Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – PC
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: WayForward Technologies
Release Date (WW): July 15th, 2014
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Once upon a time, back in ye olden days of 2002, a little-known developer known as WayForward Technologies published a gem of a game known as Shantae for the Game Boy Color. Unfortunately for dear WayForward, just a year before the Game Boy Advance had been released, almost nobody had been paying attention to the now-outdated Color system. WayForward didn’t give up on Shantae, though. For years they struggled to come up with a worthwhile sequel for their IP. Shantae Advance never left the development stage, but elements of it were incorporated into today’s game, released in 2010 to DSiWare and ported to PC with some upgrades in 2014: Shantae: Risky’s Revenge.
As a sequel, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge does a good job recapping the events of the previous game and getting new players up to date, making the game a good jumping on point for players new to the series. The plot itself is largely a light-hearted affair, with Shantae trying to beat Risky to the punch collecting magic artifacts to stop her from using a magic lamp to do… whatever it is Risky’s planning to do. While there are some serious moments, particularly towards the end, it’s a fun romp through the world of Sequin Land.
Our heroine, Shantae, is a fairly likeable character all-around, though she is a bit impulsive. She wears her emotions on her barely-existent sleeves, and that’s not a bad thing. Far too often, you’ll see people try to play up the image of a stone-cold badass as what a strong female character should be, but that’s not what makes a good female character, because that’s not what makes a good character at all. Women are people just like men, just as varied, complex, and yes, emotional. Shantae laughs, she cries, she gets angry… and for it, she’s a better-written character. While she is a little irresponsible, she’s dedicated and wants to do the right thing regardless of the risk.
The villain of the title, Risky Boots, returns from the previous game as well, holding a grudge against Shantae for defeating her last time. A pirate queen of the seven seas, Risky is very greedy but also very quick to act on her ambitions. The game’s plot truly starts when she swipes the Magic Lamp from Scuttle Town’s local archaeologist, Mimic. She gives off an air of both confidence and competence, portraying a woman who really could be the leader of a wide-spread menacing crew. Unfortunately, the player only gets to see her a few times between her boss fight at the start of the game and the endgame itself; she only appears for a brief banter with Shantae after each dungeon.
Risky’s Revenge is one of those PC ports with clunky keyboard controls, understandably so as the DSi controls don’t really translate all that cleanly to a keyboard. Fortunately for those of you who find it unmanageable, Risky’s Revenge comes equipped with gamepad support, so you can plug in your pad of choice and play it that way… except for one awkward fact, persistent on both versions of the game. For most who play games outside of Japan, the lowermost face button (A for Xbox, X for Playstation, etc) is confirmation and the right face button (B, O) is cancel. Risky’s Revenge reverses this, despite the controls otherwise being very intuitive. It’s best to just adjust to this annoyance and move on, as reversing the buttons will cause its own problems.
Shantae is a half-genie, and as you might expect from that, magic comes into play in her abilities and combat style. The basic attack involves Shantae whipping her hair back and forth to smack an enemy in the face. The store lets you purchase three items which draw on Shantae’s magic meter with every use. There’s the Fireball, a straightforward projectile that can inflict damage over time after the initial strike; the Pike Ball, up to three weaponized orbs that circle Shantae and drain her magic until they’re cancelled; and the Storm Puff, an awkward little cloud that you can whip into position before it starts spamming lightning bolts for a few seconds. Shantae has a spinning backdash to help her avoid enemy attacks, and finally there’s the iconic Transformation Dances.
In the original Shantae, our heroine could do belly dancing on stage to raise money, but she’d also learn several dances throughout the game that let her take on new forms to traverse the land. Risky’s Revenge retains the latter, but because Shantae’s been slacking on her dancing lessons, she’s forgotten all of her transformations and must find them anew. Returning are the monkey and elephant forms, which allow Shantae to climb walls and crush rocks respectively, but instead of a spider or harpy form, Shantae can now learn to become a mermaid and roam the seas.
Now, some of you may be getting a Castlevania feeling from all of this, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Risky’s Revenge is very much a game in the Metroidvania style, and in my opinion, she combines the best of both Belmont and Alucard styles. She can whip with her hair and backdash, has potions for health and magic, has several sub-weapons, and she can transform to explore the whole of Sequin Land. What’s not to love, really?
To answer my own question, that’d be the length of the game, and perhaps the size of Sequin Land itself. As it was on release, it was a small game with only one town, three dungeons and the overworld to go through before you’re staring down the endgame. While I personally found it a satisfying package, short but sweet, it may leave many wanting more, especially since the original concept for Shantae Advance had more than double this amount, along with a multiplayer battle mode and six minigames.
While it doesn’t deliver on all of that, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut, the port for PC, does extend the gameplay and fix minor issues in the game. The primary draw of this port is Magic Mode, an alternate style of play unlocked by beating the game once. Magic Mode gives Shantae a new, blue and gold costume, that reduces the amount of magic she expends on items while increasing the damage taken from attacks. The PC port also adjusts the game’s warp points, the Warp Pedestals. In the DSi release, each Warp Pedestal was linked to one other, and could only transport you to that one; now you can move back and forth from any one to any other, assuming you’ve unlocked it to begin with.
My only remaining major complaint, and something that I was disappointed to find did not get fixed in the PC port, is that enemy spawns are a little buggy. You can easily farm enemies for money to help buy upgrades, but scrolling enemies back onto the screen is a bit of an understatement. With the right (or perhaps wrong) positioning, you can cause duplicates to spawn and quickly end up with a whole crowd you’ll have to whip into place.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is a two-dimensional game, with beautiful sprites and portraits to match the lovingly-crafted gameplay. The sprites definitely look and feel like graphics made with a portable system in mind, though they don’t look bad at all on PC, and the portraits used are professional-looking with lots of variety and an iconic, yet sometimes anime-esque style to them. A charming collection of graphics, with no confusion about what’s what and a good fit between the graphics and the mood of the game.
Those starting up the game for the first time may want to go into the options menu and switch the display to full screen or stretched display, however; the default setting, Original Size, leaves substantial black borders around the screen once you leave the start-up menus and enter the game itself. Luckily, this is easily fixed.
Much like the half-genie guardian of Scuttle Town herself, almost every track of the game’s soundtrack is full of energy. Whether you’re dancing in the desert, crawling through caves or jumping in the jungle, you’ll have an exciting jam to keep you company the entire way. Those songs that aren’t bringing that energy are usually those songs you’d expect to be more somber or imposing; sad moment songs, or those times where the villain’s coming out on top. Each song is tailor-made for its purpose, as well, leaving no doubt that it fits the area or mood it’s made for.
That said, the songs aren’t ones destined to stick in your head for a long time. They’re fun and enjoyable, but they could have more staying power; I’ve been listening to the OST while writing this review, and I can only really remember one or two of the songs.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is a good, fun game with a lot of heart. While it may not have done much to change up the series formula, what it did bring was a lot more character, an all-around tighter gameplay experience, and in general a lot more fun. It also revived the series after the dismal sales of the first game, paving the way for better things to come with Shantae & the Pirate’s Curse already released, and Shantae: ½ Genie Hero on the way. If you’re interested in the Shantae series, Risky’s Revenge is Ret-2-Go!
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