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Review: Shantae 1/2 Genie Hero (Switch)

As much as I loved playing this game for review back when it came out on Steam (You can read a backup of that review here), I couldn’t get myself to play Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero on my laptop that often. I’m rather selective when it comes to playing games on computers; unless the games could only be played on one or feature special content not seen on consoles, I highly prefer playing games on a dedicated device. Much to my pleasant surprise, the folks at Wayforward were happy to deliver by releasing 1/2 Genie Hero on my current obsession, the Nintendo Switch. It’s possible they didn’t want Switch owners to miss out considering how late it arrived on the Wii U. Now that it’s here, though, Nintendo fans can revel in half-genie platforming greatness once again!

Story

The story in Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero can best be described as “episodic”. It’s really made up of a bunch of microplots with only the beginning and end really having any significant connections to each other. Admittedly, this is my least favorite aspect of the game since it suffers from a lack of focus. It also makes the assumption that you’ve played a game in the series before since it a lot of the characters know each other already and don’t do any introductions. Fortunately, the characters and dialogue interactions make up for the structure. Shantae and company are fun and hilariously written; the sense of humor ranges from goofy quips to comments mocking the video game industry. I wonder how many more years would pass before we finally get a Shantae animated series.

Graphics

I’m willing to bet Wayforward saw potential in their utilization of 2D and 3D elements in DuckTales: Remastered, because Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero is built off of that same visual foundation. With all due respect to their beautiful pixel art, this is one of the best-looking games they’ve ever put out. I already did see this as a work of art on Steam, but it somehow looks sharper on the Switch. Maybe it’s because my laptop doesn’t always run the game as smoothly as it demands. Regardless, every frame is crammed with detail and color, and the animations are constantly snappy and fluid. The sixty frames-per-second framerate continues to impress as well. No matter how intense the action gets, the framerate always remains consistent and super-smooth.

Audio

If there’s anything I had to nitpick about the music. The song “Dance Through the Danger” only ever plays during the first level. Other than that, I applaud the soundtrack wholeheartedly. Even long after I played the game months ago, I’ve often listened to some of the tracks at will due to how freakin’ addictive they are! I expect no less from a game by Wayforward. The sound effects are just as stimulating and impactful. Cristina Vee also deserves credit for providing little voice clips as some of the female characters in the game as well as singing the aforementioned “Dance Through the Danger”.

Gameplay

Man, does it feel good to play Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero on the Switch! The platformer nature of the game lends itself well to the conventions of handheld gaming should you want to play in the Switch’s portable mode. It’s also cool how the version provides support for the various ways one can use the Joy-Con controllers. The system’s trademark HD Rumble also plays a part in adding an effect to some of the gameplay interactions throughout the journey.

Anyway, Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero departs from the previous games by streamlining the Metroidvania formula they tend to follow. This honestly made this my favorite game in the series because I don’t have to worry about getting lost or losing my pace. I was able to enjoy the levels as the challenging obstacle courses they are. Each one is a lush imaginative venture platforming fans would be more than happy to play through. The multi-layered nature of the levels do imply that you must eventually backtrack to take advantage of newly received powers and the like. There are memorable set pieces and clear hints that are bound to steer players into the direction they desire.

Mechanically, the game feels like a lovely combination of Mega Man and Castlevania with plenty of its own elements in the midst of it all. Shantae controls tightly, and her transformations are fun to use. The sense of progression is evident as the player unlocks new powers and paths to travel upon. There’s a satisfaction to every little accomplishment in the game, whether it be collecting in-game currency, hitting enemies, finding areas, or clashing against a boss in a heated battle.

Verdict

Simply put, buy this game. It’s so great that I wrote two reviews talking about how great it is! That should say something. While the game may not introduce the characters to newcomers properly, it does provide the definitive starting point for the series thanks to its accessibility in its design. If you’re a fan of platformers at all, Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero is beyond worthy of your time. Thank you, Wayforward, and Happy 15th Anniversary to the Shantae franchise.

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