Gaming Forums > Reader Reviews

Shantae Half-Genie Hero; TOMODACHI DENSETSU

(1/4) > >>

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~!

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.

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.

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.

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.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version