Although I Kickstarted this game and received a code from Way Forward, XSEED sent us review codes for the console version of this title.
Crowdfunded games are an interesting beast to tackle. For those that may remain new to the world of crowdfunded gaming, it's a term used for games that were funded by communities usually consisting of fans of a particular company or people that were impressed by the product's presentation. Through websites such as Kickstarter the funds are raised for the main product and then stretch goals may or may not be added. It doesn't necessarily make a game harder to review, yet you have to take into consideration if the end product is what was promised at the beginning of the crowdfunding campaign. So let's find out if Shantae: Half-Genie Hero was the promised product or snake oil.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero stars the belly dancing half-genie Shantae, guardian of Sequin Land. Once again, her arch nemesis Risky Boots decides to stir up trouble. With Shantae's home town once again in shambles due to a pirate attack, the mayor decides to fire her and seek out a new guardian genie. Never one to leave the protection of the world up to chance, her uncle sends her on a quest to find the parts to a machine that can protect the world permanently.
Gameplay wise everything is what you would expect from WayForward's hair whipping super star. While previous games were a bit more open ended in terms of exploration, this time around you have a hub world to select different levels. Shantae's signature transformation dances make a return. Throughout the game you learn different dances to transform into a monkey, an elephant, a mermaid and much more to navigate in between levels. Items called relics will also give Shantae particular buffs such as a faster hair attack, magic spells, or new abilities to her various transformations. Players will find themselves returning through levels once they gain new abilities to find new skills for Shantae or items to progress the story.
The game has plenty of pleasantry to the soundtrack. Each song compliments each stage's theme nicely. Whether I was in the Mermaid Falls, the Hypno Baron's castle or the magic carpet raceway everything felt thematically appropriate. WayForward is no stranger to artistic effort. The cartoon visuals mesh together well with gorgeous backdrops. There is some small bits of voice acting but it isn't for every line of dialogue, only for particular moments.
The Kickstarter campaign delivered exactly what was promised in the initial game as well as two stretch goal bonus chapters. At a later date a mode to play as the villain Risky Boots is in the works as well as costumes for Shantae that will give her different abilities to work with in the game from her normal moves. While the final amount of money raised was not updated on the main Kickstarter page, due to the extended PayPal funding RottyTops, Bolo and Sky modes are being worked on.
As far as notable cons this will depend on the gamer in question. At the time of writing this review I beat Shantae in five hours and fifty minutes with 80 percent of items in my collection. Beating the game unlocks hero mode; you play as Shantae once again only with all of your main transformation dances unlocked already. For some people this can be a bit of a short game. As said before there are plans for a mode where you play as the villain Risky Boots with her own individual story, or a story mode to play as Shantae's companions, yet we don't know when that's going to be available.
Morality wise Shantae is a magical genie so there is a lot of spell casting and magical themes in the game. Shantae's dark side makes an appearance though the love her friends have for her quickly revert her to normal. With the female characters keep in mind that Shantae is a belly dancer so her outfit consists of a bikini top and harem pants. Most of the female character's outfits also have that belly dancer feel to them. While I'd personally be ok with a ten year old playing it I would not allow my daughter to dress like Shantae for Halloween. Violence in this game is as the ESRB rating says, "cartoon." That being said Shantae is a very heroic character and can teach some good things such as working hard to be a hero with no thought of a reward and doing good things just because being good is the right thing to do. You'll find a quality experience in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero as you dance through the danger to make her world a happier place.