Great games are often overlooked for many reasons; although some may garner critical acclaim, the general gaming community may never take notice and great titles become commercial failures. Such is the case of the Game Boy Color game, "Shantae." While there are many reasons why the game may not have resonated with many gamers (it was released at the end of the handheld's life cycle, starred a very girly looking genie, etc.) one thing is very clear; outside of a devout group of fans, the game came and went with little attention paid to it.
That was nine years ago. Since then, WayForward Technologies has moved on to work on some of gaming's most cherished franchises, like "Contra" and "Batman." They also announced a Gameboy Advance sequel to "Shantae," but scrapped it. From the dust of that cancellation, arose an episodic DSi version that was eventually melded into one release, "Shantae: Risky's Revenge." This particular franchise has traveled a rocky road, but fortunately, this game is a pleasant light at the end of the tunnel for both WayForward and fans of the teenage genie.
Shantae, a young half-genie with magical hair, is the guardian of Scuttle Town, a quiet fishing village where she lives with her friends and family. During the town's annual Relics Hunters Expo Shantae's Uncle Mimic, a consummate treasure hunter, is presenting his most recent discovery to an assembled crowd when he comes under attack by Risky Boots, the mischievous pirate from the original "Shantae." Risky Boots steals Uncle Mimic's artifact, a lamp with mystical powers that can be unlocked when three magic seals are assembled. In order to protect Scuttle Town, Shantae sets out on a 2D platforming adventure to find the seals before Risky Boots, and put an end to her swarthy ways once and for all.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Gameboy Color's "Shantae" was that it was a great looking game, and pushed the tiny system's graphics to the max, and "Risky's Revenge" does the same thing for the DSi. Well, maybe the graphics aren't "pushed to the max," but, for a downloadable title, the game looks and sounds really great, with smooth animations and a wonderful soundtrack that create a world that's more vibrant than most games on the market today.
Tiny Island With Lots To Explore
"Risky's Revenge" is a straight-forward, 2D, action platformer, but the level of exploration that the game offers harkens back to the classic days of "Castlevania." While "Shantae" may not be as big as those old games (it should take five to six hours to complete), it definitely recreates the feeling accurately: as you unlock new items and abilities you'll be retracing your steps searching for new areas that you can access. On the flip side, whenever you start to send your player back over ground they've already covered you toe a fine line between creative and lazy, but WayFoward have created an entire game that manages to stay entirely on the creative side of the line.
Mighty Flipping Awards
WayForward continue to prove that they are never afraid to experiment with their tech, and do a little fan service at the same time. If you've purchased "Mighty Flip Champs," WayForward's other DSiWare game, you'll be able to unlock items in "Risky's Revenge" depending on how far you've progressed in that game. It's a nice little incentive for picking up two enjoyable games.
As Shantae works her way through the game she learns new abilities that allow her to transform into different animals (monkey, elephant and mermaid), all of which have unique skills that are vital to progressing through the game. However, in order to access them you need to hold down the X button and wait for your genie to cycle through a series of poses until she gets to the one that you need. Later in the game, when almost constant shape-shifting becomes of the essence, having to wait for Shantae to do her dance every time, and then hoping you don’t accidentally jump the gun and transform into the wrong animal gets old quickly.
Who Else Matters?
For such a bright and colorful world like Scuttle Town, the people in it sure are boring. Most of the NPCs that Shantae interacts with to progress the story forward are pretty dull, leaving some of the best lines in the game to the nameless characters wandering the streets of the city. It's not a huge drawback of the game, but it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity; unless you played the original, the characters in this game, other than Shantae, fall flat.
At 1200 DSiWare points, "Shantae: Risky's Revenge" is one of the most expensive games available on the platform, but it's well worth every penny. Fans of the original will instantly fall in love with the game, while newcomers will be able to get a taste of what a quality 2D side-scrolling adventure should be like. As long as gamers can get past playing a game as a teenage genie with magical hair, they'll be pleasantly surprised at just how deep the game is, especially for a downloadable title. There's a lot of games that come out each week for the DSi, but "Risky's Revenge" should easily find itself at the top of the heap.