Released in December 2016, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero released on every major console at the time. Half-Genie Hero took what previous games had and built on/ simplified many different elements. Being the fourth game in the series, many fans had high expectations of this game. While the reviews were lower than Pirate’s Curse, Half-Genie Hero still did very well with many fans. WayForward’s first step into HD for this series created a fresh start for the series while maintaining the what people loved of the original game.
In the past, WayForward developed many licensed games. With games such as Ducktails Remastered, many of their published games were great. Original games on the other hand, had issues when it came to funding. In September 2013, WayForward announced that they started a Kickstarter for Half-Genie Hero. As the Shantae series had become a favorite among many gamers; Half-Genie Hero quickly met and doubled the target goal with over 800 thousand within the first month. Kickstarter allowed the developers to create the game they envisioned without having to deal with the stress of finding funding. Fans of the game would fund the game that they were excited for.
The story of Half-Genie Hero is kind of a soft reboot to the series. Instead of following the plot of Pirate’s Curse, Half-Genie Hero is a new story that centers around Shantae’s genie half. As Shantae helps her Uncle, she picks up clues about her genie half and who her mom was. All while her nemesis, Risky Boots, has her own agenda of corrupting the magic for herself. While a bit disappointing that this game does not follow previous games, it was still a nice story that still drew in many gamers for a few hours of enjoyment.
Starting up the game, it is immediately apparent that Half-Genie Hero looks drastically different. Previous games used a pixel art style that worked extremely well with capturing the feel of a classic/indie platformer. Half-Genie Hero uses a more hand drawn style. From the jump from handheld consoles to current consoles, this game looks incredible. This was a nice change to the series as the creators had more fun with the characters and the environment. It also allowed the creators to use more vibrant colors in their game. Half-Genie Hero’s art style allowed the characters to make a change that would pay off in the long run.
Like previous games, Half-Genie Hero follows same general gameplay of the previous games. The player controls Shantae on a 2D environment and must run, jump, and hair whip to get through an area. After completing levels or doing certain tasks, Shantae gains different animal transformations to help with different aspects of traversal. While the enemies and the exploration are standard for a Metroidvania type game; many of the boss battles in game offered a nice amount of challenge with different mechanics to utilize.
Magic in this game takes the role of the transformation. However, there are some spells that can be used in the field. Fire balls can be used to shoot far off enemies and can eventually be upgraded into a flamethrower. While the pikeball creates a shield around Shantae that can damage enemies. These spells use an amount of the magic meter and of course are unable to be used if empty. Of course, once a certain item is obtained, Shantae will have access to unlimited magic. This can be abused to get through certain areas with minimal effort.
Shantae’s first step into home consoles proved to be a largely successful one. While Pirate’s Curse had more positive reviews, many still found it to be one of the better platformers of 2016. With everything the creators did to maintain the feel of Shantae in a new style, this was a nice reboot to the series.