The Shantae franchise is a long-running series of MetroidVania-style video games. The first game in the series was originally released on the Game Boy Color. Since it was one of the last games released for the Game Boy, being so late in the console’s life is likely why people weren’t aware of it when it came out. But, Shantae has had several releases since her first game and created a large impact in the world of gaming. With a recent appearance in Smash Brothers Ultimate and many now using “Ret-2-Go!” online, Shantae is here to stay!
While there are several games in the series, I’ll be focusing on Shantae: Half Genie Hero for this article. The other games absolutely have their charms, but they may not be for everyone. Half Genie Hero is the first HD version of the series, originally released in 2016.
The game starts out with Shantae, the guardian of Scuttle town, learning about a new threat from the Pirate Risky boots to Scuttle town. With this information, our Half Genie Hero sets out to save her town once again. Shantae can defeat enemies with her trusty hair whip and eventually unlock a wide variety of moves to help her explore the map. Exploration is key for these maps as well, as you can find Heart Holders that can increase your life bar and even other powers to help you explore further!
Where Shantae: Half Genie Hero really stands out is it’s transformations. Shantae can transform herself into a variety of different objects in order to explore different areas. Some of these transformations are from previous games, such as the Monkey and the Elephant. However, some of these are new to Half Genie Hero and a bit more esoteric, such as the Mermaid or even a Tank. (The Sophia III, from Blaster Master! Which is quite the call back!)
These transformations add quite a lot to the game and make exploration more fun than usual for this genre. Like any MetroidVania-style game, there is definitely some backtracking involved if you want to get stronger. Being able to experiment with the transformations while you back track for items definitely makes this part of the game much more entertaining than it would have be otherwise. This will be important to note, as we will come back to this later.
The Shantae campaign of Half Genie Hero is a solid playthrough, and while it can be challenging in some parts, it is worth seeking out. But, if you’ve heard of this game before, you might be wondering why there so much controversy about it? And did you say Shantae campaign?
Like almost any modern game lately, Shantae: Half Genie Hero did receive DLC. And in fairness to the game, this is where most of the controversy lies. There is are several DLC add-ons for the game, but there are two separate character add-ons. In one, you play as Shantae’s main antagonist, Risky Boots. The other allows you to play as her friends; Bolo, Skye, and Rottytops. The downside to this is that for the most part, all of these characters are substantially weaker than Shantae.
While Risky Boots fares better than Shantae’s friends in terms of power, she’s still much weaker. But ,Risky Boots can at least level up her powers, while Shantae’s friends can not. Making this situation so much worse? The levels and bosses are for the most part the same as the Shantae campaign. There are some minor tweaks made to adjust for the characters, but for the most part, they are all at the same levels. In fact, in many areas you can see sections of a level blocked off because you could access it with Shantae but not with the other characters.
All of these issues combine to create levels and characters that can lead to some extreme difficulty spikes. Shantae’s campaign is not that difficult overall, but these DLC sections can be very difficult and unfortunately not that fun in many sections. The good news is that none of this is part of the main game. Unless its becomes available in a collector’s edition or bundle or you just absolutely love the game, this DLC should be avoided.
Overall, Shantae: Half Genie Hero is a charming MetroidVania-style game with great gameplay, vibrant stages, and interesting characters. The game also allows for a large amount of replayability as well. Once the game is completed, Hero Mode is unlocked. Hero Mode lets you start as Shantae with everything you need to complete the game as fast as possible, or speed run it! Shantae: Half Genie Hero is a game worth checking out if you like adventure-style games, but you should avoid the DLC unless you really want a challenge.