neither really feels substantial. Some of my favorite Wayforward games are those that focus on a specific gimmick, but that doesn't seem to be the case, here, and it's sad. It's sad because the game suffers and I like Shantae but I already dropped forty bucks on a game that I don't feel is worth half that price.
Title: Re: Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU
Post by: ClexYoshi on January 08, 2018, 06:37:29 PM
Meant to read through all of this when it went on sale recently, but never finished the thread until now. I've always kinda sat on the fence with 1/2 Genie Hero but I think you two may have talked me down from it. Hope their next effort will be better once again, though I wonder if Pirate's Curse will hang over the series as a Sword of Damocles for the forseeable future; it's just a rather high bar they set for themselves now.

Could be down to preference; I rather like the Metroid style of traversal with backtracking becoming way faster thanks to new abilities. From the sounds of it, perhaps Half Genie Hero could've still done the animal transformations if the sections (and entire game?) were shorter. But people like me would still be whining about the lack of permanent "use these anywhere" upgrades, I guess.

That's fine and dandy, as I like the retraversal stuff, but the problem is these are linear levels with the only real deviation from that being Mermaid falls and the first bit of mermaid falls. If you make the mistake of say... using the Gemjug dance instead of the warp dance or not buying the warp dance immediatley, you have to play through the whole level again just to get to the thing you need to stomp with the elephant to get an item. it's not the animal transformations that are rotten, but the game's structure.

it's not like it's asking you to revisit each stage once. I ended up going to Mermaid Falls 3, 4, 5 times, because at one point of the game it might ask you to defeat Techno Baron's gator minions with Shantae's Fireball attack, or it might send you back agian to talk to the grandma fish and find her kids for a sidequest item, or you might have to go back a third seperate time to do a part that involves Mouse Shantae, or you might have to go back again to stomp flowers with Elephant shantae or explore parts with mermaid shantae, and there's just... no neat way to do all this without specifically planning it out, especially since progress gets gated by these little side quests throughout the game.

there's a little bit of that in Pirate's curse, but not to the degree that it's here in Half Genie Hero.

I think it especially hurts because Half-Genie Hero ditches the traditional dungeon structure of the previous games.  with the original Shantae having slight exception for extra warp squids, Risky's Revenge and Pirate's Curse avoids backtracking into the dungeons at all costs, and keeps it to the overworlds.

the only parts of the game that don't require a backtrack to at some point for completion outside of Risky's hideout for obvious reasons, is the Magic Carpet Race, and the third part of Tassel Town? It feels like I'm going on this wild scavenging hunt of replaying levels rather than experimenting through environments. there's some upgrades that feel like that, like the stupid thing that lets Crab Shantae and Mermaid shantae shoot up a waterfall to get access to exactly 2 things through the game. Or Mouse Shantae. The mouse bite may be  the most superfluous thing Wayforward has ever put in a game.