The Shantae series has been around since 2002 but hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should. Not many people know how good the series has been since its first release on the Game Boy Color. Shantae Half-Genie Hero is latest and best entry of the series to date, which was originally released in 2016 for the PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and the Wii U. The game has now been ported to the Nintendo Switch with a new Ultimate Edition that includes all of the downloadable content previously available for the other consoles. Is it worth playing on the Switch with the new content all in one big package? Hands down yes, it really is.
Shantae Half-Genie Hero is a very pretty looking game. While the titular heroine and all her friends have a whimsical and fun look to them, the stages and backgrounds look just as great. On the Nintendo Switch, everything on screen looks bright and vibrant, with a lot of details you can notice all over in the background and foreground. The animations on both Shantae and other characters are very smooth and have a ton of different actions and movements that really make everyone come to life.
Running for an extended period and suddenly stopping causes Shantae to have a quick break animation, which looks great and funny at the same time. It’s these kinds of little details you can find with every character in the game that give them a spark of personality and sense of being alive in this 2D world.
The platforming in Half-Genie Hero is great and has a decent level of challenge, with some backtracking over the course of the story. You’ll definitely revisit previous areas over and over, but each time you do further during the plot you’ll notice a number of things that change. Sometimes more enemies will appear, platforms and walls might be different, and you’ll be able to access new areas with an assortment of abilities you gather over time.
Going back to earlier stages never feels boring, even when you have to do so to search for specific items or gather jewels to give Shantae a new upgrade. While the boss fights can get a little silly in some cases, they all have something unique to show that makes them charming to look at and challenging to overcome.
Discovering new abilities can be the most challenging part of the game, but also the most fun as well. The transformations that Shantae can do give her a number of abilities that can be upgraded over time, which allow you access new places previously unreachable, or even bypass some areas with greater ease than before. There’s a cheeky sense of humor that’s prevalent throughout the game as you gather new transformations and abilities, but it goes hand-in-hand with Shantae’s personality and goofy turn of events during the story.
Seeing Shantae go from being a tiny cute monkey that can climb walls to a funny looking crab that can move underwater, and then to a giant elephant that can smash walls is incredibly goofy. Yet the game manages to stay fun and provide a good challenge for anyone without compromising its sense of humor or character’s personalities.
The extra content within Shantae Half-Genie Hero Ultimate Edition is plentiful. Besides the main game, you get seven additional modes that change up the levels and context of the main story. But this is more than just palette swaps and outfit changes, you get new stories and twists on the main plot that really mix everything up. While some of these modes can be a lot more challenging with their focus on upping the difficulty, the rest of them give more shine to some of the other characters from Shantae’s adventure and lets you control them, including the main antagonist. These are fun to play through, even though they have a far inferior stage selection screen and upgrade process than that of the main game.
The Beach Mode, Ninja Mode, and Officer Mode are silly twists on Shantae’s adventure, however, they aren’t as interesting as the other modes that give you control of different characters. The abilities that Shantae gains for each mode are tied to the outfit that she wears and can change the way you approach most situations in each stage. However, by the time you complete some of these extra modes with Shantae, the payoff might seem a little meager.
Shantae Half-Genie Hero is a fun game that is great for anyone that loves platformers and likable characters. The game’s visuals are great and its goofy humor will grow on you as you play. The Ultimate Edition of the game offers a lot to enjoy, whether you’ve played the main game already or just diving into it for the first time. While some of the extra modes may not feel like they have too much to give after completing them, you’re still getting a whole lot of playtime across all seven modes included. Shantae may only be half a genie, but she’s definitely a full likable hero.
This review is based on a digital review code for Shantae Half-Genie Hero: Ultimate Edition for the Nintendo Switch, provided by WayForward.