Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a 2D platformer developed by WayForward and just so happens to have some downloadable content. This review is a continuation of my original review on the base game and will assume you either have seen that review already or have knowledge of the base game before reading on. As of right now, only two DLC campaigns are available to the general public so I’ll hit them both. One is the Pirate Queen’s Quest, an alternate story happening alongside the events of the main game allowing you to play through the exploits of the antagonist Risky Boots. The other is the Friends to the End campaign that has you switching between the side characters Sky, Bolo, and Rottytops as you make your way through a nightmare realm inside corrupted Shantae’s mind. Let’s start where I first started and go from there.
So the plot of Pirate Queen’s Quest is essentially the same as the main game. You’re gathering components to build the Dynamo. However, as Risky you are gathering components to make it turn Shantae into an evil genie while she collects the functional parts during her campaign. You do this by going to the same locations from the main game as Risky Boots. The difference is that Risky has a different set of skills and the levels have been redesigned slightly in order to make traversing them possible yet challenging with these new skills in mind. Right out of the gate Risky can run, jump, duck, and swing her sword to attack. She can also switch between three types of projectiles. She has infinite of her main pistol shot but a limited amount of homing missiles and spread shots. You still explore levels in a somewhat linear fashion and need to retrace your steps later to get all the secrets. There are basically two main types of collectibles in these levels. There are the genie crystals which are required to access the final level, and dark magic which allows you to upgrade your equipment. You obtain this equipment, along with the main Dynamo components, from beating the bosses. This equipment generally helps you traverse the levels more easily and access more of the dark magic and genie crystals on previous levels. The upgrades make these items even more useful as they can be upgraded three times each in any order you see fit. You can even upgrade your inherent abilities like your sword and your ability to call in tinkerbats to fight for you. You can also select to play all but the final level in any order you wish as well. You will return to a main menu screen after each level and can exit anytime by using the pirate flare in your inventory. Upon replaying a level you can select which part of the level to enter. You can also collect inventory items that will heal you in a pinch. Once you have all of the components and genie crystals you can go to the final level and have a final showdown with Shantae.
I do enjoy the more open nature of this campaign. It’s nice to go where I want so specifically when I want and to upgrade what I see fit. It retains the main balance of exploration and linearity of the main campaign while streamlining these elements and making it different enough to be interesting. I also prefer the equipment usage of adding to your main abilities as opposed to needing transformations. It makes every new acquisition feel like forward progress rather than some side utility. The redesigns of levels make them interesting and challenging enough to go through again and fighting the bosses is certainly interesting with your different set of abilities. Also… I think I’d be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t mention that the main menu between levels has Risky in a bubble bath. I’ll… just let that soak in for a moment. Heh heh. Get it? S… soak? Those bubbles will pop eventually, right? Anyway, the campaign does go by at a fairly brisk pace without much fluff between, which is nice since so much is reused content to start with.
Of course, the reused parts are certainly part of the problem. I was hoping for some dungeons like in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Or just some new levels to play through instead. I would’ve preferred a few new levels rather than so many altered versions of the existing ones. Even if they used the same visual assets I’d really rather something more original and truly tailored for the character. New bosses or new forms of the bosses at least would’ve been appreciated as well. It largely feels like a more tacked on mode than a truly unique campaign.
That being said, I do find it a decent enough offering for the price tag of ten bucks. It’s an additional mode, not really a full on campaign. And it certainly is more enticing to me than the hard or hero modes of the base game as far as continued play goes. I wouldn’t call it a must-buy, but if you’re a big Shantae fan than you probably won’t be too disappointed with what you get in this one.
The Friends to the End campaign is similar in many ways, but the plot is quite different. This one takes place at the point in the story where Shantae has been turned evil. Originally we just saw Sky, Bolo, and Rottytops encourage Shantae in a short scene and she snaps out of it. This campaign goes into more detail as to the events that took place in order to do this. It turns out that the three were in face drawn into a portal into Shantae’s mind in an attempt to pull her out of the evil magic’s corruption. Reluctantly working towards the same goal at first, the trio explore and fight their way through Shantae’s memories while learning to work together in order to overcome the dark side of her mind.
The gameplay is quite different here. You can swap between the three characters at any point while standing. Each one has their own abilities, magic meter, and level but share one health bar. Sky can hang in the air for a short time while holding the jump button in order to clear longer distances. Her main attack is projectile birds that deal little damage but can go through enemies and walls as well as return like boomerangs to deal damage going both ways. Her special ability allows her to throw eggs that can then be hatched into temporary platforms by pressing the button again. These will disappear after so much cumulative time without anyone standing on them. Only one can be active at a time. Her magical ability creates an orbiting wheel of birds that can damage nearby enemies but slowly drains her magic meter over time. Bolo’s main attack is a mid-range ball and chain attack that deals decent damage. His special ability is a hook that can grapple onto not only the standard aerial rings but also covered ones that cannot be grabbed normally. He can then swing on them and let go to launch himself at greater distances and heights. His magical ability is the Bolo ball which acts like the standard pike ball bouncing off of walls until it disappears or hits a target. Rottytops attacks with a short-range swipe of her own leg as a melee weapon dealing high damage. Her special ability allows her to toss her head at a variety of angles in order to safely bypass obstacles and enemies. Her body will reappear wherever her head lands provided it does not end up falling down a bottomless pit or lands in an instant death trap. Her magical ability can heal the team’s health bar but consumes half of her magic meter each time.
These abilities must be used consecutively or simultaneously to get through all of the levels. The levels and bosses are once again recycled as they are based on the memories of what Shantae has experienced in the main game up until this point. Only a final set of levels made specifically for each individual character alone are brand new along with an opening tutorial section for each. Each character has a character level of 1-4 which is increased by collecting gems and decreased when taking damage. This indicates how powerful their main attack will be along with slight attributes of it. There is no main hub or menu area this time around. Instead, to replay sections of levels you must pause and select them from a simple list. This list will also show how many secret squids you’ve collected in any given area. Each area contains 3 and collecting them all goes towards completion percentage. After beating all of the levels and defeating Nega-Shantae you will win the game.
This one certainly has a lot more going for it in terms of making gameplay different. You really need to get comfortable with switching characters often and on the fly to get the most out of it. Swinging around on the rings was fun and some of the puzzle-esque platforming parts switching between Sky to make platforms and Rottytops to make extra distance were clever. It was tough to get all the secret squids too. And by far I found the bosses the most interesting challenge as you have very limited health and your abilities are so different that it takes a lot to tackle these sons of bitches. Though I must admit I had the most fun going through the ending nightmare realm sections made for each character solo. It just felt like it more tightly designed in these sections.
However, I’m not a big fan of this campaign in general. The recycled content is harder to swallow when it’s the third time seeing these things. It’s awkward switching characters constantly just to do one action and then switch to another for the next. Rather than having separate routes where different characters shine you just need to keep passing the baton to get through the linear levels. It’s almost like these characters are made for puzzle mechanics but are being shoved into action gameplay where it just doesn’t translate. It’s too much stopping and thinking for an action game. The flow is kind of destroyed. It also fails to give an incentive to explore as the secret squids do literally nothing other than go towards the 100% completion rate. What does that do? Just unlocks pictures. So there’s no real progression of characters. The levels you get from gems keep getting knocked out of you and max out fairly low. You don’t get any new abilities or increased stats like health or magic. There’s not even any inventory here for mid-level heals. So it’s sometimes more difficult than fun or intuitive.
Essentially, this is the mode for players looking for more of a linear, old-school challenge. It can be interesting, but if you know the levels and bosses by now then it’ll test your limits more than it’ll try to give you something new or exciting. It’s only worth the eight bucks if you’re a big fan and want that challenge. Otherwise I find this one rather easy to pass up.
So considering these two, I’d say get Pirate Queen’s Quest first and play that before attempting Friends to the End. Collectively they bring the price of the game to around 40 bucks. That’s still cheaper than most brand new games but the content seems to give diminishing returns. It’s not a bad price, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a steal. The base game is well worth the price and tacking on Pirate Queen’s Quest is enough for me. Only big fans should purchase Friends to the End and know what they are getting into. As far as DLC goes… it could be better. Though it seems like this may be the last of it. That’s a bit of a shame, but if more DLC would be like thing then I’d rather just see a new Shantae game come out instead. What do you guys think? Also… I’m hella bummed that Sky and Rottytops didn’t makeout at the end of that campaign. Trust me, Risky in the tub is worth the price of admission by itself. Maybe all three in the tub and… er… I’ll continue this in my head and spare you all the details.