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Shantae: Half-Genie Hero PlayStation 4 Review: Ret-2-Go!

Shantae is back, and she brought the magic.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

It's been a long time in the making, but Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is finally here. It's bright, it's funny, and it has more magical transformations than you can shake your hips at.

Wayforward's Shantae games have a history of offering rich platforming fun for whomever wants to come on board. That said, the series is content to percolate in the background of the 2D action game genre rather than compete head-to-head with the likes of Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. In fact, Shantae was nearly doomed to oblivion: Her first game hit the Game Boy Color just as the plucky handheld was giving off the last of its death-rattles (which sounded like sad, watery beeps, by the way). Shantae scrambled back to relevance in 2011 thanks to a strong sequel on the Nintendo DSi, then another great follow-up for the Nintendo 3DS in 2014.

Adventure Time! C'mon grab your jammies~

Thanks to Wayforward's perseverance and the dedication of a small but passionate fanbase, Shantae is alive and thriving. It's appropriate that Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Wayforward wanted the chance to make the game, and fans wanted the chance to play it. In the end, we have a happy adventure that's hard to put down even when you're occasionally called on to perform tedious collect-a-thons.

Long-time Shantae fans (cough cough me) might be a bit disappointed to learn Half-Genie Hero is more of a soft reboot than a sequel to Pirate's Curse. It means some of the previous game's more interesting plot points and character development are dropped in favor of a more generic narrative about Ultimate Evils. On the plus side, tons of familiar faces still make appearances, including Techno Baron, Ammo Baron, Squid Baron, Sky, Bolo, Uncle Mimic, and the perpetually irate pirate Risky Boots (who has her own campaign). In any case, Shantae's main mission is familiar: Sequin Land is in trouble, and as the region's guardian genie, she needs to get off her tush and defend it.

Like other games in the Shantae series, the levels that make up Half-Genie Hero emphasize depth over spread. There are only a handful of levels, but each one contains a variety of segments, gimmicks, and piles of collectable items, spells, and relics.

Please check to make sure your tuna is mermaid-safe.

Said relics, when combined with a transformation, give Shantae the power she needs to explore every corner of her world. Yes, Shantae's transformations are back after a notable absence in Pirate's Curse. With a flip of her hips, the genie can turn into a monkey (for easy climbing and jumping), an elephant (for barrier-destroying strength), a mermaid (for swimming), a harpy (for free-flying), and many more creatures large and small. Shantae's transformations open up well-travelled levels in clever ways. For example, decorative wall-etchings become actual mazes when Shantae enters them as a wee mouse.

Though relics let Shantae execute different kinds of attacks while she's transformed, her main methods of attack include her magic and her signature pony tail whip. Both can be upgraded in Scuttle Town's shop, as can Shantae's defense.

As you might expect from an adventure about a pretty lady who executes foes with her hair, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero has a surreal sense of humor. This is a game where an elderly blobfish wearing a "FOXY GRANDMA" hat eventually winds up living in Scuttle Town. The game's weird characters and amusing dialogue serve it well when you're tasked with collecting piles of items for your friends, your Uncle, and Scuttle Town's denizens. On one hand, the scavenger hunts feel like a thinly-veiled way to pad out the title. On the other hand, it is fun to go back and try out your new transformations in previously-cleared settings – and the item tally that marks the entrance of each stage certainly appeals to the monkey-lizard part of your brain that drives you to finish stuff.

It's nice to have Shantae back, and its doubly nice to have her transformations back, too. Don't go into Half-Genie Hero expecting wild innovation, but do expect solid platforming fun, incredible graphics, a great soundtrack, and a few laughs.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Sound: Veteran Shantae composer Jake Kaufman is back, and we're all richer for it. As in previous Shantae games, Half-Genie Hero sounds like Kaufman took the music from Disney's "Aladdin," put it in a jar with some techno beats, and shook it all up. It's wild, and it works.
  • Visuals: I should go ahead and tell you that Shantae: Half-Genie Hero looks amazing. Maybe you noticed those lush backgrounds and butter-smooth animations on your own, though. Our girl has come a long way since her humble and heavily-pixelated start on the Game Boy Color.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero spent a lot of time cooking, but the end product is well-built. There are occasional tedious moments, and the story's disjointed at times (which can be chalked up to the fact some characters and chapters were added as Kickstarter campaign stretch goals), but it's still a must-play for Shantae fans. And if you're not a Shantae fan … what's wrong with you?

4 /5

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero PlayStation 4 Review: Ret-2-Go! Nadia Oxford Shantae is back, and she brought the magic. 2016-12-20T20:00:00-05:00 4 5

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Comments 12

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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #1 SargeSmash A year ago
    Just ordered this, so definitely looking forward to giving it a whirl!
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #2 riderkicker A year ago
    Strange on Best Buy that you can ONLY buy the Vita version. Could make for a great game over the break.
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #3 SargeSmash A year ago
    I must have bought the only PS4 version they had left, ha ha!
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #4 brionfoulke91 A year ago
    I'm glad the series is still going, and I'm glad Wayforward is still making games!
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  • Avatar for detten17 #5 detten17 A year ago
    can't wait to pick up Shantae, the games have always been fun.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #6 VotesForCows A year ago
    Is Risky Boots' campaign available now, or will that be added later? My daughter is desperate to play as her - she's much the more popular character for some reason!
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #7 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @VotesForCows It's coming later; I'll fix the review to clarify that. Looking forward to it, too -- tho I'm a bit disappointed the stretch goal for playable Sky was never met!
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  • Avatar for Frosty840 #8 Frosty840 A year ago
    @nadiaoxford Seeing as this is the PS4 review, can I ask whether you think the PS4 controls are Vita remote play-friendly? I assume they are, seeing as there's an actual Vita version, but I'd prefer to grab the PS4 version and remote play it if I can; the remote play experience is generally just better than playing the Vita version directly, if the controls are friendly enough to the Vita's control scheme...
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #9 nadiaoxford A year ago
    @Frosty840 I haven't tried remote play myself, but I assume so. Shantae's controls aren't customizable, but the default is very familiar and comfortable if you're already familiar with platformers like Mega Man and Castlevania.
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  • Avatar for TrevorMcD #10 TrevorMcD A year ago
    @nadiaoxford I got GOOD NEWS for you Mrs. Oxford! We ravenous kickstarter backers (and fellow long-time fans like me-shout outs to Craig HarrisIGNpocket) totally got that stretch goal! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1236620800/shantae-half-genie-hero/posts/964825 It took us couple of years but we got it! You get your Sky and I get my Rottytops. WayForward will add it later on a la Shovel Knight.
    But wait there's more, can you say costume change? Beach clothes, ninja suit, and Mighty Switch Force armor unlockables with specific stats will also be added...one day. I think the wait will be worth it.Edited December 2016 by TrevorMcD
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