Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut Review: Phenomenal Cosmic Powers

July 24th, 2014 -

The story of Shantae started back on the Game Boy Color twelve years ago. Despite WayForward’s previous games being good, this is what really sticks out to me as their first hit, regardless of it being a cult classic. For those unfamiliar with the series, it is a Metroidvania style platformer which allows for you to use your hair as a weapon, buy magic for battles, and learn transformations for navigation. While Shantae: Risky’s Revenge came out in 2010, the Director’s Cut just launched, and that’s what we’ll be looking at from here on.

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Starting off the game, you get thrown into a “tutorial” of fighting. I say it that way because it doesn’t actually tell you how to fight (if you’re using a controller, it’s a lot easier to figure out than a keyboard). However, it gives you plenty of chances to figure out the buttons (which are really easy to figure out, I’m just an idiot – you can also configure them to whatever you like). So once you figure out how to attack, you’ll whip all the enemies with your hair, much as you might do with a whip in Castlevania. Other controls include backward dashing, jumping, dancing (this is for transforming later on), inventory, and magic. After you defeat all the enemies that spawn, the story begins. Of course, being a platformer you head to the left first, because why wouldn’t you? Turns out if you don’t, you are actually directed that way before moving on to collect an egg. During this portion you learn that it’s okay to fall in water – Shantae doesn’t drown from a lack of water displacement. You also come across a wall with no way of getting up it – either you go around, or you’ll be getting something later on that will allow you up there. Naturally it’s the latter, and I love that you’re forced to see that – it is well placed foreshadowing of what the game will bring.

After a bit of plot setup and your first encounter with Risky Boots, you start your journey into Sequin Land. This is where a pretty rad feature is introduced – if you’ve played Mutant Mudds, you will have a clear understanding of what I’m talking about. There are jump pads that when jumped on will move you to another plane of existence. Think of it this way – foreground, middle ground, and background, except there are more than just the three layers. The multi-layered environments are still awesome several years later, and I really hope they expand on that mechanic in the future with the 3DS. The game is quite Laissez-faire in that you aren’t told where to go, other than to find the seals to advance the plot. While you are free to explore, you’ll come across obstacles that require you to have certain transformations. You’ll come across three throughout the game. I don’t want to spoil them for you (bad news: if you watched the trailer, they’re spoiled for you…), so I’ll just tell you what they do in a somewhat cryptic manner. The first form will allow you to get to those hard to reach areas; the second form allows passage through things that hate being hit; the third will open a whole new world of exploration. As for the magic you use in the game, it’s seemingly optional, though extremely useful – I don’t even want to think of fighting the plant enemies that have an endless amount of seeds to shoot at you without just burning them to a crisp using a fireball.

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Traversal of the game’s “dungeons” are where the game truly shines. While getting to them is fun in itself, these are the areas with multiple locks and keys, secret chests, hidden areas, and in some cases you’ll stumble across the proper way to progress. These are where you learn your transformations, which the game then teaches you how to use. If there’s one thing this game does great, it’s how it teaches you without telling you. The game design is just top notch in that respect. The majority of boss battles will also happen here, and man are they fun. You can expect big enemies with lots of life, cool attacks, and unique animations. The only bit of the game I had a slight issue with was getting lost occasionally in the dungeons, but I quickly forgave it as I got out a piece of paper and felt like I was a little kid again, making maps for my games.

The art of the game hasn’t changed extensively, other than it’s formatted for large resolutions. That’s not to say it’s bad by any means – the game was beautiful in 2010 and still is today, as it’s hard for a game that uses a 16-bit style to really look bad in any era. Some things do seem a bit off though – text boxes seem a bit too clean and digital compared to the game world and characters, as does the warp zone map. Being able to warp to any warp zone is nice though, and seeing the area name correspond with the map is a nice addition. Also, while achievements are pretty much mandatory in games nowadays, it does breathe new life into the game with challenges for you to do and show off to your friends. Can you beat the whole game with only three hearts? If so, there’s an achievement with your name on it. The Director’s Cut also boasts a new game mode and outfit which lessens the cost of magic, but halves Shantae’s defense – just in case you wanted another excuse to play through it again. And have I mentioned the music yet? No? Well, that’s probably because it’s infused so well with the game that I figured it was just assumed it was the bee’s knees. I mean, was there ever any doubt? Jake Kaufman did the soundtrack, and if you’re familiar with WayForward, you know his music. Never heard the name? Maybe you’ve heard of virt then. One in the same. The man is a magician when it comes to your auditory senses.

I’m not sure what else I expected from Shantae: Risky’s Revenge. The gameplay has solid platforming elements in addition to the different approaches of combat. The art direction is better than most games that use a pixelated look merely for the sake of nostalgia buys, with animations that are much smoother than anything you’d see on the SNES (the warp animation in particular always gets me). Traversal through dungeons can get confusing at times, but it’s never impossible to figure out. And that music… OH, the music. I really can’t recommend this game enough. Just porting the original would’ve been worth the price, but with all the additions it’s a no-brainer. I’m beyond excited for the next two titles coming out: Shantae and the Pirates Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.

BUY

Pros

  • Addicting and Solid Gameplay
  • Aural Sex
  • Amazing Game Design

Cons

  • Photographic Memory Required or Pen and Paper
  • Some Graphical Clashing

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge was created and published by WayForward and is available on Steam for $10. The game was originally released on the DSi October 4, 2010, and the Director’s Cut launched on Steam July 11, 2014.
 
 
 
Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

  • Cool. I finally bought it on 3ds. Will play on the airplane this weekend

    Comment by leon on July 24, 2014

  • Rad! You won’t regret it. Depending on your flight time, you’ll potentially beat it too! Nothing like beginning and ending an amazing game in the course of a trip.

    Comment by Jason on July 25, 2014

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