To celebrate the upcoming 5th entry in the Shantae series, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, I figured now would be a great time to review three of the five games. The reason I am not including the Gameboy game that started it all is because I do not own though it is very similar to Risky’s Revenge so think of it as an indicator of what to expect from the first game but with the camera much closer than in RR. So the Shantae series is one I wanted to talk about for quite some time and one I quite enjoy. With this triple review I hope to show readers why. Join me as we take a look at Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, Pirate’s Curse and Half-Genie Hero by Wayforward.
Publishers: Capcom, WayForward Technologies, Rising Star Games, XSEED Games.
- Risky’s Revenge: Nintendo DS and Wii-U, PS4, iOS and PC (Steam, GOG)
- Pirate’s Curse: Nintendo 3DS, Wii U and Switch, PS4, Amazon Fire TV, XBOX One and PC (Steam, GOG)
- Half-Genie Hero: Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Vita/TV, XBOX One, PC (Steam, GOG)
Genres: Platformer, Metroidvania
Length: 6-12 hours. Pirate’s Curse is technically the longest followed by Half-Genie Hero and Risky’s Revenge.
G-Rating: Good (Overall).
Before discussing each game and what sets them apart let us first go over their similarities, starting with the gameplay. The Shantae series is a Metroidvania 2D platformer where players take guide Shantae on her numerous adventures to keep Sequin Land safe by stopping the bodacious purple pirate queen Risky Boots’ wicked schemes and every other ne’er do well causing trouble for our lovely heroine. She ventures forth whipping enemies with her luxurious purple hair along with her recurring side-weapons, the Fireball, Spike Shield and Lighting Cloud. Some entries feature other cool weapons but these are her most recurring arsenal for combating evil.
As I said the series is Metroidvania-esque with Shantae exploring areas and dungeons, coming upon “roadblocks” that require her seeking a new move (or in most cases transformation) to continue on her quest. Later games add a bit of a new spin to the formula but for the most part exploration remained similar throughout the series thus far. At the end of dungeons she faces off against bosses of many shapes and sizes, all providing enjoyable challenges. Shantae controls very well in all three games with each one adding improvements.
I mentioned between brackets that Shantae could transform. Besides hair whipping what Shantae is most well known for is her ability to transform into various animals (and other things in Half-Genie Hero) by belly dancing. such as an elephant and a monkey in order to smash through blockades, crawl over walls across bottomless and more. These transformations are obtained via key items in dungeons, after defeating a boss or hidden in the world. The hidden transformation items usually consist of special abilities for her animal forms or brand new forms in Half-Genie Hero. More on that later. While most of the trekking will be done in her half-genie form it is cool that the animals do not have time limits thus so long as she can continue it is possible to traverse a lot of the landscape as a monkey. Just do not expect the animal forms to be as adept in combat as her regular self.
To progress the story Shantae will take quests from citizens and allies in the form of fetch quests and the sort. Some are optional side-quests but most are required to acquire important items.
As far as in-game graphics go Risky’s Revenge and Pirate’s Curse have the same in-game ones with a few additional animations to the latter. The main difference between the two are the character art as will be shown when I cover the differences of each game. Half-Genie Hero being the most recent entry features the most advanced graphics going for an animated series kind of look. Good stuff all around. The soundtracks in all three games feature token tunes that get remixed with each new entry such as Burning Town and the main Boss theme. Like the graphics the soundtrack gets more modern with each new entry. Whichever entry players consider to feature the best soundtrack it is agreed upon by most that the series has overall great tunes.
Shantae is another one of those series where the main plot is for the most part simple but the appeal comes from the interactions between Shantae, her friends and foes. Shantae herself is a pretty cool lead. She is a cute and sexy shapeshifting purple haired half-genie girl who helps everyone in need and defends the world and friends she cares for but is not gullible or a punching bag. She simply wants to do the right thing. Her arch-nemesis Risky Boots is an equally sexy egomaniac yet has her own moral code. Like any cool villain she is clever and calculating, always one step ahead of the rest where her one “non-Shantae scheme foiling” weakness is “convenient video game plot device”. However, even though she is rotten, wants total domination over Sequin Land and will pull whatever strings needed to accomplish this she is not devoid of honor and deep down respects Shantae as a worthy adversary. Shantae’s friends and recurring foes are an amusing bunch. This is also one of those series that throws fourth wall breaking jokes every now and then. One character in particular is pretty much aware this is a video game series. Fans of the series more than likely know who I am referring to.
Now let us go over the three games and how they stand out.
Let us start by discussing the 2nd entry in the series, Risky’s Revenge.
Plot Summary: Set after the events of the first Shantae game. During the annual Relics Hunters Expo, Shantae and her friends watch her Uncle Mimic unveil his latest find: an ordinary-looking lamp encased in stone. As they wonder its purpose, Risky Boots and her pirates crash the expo and steal the lamp. Shantae battles her, but is knocked out, allowing Risky to escape. Blaming the half-genie for the town being in disarray and failing to do her job properly, Mayor Scuttlebutt fires her as Scuttle Town’s Guardian.
Despite no longer being a Guardian Genie, Shantae still decides to take responsibility to stop Risky Boots’ newest plot.
Of the three games Risky’s Revenge is the closest to the above overall description, it being the 2nd entry and all so there is little to add that I have not already. It is a straightforward and enjoyable Metroidvania style game with plenty of old-school 16-bit charm. Although it is the shortest of the three games it features an Extra Mode after beating it once that has Shantae donning a new costume with some new abilities but makes the game a bit harder.
Plot Summary: After the events of Risky’s Revenge Shantae was left, without giving anything away, less powerful. Despite this she carried on being a heroine. After getting into a scuffle with the Ammo Baron leading to a misunderstanding on her part she would run into an unexpected guest. Long story short Shantae and Risky reluctantly join forces to try and stop a great(er) evil from Risky’s past.
Pirate’s Curse is considered by many to be the best in the series thus far and I have to agree. The reason being the new abilities Shantae obtains throughout this journey ramp the game up a notch. Put simply the game feels more challenging, hectic and larger in scale than Risky’s Revenge. Staying true to the title Shantae obtains pirate themed abilities this time courtesy of the gear stolen from Risky across several islands. Moves like the a hat glide, sword smash and sword dash. It all feels cooler and faster once the abilities are obtained. The story also shows different sides of certain characters fans did not expect. It is not supr deep but definitely and interesting look at several characters. This is also the game that introduced partial voice acting into the series. At certain points the characters speak during cutscenes. It remind me of Skies of Arcadia where characters sometimes spoke a line or two outside of battles.
Pirate’s Curse introduced a slightly new way of exploring dungeons by splitting them up to separate islands, essentially a stage select. As a welcome addition each island is marked with the number of hidden items to find. These were carried over to Half-Genie Hero. Despite this the gameplay is still a Metroidvania at its core because Shantae will have to return to completed islands after obtaining new abilities to access previously inaccessible areas and find other hidden items or Cacklebats.
Speaking of Cacklebats they are important finds in the game. The titular Pirate’s Curse turned Risky’s Tinkerbat crew into monstrous Cacklebats. Shantae must locate them across all the islands, beat them and suck the dark magic left behind. Tis important to find them all is what I am saying.
As I said above Pirate’s Curse is considered the best in the series for good reason. The new abilities Shantae acquires makes the game cooler and faster at times, there is a greater challenge, the story and characters are better and it feels like a grander adventure overall.
Plot Summary: Shantae is roused from a deep sleep, suddenly alert. She plunges into the moonlit forest in search of answers. In nearby Scuttle Town she goes to her uncle’s home and discovers a mysterious trapdoor. She decides to see where it will lead to and discovers a luminous subterranean cavern. A familiar voice calls out, drawing Shantae to a beautiful fountain. Touching its waters she is immediately spirited away to the fabled Genie Realm. At her feet a magical seal swells as some powerful evil seeks escape. The chamber trembles with a deep, bellowing roar and everything goes white. Shantae sits upright, back in her bed. Was it just a dream? Or a vision of things to come?
Whether Half-Genie Hero is a sequel, took place before Risky’s Revenge or is a “soft reboot” I am not certain. Most likely the last one. In any case the story plays out like a “Saturday Morning Cartoon” as Shantae goes around Sequin Land foiling foiling whatever schemes familiar and new villains besides Risky are up to. They are not working together or connected. They unlike before Shantae is going around stopping crimes rather than collecting key items they are holding. Even so, SPOILER ALERT, Risky is the #1 big bad of the story. This game is the main reason I brought up wanting a Shantae anime/animated series because it would definitely work. Check the Seven Sirens Opening produced by Studio Trigger.
As I already mentioned Half-Genie Hero is the most visually impressive entry in the series by far. Whether it has the best soundtrack or not is up to the people to decide. Like Pirate’s Curse there is partial voice acting during cutscenes and Shantae has more to say at the start and end of stages along her signature phrase “Ret-2-Go” (I think it is supposed to be a company meme).
As for the gameplay it is goes back to the Risky’s Revenge style but bigger. What I mean by this is there are more secondary weapons, more transformations (other creatures and some things like a palm tree) and more quests, more items to keep an eye out for in stages (Getting the Good End requires deeper searching for very important optional key items) and biggest of all, more modes/playable characters. We will get to them in a bit. At its core Half-Genie Hero is a much better version of the first two games with a lot more going on in stages such as collapsing towers and mine cart rides to name a few of the crazy things that happen in each stage. The greatly enhanced graphics gave the developers more to work with and have the world feel more alive than ever before. It is quite pleasing anticipating what else could happen.
As I mentioned in Pirate’s Curse Half-Genie Hero adapted the Stage Select format and the number of hidden items to find per stage.
The one drawback, specifically for fans of Pirate’s Curse, is that despite being bigger than ever it went back to the old gameplay style.
The bright side comes in the form of the aforementioned Extra Modes (Most of which are DLC unless playing the Ultimate Edition). One of them being “Pirate Queen’s Quest” where players get to play through the game as Risky Boots complete with all the abilities Shantae had in Pirate’s Curse and some hidden ones. It does have spoilers about what Risky’s master plan is so I would recommend playing it after beating the game as Shantae. The same goes for “Friends to the End” wherein players go through most of the game as the team of Bolo, Sky and Rottytops as players switch between the three to get through obstacles. Their game takes place before the climax of the main story. Other modes include a Hard Mode and modes where Shantae dons different costumes such as Ninja or the Mighty Switch Force uniform, each one having their own abilities. Apart from how the characters playing differently the stages remain the same and there are no fetch quests, except Hard Mode.
Overall Half-Genie Hero is the first two games but better.
As far as yuri goes it is mainly Shantae being shipped with the other girls be it Sky, Rottytops (my favorite) or even Risky (foe-yay). Thank you Pirate’s Curse for the extra material.
So those are my thoughts on the Shantae series thus far. A fun series of Metroidvania platformers starring a great heroine alongside her wonderful cast of friends and foes. Most of the games can be found on most modern consoles or PC so the interested can go pick them up if they so choose. Highly recommended to Metroidvania aficionados.