Game Reviews Nintendo

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut Nintendo Switch Review

What a year it’s been for Shantae fans. Back in March, WayForward celebrated its 30th anniversary by releasing Shantae and the Seven Sirens, the fifth and latest game in the series, in its entirety for Apple Arcade, and made available to all consoles in May. I wrote a comprehensive review which you can read here. Then back in July, WayForward announced that Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut, the second installment in the series, would finally be ported to the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One. If that wasn’t enough, WayForward also announced that Limited Run Games made physical copies of the first two games, the original Shantae for Game Boy Color (also currently available in the eShop if you have a Nintendo 3DS), and Risky’s Revenge, available for pre-order from September 11 to October 11. The original Shantae game will be available digitally although a release date has not been made available as of this writing. My dream of owning the entire Shantae collection on the Switch is alive and well!

After completing Seven Sirens earlier this summer, I had that bittersweet realization that it was going to be a while before I could play another Shantae game. If I wanted to play the first two games there were definitely other ways to do it, but I instead held out hope they would be ported to the Switch. That system was my gateway to Shantae fandom, and it’s only appropriate for me personally to experience a Shantae game from the same console that first introduced me to the series. I’ll even go as far to say this series has put me on to the Metroidvania genre in general.

Use magic spells from the shop to zap your enemies.

Risky’s Revenge has been in existence for over a decade now starting with its initial release for the Nintendo DSi. For the six years that followed, it slowly ported to other formats, including Apple’s iOS in 2011, Windows in 2014, PlayStation 4 in 2015, and Wii U in 2016. All that was left was Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, and finally those will be available too.

WayForward was generous enough to provide me with a review copy for Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut in advance of the October 15th release date. I couldn’t wait to see for myself what made this game the highest rated handheld game of 2010 at Metacritic, and IGN’s Best DS Game of the Year. Now that I have Risky’s Revenge, I’d like to talk about my experience playing the game and how it compares with the other games in the series. I won’t go much into the plot, as these are only early impressions and I want to savor the time I spend playing it.

Smash your way through with classic transformations such as the elephant.

The game was designed initially to be played on the Nintendo DSi and it was immediately apparent to me. This is not a remaster (apart from the dialogue artwork being touched up), so it’s not formatted for widescreen displays. You have the option to choose the DSi’s original display ratio, which is wicked small even on a big screen. There’s also two 4:3 options, with or without borders, and a 16:9 option which stretches the source material to fit the whole screen but doesn’t look good. I preferred 4:3 without borders, which spans the screen vertically but has black bars on each side rather than artwork. From that point it’s easy enough for me to focus on the game. Playing it on the Switch in handheld mode is the best experience for me from an aesthetic perspective, though I don’t mind playing it docked as well.

When I wrote about Seven Sirens, I compared it to its two preceding games, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Seven Sirens was like a mesh of the two styles for me. You had Half-Genie Hero’s high definition sprites but Pirate’s Curse’s traditional background and platform aesthetics. When playing Risky’s Revenge, I see it visually the same way it is chronologically, as the in-between of the Game Boy Color Shantae game and Pirate’s Curse. For example, the animation for Shantae’s transformation dance in Risky’s Revenge is the exact same as seen in the GBC game. By the time Shantae can use transformations again in Half-Genie Hero, her dance animation has changed to a quick belly dance. Risky’s Revenge is really somewhere between being a 32-bit version of the GBC game, and being a scaled down version of Pirate’s Curse.

Shantae and her trademark butt-wiggle animation.

The gameplay is very similar to the Shantae I’m used to, which made it easier for me to adjust to the visual downgrade. Her classic hair whip is the weapon of choice it’s always been and can be upgraded along with an assortment of other magic weapons. You’ll need to gather gems in order to purchase these within the game’s shop. I haven’t found a quick way to farm gems as with the other games I’d played, so there will be some grinding needed to get all the powerups I want. In Risky’s Revenge, there are jars of magic jam that you can find throughout the game that you use to purchase specific items in the shop. It reminds me a bit of Seven Sirens where you collect golden nuggets that are hidden throughout the map to be exchanged for monster cards. You can also find heart holders, which are used to increase your HP threshold. It’s different than what I was used to, which was gathering heartsquids and presenting them to one of my favorite NPCs, Squidsmith. Alas, she doesn’t appear until the next game.

Navigating the map has been a little tricky. Seeing as how I don’t have the luxury of a dual display such as the DSi, it’s been a bit tedious accessing it: Pause and hit Right five times and select Map. Took me a while to figure out what I was looking at, as it’s nothing like the maps I’ve seen with the other Shantae games I’ve played. Guess I should be grateful to have at least that, since the GBC Shantae doesn’t even have an in-game map. That’s going to be another challenge once I finally get around to playing that. One thing I also had to adjust to was using a different way of transporting between levels. Right from Scuttle Town I discovered that going from the gate into the town I had to jump on these arrowed platforms, which then flips me from one section to another. Had to do that a lot going through Tangled Forest. It is fun to see Shantae do a somersault and then land gracefully like a ninja.

Each game in the series introduces a new way to warp between levels. This one has you doing flips!

The in-game map won’t help you once you enter labyrinths. I got through the Squid Baron’s labyrinth with some help from a walkthrough guide (I know, I know, that’s kind of cheating and I’m going to try to keep that to a minimum). He’s one of the Barons of Sequin Land that you have to defeat to gather the Magic Seals, a central part of the story. It was nice to see Squid Baron again. He’s a boss character and a jerk but also endearing. I like when he breaks the fourth wall. That’s something about the Shantae series that I love, the many recurring characters that have their own charm to them. They all make me smile. Well, except for Mayor Scuttlebutt, to heck with him! Imagine trying to repeatedly evict a national treasure such as Shantae, who has only saved your town about oh I don’t know, a quadrillion times, no biggy! I wish I could take Shantae and have her hairwhip some sense into that ungrateful little…! Drahhhh!!!

(Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean…)

(Alright we’re moving on…)

(Mayor Scuttlebutt still sucks eggs…)

Squid Baron using his squid babies to try to kill Shantae with cuteness.

Speaking of recurring characters, I’ve come across Mimic, Sky, Bolo, and Rottytops, as well as the series’ main antagonist and this game’s namesake, Risky Boots. It’s funny that I mentioned Squid Baron earlier because starting from Pirate’s Curse, I realized some of the jokes in the game, including from him, went over my head because I hadn’t yet familiarized myself with the first two games in the series. I somewhat spoiled that for myself a couple years back by watching walkthroughs on YouTube since there was no prospect of those games being ported to Switch and I wanted to understand the entire story better. I’ve forgotten a lot of what I saw thankfully but have already experienced a couple of refreshers while playing Risky’s Revenge, and I already remember a few plot twists that are forthcoming for me in the game. Oh well. I’m still enjoying the experience so far.

Also want to mention that if you beat the game, you can play Magic Mode, a feature added to the Director’s Cut. You get to play as Shantae in her dancer costume and it adds more to your magic meter while making you more susceptible to damage. I played that mode in Seven Sirens and it added some replay value, and I imagine the same would apply to Risky’s Revenge.

Beat the game to unlock Magic Mode.

That experience includes the music, which I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention. One of my favorite video game composers of all-time, Jake Kaufman, does the soundtrack for Risky’s Revenge as well as every other Shantae game save for the latest version. I still have lots more to discover in this game, but each track is memorable and sets a proper tone for wherever you are. I’ve had the Tangled Forest theme, “Through the Trees”, stuck in my head since playing it. It was also cool hearing the File Select theme at the beginning, though Kaufman definitely upgraded it in Pirate’s Curse. I’m not sure that this soundtrack will surpass Half-Genie Hero for my favorite of the series, but I’m sure it will still be fantastic as the series’ soundtracks have been. I’m already addicted to one of the tracks, “She’s Got Moves”.

The usual suspects are here on Shantae’s second action-packed adventure.

Time to put the bow on this review. As I mentioned at the start I’m still in the early stages of the game, and I’m sure I’ll have more to talk about through social media. I don’t want to rush this as there’s no telling when the sixth installment of Shantae will come out, but I imagine it won’t be for several years. I plowed through that fifth game earlier this year because I wanted to give you all the most insight I possibly could. I was just so excited to play Seven Sirens after waiting a long time for it. Risky’s Revenge is a new port to a decade-old game, but man am I happy to finally be able to play it on the Switch. Always been intrigued by it, just didn’t have the means until now. I’m looking forward to more of the great Metroidvania fun that this series is known for. I’m enjoying this game a lot so far and I think you will too.

Risky’s Revenge is already available for Nintendo DSi, iOS, Windows, PlayStation 4, and Wii U, and will be available digitally for Nintendo Switch and Xbox One on October 15th for only $9.99. Whether you’re new to the series or an experienced Shantae gamer, Risky’s Revenge is a classic platformer that will make an excellent addition to your video game library. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

This review was written based on a digital review copy of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut for the Nintendo Switch provided by WayForward.

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