This is potentially one of the best DSiWare games I've played. I've wanted to play it for quite some time and recently picked it up because it looked sleek, and I like sleek things, but I obviously don't like them enough to drop money for it – I didn't play Shantae until I learned my brother had it. I picked it up from him though, you'd better believe it. This is why it is fantastic:
Shantae was originally released on the Game Boy Color in 2002. Despite being released late into the Game Boy Color's life cycle, its success was strong enough to warrant a sequel known as Shantae: Risky's Revenge, a DSiWare title released in 2010.
Risky's Revenge does a great job of immediately setting an overall whimsy tone, but it's also a bit rough around the edges (quite literally). Before we get into that, however, it's worth sharing the plot, even if it is fairly simplistic.
We begin the game in Scuttle town, a relatively quiet place that our hero, Shantae, calls home. She and her friends attend the annual Relic Hunter Expo, where Uncle Mimic unveils what appears to be an ordinary lamp encased in stone. Before Shantae and friends could inquire about Mimic's latest find, the infamous Risky Boots crashes the expo and steals the lamp. Before the battle for the lamp could begin, Shantae is knocked out and the vindictive pirate escapes with the treasure.
As a result of the destruction and chaos, the mayor of Scuttle Town fires Shantae as the town's guardian for failing to protect it. Despite losing her title as a "Guardian Genie," she assumes responsibility to stop Risky Boots' latest scheme.
This game plays a lot like the Megaman Zero series, which is of the same genre. The physics are similar, and the dashing sidestep is reminiscent of Zero's standard dash. However, that is where the similarities end. In Megaman Zero, you'd select a boss and fight through its stage until you find the boss and defeat it. Upon returning to base, you'd be able to unlock upgrades and abilities to assist in the rest of your journey.
Here, things are much different. Instead of selecting a boss, you're given a huge main area and you can explore it at will. For instance, Uncle Mimic may ask you to check out a dungeon in the forest, but when you're done you can revisit that area whenever you like. You might also go exploring and find hidden paths with puzzles that lead you to new areas! It's nice to retrace your steps and see what new secrets you can find.
Abilities are obtained in a unique way. Shantae begins the game with her hair as her only method of offense, but, as she progresses through the story she can earn two other abilities: belly dance transformations and magic. These are obtained by clearing dungeons and visiting the magic shop, which is all story driven.
This adds a lot of depth to the exploration. With each new belly dance transformation comes a new way to explore. For example, one of the transformations allows you to climb walls and fit into small spaces to uncover secret passageways and treasures. This is an interesting concept that encourages exploration.
Magic is another ability that adds variety to your arsenal and has varied effects. This means that you can use magic attacks such as fireballs to set your foes aflame, and while that might sound like a nice touch, in reality the secondary effects of magic only effect certain enemies.
You'll find that the use of your magic attacks consumes a small portion of your magic gauge. Refilling this gauge is fairly simple since enemies drop health and items that replenish it — and it refills itself over time, albeit slowly.
While this game encourages exploration, Shantae: Risky's Revenge has you guessing — which can be alleviated with chats with the townsfolk — and plane jumping, which is necessary to advance though the game.
Yes, plane jumping. In your standard platform game you have a linear path to explore. Here, however, you have planes. There are platforms on the ground with arrows on them, which allow the player to jump into the foreground or background of an area to explore it further. It is an interesting approach to exploration.
Visiting the town and chatting with the townsfolk is often the best way to figure out your next objective. The town is separated into three layers, the middle layer being filled with shops and the outer portions mostly used for advice. Unfortunately, the town has no signage. This is a problem because it makes it difficult to remember what door leads to the place you want to go, which would be nice information to have.
The levels are filled with mostly the same enemies, the occasional bottomless pit, and many passageways for you to take. Health drops may seem a bit too gratuitous — seriously, they're everywhere — and there aren't any real ramifications for ignoring the enemies outside of dungeons. What's more, health and magic can be found inside of breakable vases. While this might not seem like a big deal, advanced players will likely find themselves on a cakewalk.
Although there may be problems, no doubt, Shantae: Risky's Revenge sets up a gorgeous world and gives you the freedom to explore it at will.
This is a must play title, as long as you're prepared to pay $11.99 and be glued to your 3DS for several hours. It's an enjoyable experience over all, and extremely satisfying to make discoveries with smooth animations and an excellent soundtrack. Shantae is getting her first feel for things since her first outing on the Game Boy Color, but even if it is a bit wavering, it is certainly worth experiencing.
Shantae: Risky's Revenge captures the spirit of adventure and will have you exploring for hours. Its intermediate difficulty might bore some gamers, but those who stick around will find the most opulent world, filled with unique characters and resonating with a remarkably outstanding soundtrack. Its hair heavy combat and lack of direction aren't its strongest attributes — and its short length might disappoint some — but if you're looking to expand your DSiWare library, it's a must have.