Shantae: 1/2-Genie Hero
- Publisher: WayForward / Marvelous
- Developer: WayForward / Inti Creates
- Release Date: 20 December 2016
- Systems: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, XBox One, Wii U, Switch
- Genre: 2D Action (Platformer)
- Players: 1
- Cost: US$20
|The game starts with Tinkerbats invading Scuttle Town -- again.|
While the main story failed to engage me, personally, each world comes with their own sub-plots, which have a bit more going for them... okay, still not much. For example, the bratty genie guardian who takes over Shantae's role as the defender of Scuttle Town is rather unceremoniously brushed off after clearing the desert world. But they are tied in with some pretty novel settings, like a factory where young maidens are transformed into "counterfeit mermaids" by having big-mouthed fish latch onto their waists, or even a magic-carpet race, which is in essence just a forced-scrolling platforming segment. It's nice to see that the quirky sense of humour the series has built up over the years is still in full effect.
Shantae's dance transformation ("Danceformation", then? ...I'll see myself out.) powers make a return after an absence in Pirate's Curse, where... she had a little run-in with the plot. How they work this time is you hold a button to bring up a menu, and press a direction for the form you want to take. It's sort of a hybrid of the transformation systems in the first two games, and is one of the more elegant solutions I could think of, since it lets you page through many options at a fast enough rate, while not forcing you to memorise a button sequence like in the first game. And there are over a dozen transformations for you to unlock, although a little more uniqueness and utility would be appreciated. Some of them are useless apart from specific situations, especially the mouse, who can go through tiny, maze-like passages and do little else. And why do we need two separate forms for moving about underwater?
|The new method of selecting transformations is both quick and convenient.|
Freed from the limitations of past 8 and 16-bit platforms, the character art has been completely redone with hand-drawn animations, and it looks gorgeous. Their animation is extremely fluid, even on huge boss characters like the Giga Mermaid. On the other hand, the backgrounds are done with 3D models, and they look extremely basic in comparison to the pristine 2D art, their relative lack of detail fits with the cartoonish art style. This is the same setup that WayForward has used in games like DuckTales Remastered, so you'd think they'd have come up with some way to spice up the backgrounds somehow, but apparently not. And why is it that when we return to certain worlds, especially the desert world, the backgrounds have so much detail removed from the first time around? Maybe it's just a bug in the version I played, I don't know. #PCGamingMasterRace The soundtrack, once again composed by Jake Kaufman, brings back many melodies from his songs from previous games, but with slight variations. I think its quasi-chiptune sound has a bit of a Sonic influence to it this time around, and coming from me, that is high praise.
|Sprite animation is fluid and expressive, especially on bosses like the Giga Mermaid.|
Come to think of it, as a whole, 1/2-Genie Hero puts the Shantae series at a crossroads of concern. WayForward's approach to sequels is starting to become formulaic. If WayForward will ever make a sequel to this, they're going to need some cracking good ideas to elevate it above the status quo they've built up, as they did with Pirate's Curse. That goes doubly if they choose to crowd-fund it, since it's our money on the line. But don't be too afraid about it just yet, since 1/2-Genie Hero is still quite good. It's a short, snacky kind of game, but it's incredibly sweet while it lasts. If nothing else, playing 1/2-Genie Hero, and knowing that there was at least one good game to come out of crowd-funding, allowed me to end 2016 on a much-needed high note.
+ Streamlines many of the series' more time-wasting mechanics.
+ Astounding character animations.
+ The Risky Boots campaign.
- Some combinations of upgrades break the game's balance.
- The backgrounds seem a little basic in comparison to the character sprites.
- The Risky Boots campaign as separate DLC.
Control: 5 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Design: 4 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Graphics: 4 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Sound: 5 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
Value: 3 counterfeit mermaids out of 5
The Call: 85% (B+)
You might also like: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, DuckTales: Remastered, Shovel Knight