It seems I’ve been living under a rock for the past decade and a half. It’s 2016 and I’m playing my very first Shantae game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been well aware of the Half-Genie Lady and her well-received adventures but it’s something I’ve always observed from afar.
Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut is the enhanced port of the second game that was originally released as DSi Ware. So while probably not the most logical place to start, it’s managed to pull me in to a fun, colourful and characterful gaming world.
If you’re not familiar with the Shantae series, they are action-platforming games with very much a Metroid flavour to them. Shantae makes her way through a handful of landscapes surrounding her small town, exploring every nook and cranny for secrets before entering dungeons and taking on a boss.
In this entry, the story sees Shantae attempting to thwart the nefarious pirate Risky Boots who has stolen a genie lamp with mysterious powers. The only apparent solution is for her to collect three magic seals in order to… well, seal the magic. Along the way she meets a vibrant mix of familiar and new faces in what is a short, sweet and humorous plot.
Standing between Shantae and the three magic seals are plenty of enemies. While not a huge variety of them, there is enough for a game of this length to stop them feeling too repetitive. Their designs are incredibly diverse; ranging from pumpkin throwing scarecrows to mermaids. While the designs don’t really feel cohesive it’s not something you’ll notice or care about.
Taking them out is quite simple. Shantae’s main attack is to whip her hair into the enemy and you’ll be using this for the majority of the game. It’s quite slow at first so enemies that take multiple hits will be slow to die, but this attack can be upgraded a couple of times.
If you don’t fancy getting up close and personal with enemies, there are plenty of magic attacks you can buy at the shop in town. Fireballs, thunderstorms and even protective orbs will be useful to you on your journey. I personally found that the orbs were almost too powerful in their effectiveness and it’s the one I used the most during my playthrough.
One of the staples of the Shantae series is the eponymous hero’s ability to transform into other creatures after belly dancing. In this edition she can take the form of a monkey which can jump higher and cling on to walls, an elephant that can plough through certain rocks and a mermaid that, as you’d expect, can swim pretty well. Each of the transformations can receive an upgrade, giving them a new ability all of which will be vital in overcoming the game. All of the abilities come together nicely and are well used throughout the game, although it’s a shame the mermaid ability comes so late in the game.
I think Risky’s Revenge has a nice, even difficulty. There are some tricky parts for sure, such as platforming as the monkey, the time trial tower and many of the bosses if you don’t have a stockpile of potions in hand. I think it’s a nice balance for casual and more experienced gamers.
The main issue I have with the game is with navigating and traversing the over world. I think the game suffers to due to the original hardware it was on. The over world has you going back and fourth between each of the 4 areas outside of the town. While the forest and desert offer visually distinct styles, the two coastal areas are practically the same. Backtracking between the four of them can become rather tiresome.
WayForward have tried to alleviate this in the Director’s Cut by including an improved warp system which as you’d expect, takes you to different areas without the need for walking. That’s the idea at least. Unfortunately, while I can see it might be an improvement over the original, the warping system still leaves something to be desired. Warp points are few and very far between and in order to warp to them you need to go from another warp point rather than from wherever, so you still end up having to walk through the same screens over and over. Navigating your way through the game can be a bit of a chore. It’s not a huge deal to be honest but it’s something that sticks out in an otherwise well made game.
The game’s not particularly long. My time completion time was 5:15 which includes the time I spent aimlessly wandering around and not sure where to go next (my own incompetence, to be fair on the game). It’s a shame it’s so short because it’s a genuinely enjoyable game that you wished stayed longer. While the overworld can be a bit of a chore, the few dungeons in the game are really excellent. Some light puzzle solving, solid platforming and a well planned lay-out make them one of the highlights of the game for me.
Despite being dragged from the simple DSi store, Risky’s Revenge still looks fantastic even on a HD console. The artwork, especially of characters and bosses, is expertly done. Everybody is well-detailed and brought to life with the brilliant pixel art. In this HD edition, characters have high quality portraits for when they are talking to each other. Being so bright and colourful, it just makes you adore the characters in the game. The music is excellent too, not surprising as it’s from musical stalwart Jake Kaufman.
Despite being a short game I still think you’re getting a good deal with Risky’s Revenge. It’s very reasonably priced compared to other games of much less quality. There’s a solid 5 hour first play through with room for replayability. Once beating the game you are allowed access to Magic Mode which increases your magic but makes your defences weaker. It’s more challenging but I think once you’ve been through the game you’ll have an urge to try this. You can also go for 100% as there are 34 special items in the world. I finished with just over 20. The game is also primed and ready for speed running fans with a nice little bonus screen for those who manage it in less than 2 hours.
Overall, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut is an excellent action platformer that merits a place on your hard drive. It’s short, sweet and full of loveable characters that deserve more attention from the gaming community. Walking around the over world can be a chore at times but it wasn’t enough to stop me thoroughly enjoying my first game in the Shantae series. It might be a brief experience but there’s still a lot for you to enjoy and probably even go back to.
– Great, loveable character
– Plenty of mechanics acquired over time
– Nice dungeons
– Looks and sounds great
– Traversing the over world can be a pain