Emerging from the world of pixel art, Shantae bursts back onto the scene with her newest adventure, for the first time in full HD. Successfully Kickstarted back in 2013, the newest adventure, Shantae Half-Genie Hero (or Shantae 1/2-Genie Hero, if we're being stylish), finds Shantae defending Scuttle Town against Tinkerbat pirates and the Pirate Queen, Risky Boots. The graphics are crisp and the gameplay is fun with many different ways to defeat foes and explore levels.
As you progress through each stage, enemies will be positioned in front of you or find ways of attacking you off-screen. In the demo I played, groups of enemies were being shot at me inside of cannonballs. The cannonballs would land in front of me and three to four enemies would spring forth until they were defeated and the cannonball was destroyed. To defeat enemies in Shantae’s primary form you use her hair as a weapon, whipping it at enemies to do damage. Once you take out an enemy, they drop useful items like health and mana refills, which is useful since Shantae has a range of useful magical abilities.
The two abilities I got to try out were a fireball attack and a defense shield. The shield uses up mana as long as it is activated so you have to keep an eye on it, but while it is activated, it has the ability to protect Shantae from damage as well as repel enemy projectiles. Attacks like the fireball use up a set amount of magic energy each time you use and is best when used against ranged enemies. While the magic attacks are powerful, it is important to be mindful of using them so you do not waste mana when you don’t need to. You also have a dancing magic ability where Shantae does a little dance, drawing from her mana points to refill her health bar.
Shantae’s other set of abilities include transforming into other forms, each with their own special set of abilities and useful skills for traversing levels. The two forms I was able to test drive were the spider form and the monkey form. Initially each form can only be used for their unique movement capabilities, but as you explore each stage you can discover ability upgrades in treasure chests. The monkey form has the ability to jump much higher than other forms and climb walls so using it to get past difficult platforming sections is very useful.
When I played as the monkey, I found a power-up that finally gave me the chance to attack enemies in that form. As the monkey I could climb a wall as enemies approached and jump off executing a powerful monkey bullet dash attack capable of taking out an entire row of minor enemies. The other form I got a chance to play as was the spider which gave Shantae the ability to reach high platforms with a webbing. The special attack available for the spider form during the level I played was a long range venom attack.
Five forms have been announced including elephant, crab, and mermaid. Although I didn’t get a chance to play as these other forms, I was assured that once you unlock forms you can go back to previous levels to use their abilities to gain access to areas that were previously inaccessible. For instance, there were portions of the level I played that has bodies of water that needed to be crossed by platforming. If I was playing as a character like the mermaid, then I would be able to explore those portions of the level and see if there were any hidden treasures.
Shantae Half-Genie Hero will be available on PC, PSN, Vita, Wii U, and XBLA in Fall 2016. The only physical versions of the game will be released exclusively for PS4, Wii-U, and Vita.