You don't often see DSiWare games getting ported to current consoles. For the most part it's understandable why, but when it comes to Shantae; you know you're in for a treat. If you're ready, give that magic lamp a rub and let's see if our wishes come true.
For the unfamiliar, Shantae is a half-genie who attacks enemies by whipping her long purple hair at them. Risky's Revenge is the second title in the series that originally came out in 2010 (eight years after the first game). Upon its release, it received much well-deserved praise and it remains one of the best DSiWare games ever created, but does it still hold up almost five years later? For the most part, I'm happy to say that it does. However, don't expect a full HD remake since this version is mostly a port. The in-game graphics are still pixely, but thankfully elements such as menus and character portraits in cutscenes are redone which provides some appreciated visual polish. For the hardcore, Magic Mode is included where you have half the defense power but you consume less of your magic meter. Even for those who have played the game already, there are enough improvements that'll surely compel you to play it again.
Although Risky's Revenge appears pixelated, that doesn't mean that it looks bad. In fact, the wonderfully animated sprites and environments make every little detail come alive. Shantae never stops looking vivacious whether she's running, jumping, dancing, or even standing still. It's this attention to detail that makes every Shantae game a joy to play. The soundtrack is reminiscent of similar '90s-era platform games which suits the visual style well. Each song offers a great deal of character to the individual environments that you find yourself in. As Shantae works her way through areas while platforming and battling enemies, she vocalizes to emphasize her actions. This combined with the satisfying sound effects ends up making the gameplay immediately gratifying. In the end, it may not be a huge upgrade, but the incredible animation and soundscape will definitely win you over.
Before playing Shantae, you might expect it to be made for kids. This is far from the truth since it's quite difficult (and the humour can be rather cheeky as well). The level of challenge is something that old-school gamers like me will love while it may leave those looking for a walk in the park a bit disheartened. Luckily, Shantae has an immense array of unlockable moves and upgrades at her disposal. As you progress in the open-world adventure, you'll eventually be able to cast nine different attack spells and transform into a monkey, elephant, and mermaid. Also, you'll unlock upgrades such as being able to pull off new moves while transformed, execute faster attacks, have your magic meter automatically fill, and increase your maximum health. If you really get stuck, you can dip into your stock of potions to replenish your health and magic meters. Whether you're up for a challenge or not, there are plenty of options that make completing this magical journey doable no matter how skilled you are.
One thing that unfortunately comes with open-world 2D platforming territory is that it's easy to get lost. Of course, you can speak with many characters that help point you in the right direction, but there will be times when even they can't help. After running all over the map trying to figure out where to go, you'll probably resort to using a guide. On top of this, there are a few obtuse areas within some of the game's enormous dungeons that will leave you scratching your head for much too long. Another frustrating aspect is when you need to react quickly to oncoming fire. Shantae's attack animation lasts long enough that it's easy for her to get hit by a projectile before she's done attacking. You can jump to cancel out of an attack, but then your attack is rendered useless. Unresponsiveness also occurs when transforming in order to avoid an enemy. For example, when fighting a boss that the monkey can easily jump over; if you start to transform when you see the boss coming towards you then you'll probably get hit before you can jump. Finally, my last complaint is that Risky's Revenge is a fairly short game. When it's over, you'll simply want to experience more. That means it's good, right?
Shantae: Risky's Revenge is a modern classic and this Director's Cut version is a great way to play it on a contemporary console. If you want to re-play this chapter of the half-genie's saga or you're new to the game, then there's definitely a lot here to enjoy.
- + Classic challenging 2D platform gameplay
- + Large arsenal of spells, items, transformations, and upgrades are rewarding to unlock
- + Beautifully animated sprites
- - Assessing what to do next is often daunting
- - Certain situations requiring quick reactions can frankly feel unfair
- - It's over well before you want it to be