I never played the original Shantae games and I don’t think it’s any stretch of the imagination to say that’s the same for most people. Shantae, the first game in the series, released on Game Boy Color in 2002, which I actually had growing up. However, I also had the newer and fancier Game Boy Advance which came out in 2001. So when 2002 came around, I was busy playing Pokemon Sapphire.
Fast forward to 2010 and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge released on the Nintendo DS, but by then my gaming life revolved around Halo 3 multiplayer and anticipation for Halo: Reach, so I unfortunately missed the second entry in the series as well. And I say unfortunately, because Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is a great game for fans of the platformer genre.
The most recent release is actually Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut. This includes the base game – I mean, if it didn’t it wouldn’t be much of a game – and a bonus Magic Mode which unlocks after beating the story once.
One of the great things about Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is that the plot isn’t dependent on knowing much of anything about the first game. Shantae is a half-human, half-genie guardian of Scuttle Town and she must stop the pirate Risky Boots after she stole a lamp during the town’s Relic Hunters Expo. The plot isn’t some elaborate tale that will help you unravel some childhood trauma or uncover a new human emotion, but it is incredibly fun. The personalities, dialogue, music, and environment all create an enjoyable journey to defeat the villain and save the town.
The colorful pixel graphics are well-done, but my favorite aspect of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge’s environment is the music. It’s incredibly catchy and showcases the personality of the locations and the characters they are associated with. It doesn’t get repetitive and I looked forward to going to certain levels just because it meant I could listen to some more catchy tunes.
The only real disadvantage I had going into Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is that I didn’t know any of the characters. However you won’t want to let that worry you for it’s easy enough to pick up on the personalities and relationships without ever feeling lost.
The gameplay itself is built around traditional platforming elements. The movement mechanics aren’t anything special and the combat isn’t the most fluid, but the game was also originally released in 2010. That being said, it’s not bad at all. Shantae will attack enemies by whipping her hair at them, and she can also purchase abilities that rely on magic power to use, such as fireballs or summoning a cloud that shoots lightning at enemies.
The levels are full of different enemies that need to be defeated, progressively getting harder as you make it farther in the story. There is quite a bit of backtracking that happens, so to prevent the areas from becoming too boring new enemies will get introduced to previous areas.
The Director’s Cut features a convenient warp system that does make getting around easier. As you find “warp squid” statues you talk to them, wake them up, and utilise them to travel to the other ones you’ve found. The flip side of that is that the map is a bit confusing to read, taking a while for it to click.
Back to the actual gameplay; something that Shantae does which deviates from other games in the genre is the progression system. Normally platformers will stick to the standard abilities of double jumping and wall-climbing to help with progression, and Shantae does this to a point. But instead of opting for traditional methods, Risky’s Revenge takes advantage of Shantae’s background as a genie and belly-dancer. Over the course of the game you will learn transformation dances that allow Shantae to change into three different animals.
The first to unlock is the monkey form which gives the mobility boost you would expect. As a monkey, Shantae can jump higher and climb on walls, which unlocks a lot of the map. Second is the elephant form which allows her to break large rocks and weird golem creatures that like to hold up do not pass signs. And lastly is the mermaid form. This one is unlocked pretty late in the game but it allows Shantae to dive underwater and explore new areas.
I really like this transformation system because it is different from how games traditionally treat Metroidvania titles. The abilities themselves are nothing new but it’s a unique system that adds a spin to traditional progression paths.
There are only a few areas to play through and two proper dungeons, so it’s not a very expansive world. But every chest you come across, and area you find, has its purpose – which when paired with the solid story pacing helps make the world feel full.
It’s also important to note that Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut isn’t a very challenging game, nor incredibly long. You’ll be looking to clear it in just under five hours. This makes it the perfect game for those who want a casual platformer experience, but if you are looking for more of a challenge, you do get access to a Magic Mode once you beat the game. In Magic Mode you take more damage and have additional magic power, as well as access to a unique outfit for Shantae. It’s essentially a hard mode. However, it would be nice if Magic Mode was playable right away since I’ve never been a fan of games that hide difficulty options behind playthroughs.
All in all, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut on Xbox One is a fun and unique game that I can definitely recommend picking up. Again, it’s not going to be a hardcore platformer with a crazy elaborate story, but it will be a relaxed adventure with incredibly catchy music. And even though I never played the original, playing through reminded me of when I used to sit on my Game Boy for hours at a time. So for those who grew up doing the same, prepare for a bit of nostalgia.