Game Title: Shantae Half-Genie Hero
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 1.6 GB
Availability: Digital Download (Europe, North America), Retail (TBA 2017 from XSEED Games)
Battery Life: 4-5 hours
Game Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
I never imagined I would return to cover the Shantae franchise only a year or so after I covered the entire series. Half-Genie Hero released on the Vita and I enjoyed it so much, I went on to review the first three games on the 3DS. But Shantae Half-Genie Hero isn’t over. Not only is the new Story Campaign DLC launching this Summer, but the Half Genie’s newest adventure has come to new platforms.
So, let’s talk about it. Half-Genie Hero was pretty great on the Vita and now it’s time for me to be able to actually do a Video Review on it. Here is my review of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero for the Nintendo Switch!
Half-Genie Hero takes place some time after Pirate’s Curse. After a foreboding dream, Shantae is forced to defend Scuttle Town from an attack by Risky Boots, the series’ long-time villain. After the attack, she gets fired from her job as the Town Guardian (again) and is sent off on a quest to help create a device to protect the town.
The story of HGH is very comical as all of the previous games have been, and features a cast of characters from the entire series. Just like I said with the Vita version, the game pays no attention towards introducing each character to you. It assumes you’ve already played previous games and know who each of these characters are. It’s certainly enjoyable with no prior knowledge, but it is far more enjoyable with it.
Just like previous games of the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a 2D Action-Platformer. Across the entirety of the game, you’ll be traveling through multiple side-scrolling levels filled with enemies to fight, secrets to find, and bosses to conquer. It’s very similar to previous games, most notably Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.
First of all, there is some confusion going around the net as XSEED has sent out some PR emails claiming the Nintendo Switch version of the game comes packed with the upcoming Risky Boots Story Campaign DLC, but my review copy (which was provided by WayForward) contains no such game mode. So just note that Half-Genie Hero on the Nintendo Switch will be getting the DLC when every other system gets it, as far as I know. (I have 100% Completed each existing Game Mode, so I can rule out an Unlock Condition).
Outside of that, the game has 3 Game Modes you can play through. Shantae Mode and Hardcore Mode are unlocked at the start, which are the default game mode and a Hard Mode that plays much more like the older Shantae games with more enemies, stronger enemies, different boss attack patterns, and less items to stockpile. There’s also Hero Mode, which is unlocked upon beating the game. Hero Mode is essentially Speed-Run Mode, giving you all Story-Unlocked Powers from the start of the game.
Progression in Shantae is a mix of exploration, Item Quests, and the actual stages. Whenever you finish a part of the story, you’ll have new NPCs in the Scuttle Town Hub and quests to do, normally associated with obtaining a specific item. Finding this item will be a mix of exploring stages, getting hints from NPCs, and then delivering the item once you find it. It’s pretty simple as you do have a Bathhouse that will point you in the direction of the newly-unlocked hidden items you need for the story.
Exploration has always been a big part of Shantae and the exploration is utilized by transformations. Each time you defeat a boss, you get an animal transformation. These allow you to reach new areas, like the Monkey’s ability to climb walls, the Harpy’s ability to fly, or the Mermaid’s ability to freely swim underwater. Every stage has hidden areas you can only access with a specific transformation, so most new items needed for the story involve using a recently-acquired power in a previous stage to find hidden items.
That’s really the fun in it as well, because there are many Story Items hidden but many others as well, from Max HP Increase Items to New Transformations that aren’t acquired from Story Bosses. It’s really a big feeling of “New Transformation. Let’s see what new stuff I can find” and is absolutely crucial when you’re playing Hardcore Mode.
Outside of exploration, you have combat. When fighting enemies, you use a mixture of whipping your hair for physical attacks and magic spells you can buy in the Item/Upgrade Shop like throwing fireballs, summoning storm clouds, or creating a shield around you to protect you from damage until your magic gauge depletes. You collect gems from fallen enemies, which makes combat important not only for moving through a stage, but collecting currency so you can upgrade your damage, attack speed, and more in the Item/Upgrade Shop.
And, of course, you have Bosses. Each Boss has a specific pattern to it, and some aren’t just “Attack the Boss”. The 2nd boss, for example, has a phase where you free them from chains and you don’t start hitting them to calm them down until the second phase of the battle.
Across the entirety of the game, length is definitely a factor here. I went into this game, having already played it once on the PS Vita and PSTV. With that knowledge, it took me around 6 and a half hours to complete Shantae Mode, 3 and half to complete Hero Mode, and 4 and half hours to complete Hard Core Mode (in that order). For reference, my first run through the game on the Vita took me around 8 hours, so you should expect it to last around that long your first time.
Nothing too fancy about the game’s controls. No touch controls in handheld mode and the scheme almost precisely mirrors the control scheme used on the PS Vita.
The Left Analog Stick and Arrow Buttons are used for moving Shantae through areas and the Right Stick doesn’t do anything. The L and R triggers are used for activating spells and the Z triggers are used for cycling currently-selected spells. Then you have the face buttons. A is used for activating spells and B is used for jumping. X is used for Dancing to Transform and Y is used for normal attacks. Aside from there being multiple triggers, players of the PS Vita version will have little to no transitions in the control scheme on the Switch.
Also, for those who enjoy the HD Rumble feature, WayForward has added 150 events in the game that utilize the Rumble feature.
The visual presentation looks absolutely incredible. The Vita version looked really nice for a Vita game, but the Switch version looks that much more great. On the Vita, you had a colorful presentation but you did have that occasional jagged edge on environments. On the Switch, everything looks perfect. Docked or Handheld, the game looks like a true “HD Adventure” as WayForward advertised. The visuals have no blemishes or flaws that I ever saw.
Performance is up there as well. The Switch version loads a little faster than the Vita and sticks to a nice, solid 60 fps from start to finish, as opposed to the Vita’s fps that mostly stuck around 30 fps.
With 2D visuals, I was expecting a good bit of Battery Life. Although the game doesn’t give off as much battery as games like Disgaea 5 or Kamiko, here are the times I got from 100% to 0%:
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 52 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 02 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 43 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 00 minutes
Not as high as I was expecting, but still a pretty good amount of Battery Life. At the very least, you’ll be able to get through roughly half the game on a single charge, with it averaging around 4-5 hours.
In conclusion, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero makes a seamless transition to the Switch and brings true HD Shantae to both the Console and Handheld Gamer. The story still expects you to know all of the characters from the previous games, but it’s filled with just as much color, humor, and hair-whipping fun that fans of the series waited those long years for.
*Review Code Provided by WayForward Technologies