We live in a bit of a resurgence of the mascot platformer, after the dark days of the brown shooters, those games unsurprisingly all shot themselves in the foot and people have started to become fed up, combined with a resurgence in retro style games, it’s easy to see why we have been getting more of them these days.
But what if I told you that one of the more modern icons of non Nintendo or Sega platforming didn’t start that long ago, but first appeared as one of the rarest Game Boy Colour games? Maybe you have heard of her, maybe you haven’t but let’s look at the half genie hero Shantae (not the game Shantae Half Genie Hero, that one is too modern for my classic reviews)
Shantae has routinely had a bit of bad luck when it came to her game releases. You see the first game (the one I’m reviewing) sadly came out just as the GBC was on its last legs, so it’s rather rare to get a hold of, so much so that when ‘Half Genie Hero’ was on kickstarter – physical copies of the GBC game were one of the highest rewards. (no I don’t have one).
A planned sequel was to come out on the GBA BUT that was cancelled as the GBA was being replaced by the DS, so her next adventure didn’t come out till part way through the DS’s life as a DSi game (basically down loadable game for the DSi) The next planned game ‘Pirates Curse’ was in development for some time and we were starting to get a little annoyed, then kickstarter happened with Half Genie Hero and re releases of Risky’s Revenge (the DSi game) and she was out in the open. Then Pirates Curse came out and we loved it. Half Genie Hero turned out lovely.
But now it’s time to talk about her first game because someone realized they should release this as a virtual console game so people can actually play it.
Shantae is a side scrolling platforming action/dungeon exploring game. Best way I could describe it is take a 2D Zelda game, but replace the top down perspective with side scrolling – makes sense especially when you get to the dungeons. You play as the titular character Shantae a half human half genie guardian of Scuttle Town, when suddenly the town is attacked by pirates led by Risky Boots. Shantae must find that which Risky is after to stop her from making a steam engine powered army and rule the 7 seas. Yes the 4 dungeons in the game contain that which you’re looking for hence my reference to Zelda earlier. So yeah you’re playing a purple hair bronzed skinned half genie in a belly dancing outfit who defeats foes using her long hair to whip enemies, or some expensive limited use weapons. Oh and you can transform into animals by belly dancing… which you learn how to do in the dungeons thus letting you progress (once again like Zelda).
Much like a Zelda game you’re often going from place to place collecting things in the non dungeon world and meeting people in the numerous towns, in fact it may surprise people who play the later games that the characters Sky and Rottytops (best girl) play relatively minor but important roles.
I actually find the start of the game notably more difficult than later parts as Shantae’s hair is a lot shorter in this game meaning you have to get closer with greater risk. Also having to face legions of enemies just to get to the second town was rather annoying. On contrast the first dungeon is easier (once I realized I could run). This does mean as you play you feel a lot less vulnerable and not just because you can then get transformations that you can use to explore through and get more upgrades and secret goodies.
The final boss was the only part I found challenging after a while, and that was more trying to work out what the hell to do, though I refer only to the penultimate one as the real final boss, I just used transformations and powers to cheese it he he he he.
Shantae is an enjoyable game, though I do think her later outings with Pirates Curse and Half Genie Hero are better but compared to a lot of other early examples of IPs this is a surprisingly decent one, better than Zelda’s. Heres hoping Shantae gets even more game appearances.