Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Costume Pack)

This is the third time I’ll be talking about the 2D platfomer by Wayforward, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Why? Because there’s more DLC. I would hope that you either checked out the first part reviewing the base game or are familiar with it before continuing. I may reference the DLC packs from the second part a bit, but not enough to invalidate this one if you’re just curious about the costume pack specifically. This costume pack consists of three new outfits for Shantae to wear, but it’s more than just new skins for Half-Genie Hottie. Each one comes with its own new set of abilities. There’s Ninja Mode where Shantae dresses up as a an adorable ninja, Officer Mode where she dresses up like some kind of futuristic cyber cop… thing… that I think is based on the Switch Force series of games by the same developer but I’m not familiar enough to fully confirm or deny such, and of course there’s Beach Mode where you play a Shantae in beach attire. So let’s just go in the order I played this and start with Ninja Mode. Do you… think there’s such a thing as cutejutsu? If so, she mastered that long before this mode came out. What? Oh right, the review. Sorry. For real this time.

So in Ninja Mode you not only dress the part of a ninja too attractive to ever blend into the shadows, you also play more like one too! You have increased movement speed and attack with a sword. You can throw ninja-themed projectiles that consume magic as well. You have the ability to cling to and jump off of walls. Most importantly, you have the ability to use a technique known as Ninja Vanish. Pressing the appropriate button will cause Shantae to disappear and then reappear in the same spot you were standing once you let go again. You can also hold a direction before pressing it to teleport a short distance that way, even in the middle of a jump! While invisible you are also invincible but the teleports cannot be indefinitely held as the stationary form of the ability. You don’t get any upgrades but you do have a leveling system similar to the Friends to the End pack. You increase your level by collecting gems and lose them when hit. As your level increases you deal more damage with your sword, swing your sword faster, and toss more projectiles per throw. Other than health and magic refills, there are no items to get other than the secret squids. Each stage contains three of these in hidden or hard-to-reach places. Collect them all to get a bonus image at the end of the campaign. The plot is simply that Shantae’s new ninja outfit has arrived along with a scroll giving her instructions on how to become a ninja master, which she uses as an excuse to replay altered stages from the main game and fight the same bosses, but with a dose of new monologue and dialogue thrown in. It’s a linear experience that does allow you to select previous stages for replay but ditches the hub world and map select. After all, this mode does boast about being more arcade-style.

The new dialogue and monologue are actually pretty good. Who knew Shantae was this funny all by herself? Just one more reason she’s working her way into my heart. The outfit sure doesn’t hurt either. The shadows never looked so sexy. There’s even a sweet new tune that plays when reading your ninja scroll. So the stuff around the gameplay is already nice, but the gameplay itself is actually really interesting. The extra speed feels so satisfying. Being able to become invincible and teleport around on the fly really makes me want to be flashy, take some risks, and cut everyone down without skipping a beat. The boss fights are really fun despite the enemy patterns being the same. Using the new set of abilities just breathes some new life into the affair. It’s awesome. Although, I’m not a big fan of the leveling system. I’d rather it just be a fixed, consistent set of skills and damage. Some of the parts where you need to teleport are finicky. If you don’t teleport the right distance and angle and time… you might miss a target and die in a tougher section. It also lacks the progression of abilities or aide of items that I liked in the main game. Not much for exploration either, really. And of course, rehashing the same levels slightly altered and the exact same boss fights might turn you off if you wanted something more fresh than that. Still, even with the reasonable gripes, I found myself really enjoying this campaign. It was the breath of fresh air the bonus remixed content needed to keep me from being bored and annoyed. Besides, when Shantae says “Ninja Vanish” my heart melts a little.

Officer Mode is pretty simple in both plot and mechanics. You’re just an intergalactic police officer out trying to arrest space hooligans that have escaped from prison. I know they’re adorable, but they’re criminals and they MUST be brought to justice… at least if you want to get 100% completion for the bonus image. So they are scattered throughout the levels much in the fashion the dream squids would be in Ninja Mode. You, of course, find yourself on familiar grounds and encountering the game’s bosses yet again while they are up to no good. No one is above the law… not even in space. The mechanics are also rather simplified. You can jump, shoot, and use a switching ability. Jumping and shooting is as you’d expect, but the switch button will switch all of the special switch blocks in a level between their active and dormant state. This leads to both puzzle solving and combat tactics and it can be done in the fly with a very slight pause during the actual switching. You will need these to traverse the levels, apprehend the space hooligans, and even fight the bosses. You can also push out the blocks with the switch button to instantly eliminate enemies that occupy that space, but you can also knock yourself out in the same manner and lose some health upon respawning at your last checkpoint. Once again you only get three hearts for the whole affair, but you do have some decent durability with your armored body. There’s no magic to speak of, but you can get gems to level up your gun. You can only have three shots on screen at any given time, a la Mega Man, but upgrading it can give you a spread of three pellets per shot, a big blast per shot, and a triple blast spread at max level. Getting hit will knock gems out of you and downgrade your gun if you lose enough. That’s about it for the mechanics.

The thing is, that’s part of what makes it so awesome. It’s simple but very effective. Using ranged attacks as your primary form of fighting is a significant change that you can adjust to by understanding the enemies and their capabilities from the main game. The switching mechanic is such a fun little twist on the gameplay too. I loved using it to explore the levels and be extra aware of my own positioning. Using it to block enemies, dodge their attacks, and slam them into the screen with their missteps felt really awesome. There are some sections where you need to keep moving or time your jumps and switches that definitely pushed my skills with this mechanic. It just felt so fun because it was a simple concept that was used in lots of fun ways to master. It even came in handy for some of the boss fights. You need to use it to block the attacks of the Giga Mermaid while also using it to get shots in on her. It was great! Getting the space hooligans was a fun change to the dream squids as it actually had some story purpose… even if they were optional. Did I mention they are adorable? This mode also has all new music for each level and section, and this music is awesome. I was almost more excited to go to each new level to hear the new tunes than to play the game… almost. I jammed in the desert for far too long. Now I want an extra physical soundtrack with all of these new tracks, damn it! I don’t have much for complaints. It’s another rehashing of old assets, but it’s done in such an interesting and fun new way that I thought it actually worked this time. I can see how you might disagree though. Also, the bonus image you get is so barely different than the normal one that it’s not worth trying to get outside of it being fun to get the space hooligans. And the leveling system of the gun is still not my cup of tea. I think the dialogue could’ve used a bit more work here. It was wasn’t bad but it seemed more business and secondary to the action, which is a fine trade but still a little disappointing after how good it was in Ninja Mode. Oh well. It’s overall a really enjoyable change of the game. There’s enough change in the gameplay and the fun switching concept made it surprisingly engaging despite this being my fifth time through the game. That’s definitely saying something.

Beach Mode has Shantae ready for a vacation and some fun in the sun. She’s off to find the best beach in all of Sequin Land and she hasn’t forgotten a single thing… except her sunscreen. So you once again play through familiar levels and fight familiar bosses that are all tweaked to suit your abilities. You still have most of Shantae’s normal abilities, but now you swim extra fast, use gems to level up your attack and special attack, and your special attack using magic spikes a beach ball around that can bounce off of the boundaries of the screen and obstacles while doing damage to your foes. You also have the ability to surround yourself in a bubble that will allow you to float upwards for a limited time until it disappears, pops on contact, or is broken by your own button press. Hitting the bubble button again will pop it and drop you down while hitting the jump button will have you popping up out of the bursting bubble. You’ll also notice that you have a sun meter in the bottom corner. This constantly rises and if it fills all the way up you’ll slowly lose your life thanks to sunburn. This is where the sunscreen comes in. Sunscreen will show up at some fixed locations in the levels and respawn there at regular intervals for you to keep bringing your meter back down. You can also jump into some water in a pinch. The bosses only drop sunscreen at a few fixed times during their different moves but ultimately function about the same. Are you a bad enough babe to find the best beach?

The bubble mechanic is interesting and the sunscreen mechanic does keep you in a back and forth of using caution to keep near a known sunscreen location and aggression to get to the next one. The levels are somewhat fun to navigate when they are precision-based. You need a steady flow and understanding of the mechanics to make it through, and don’t underestimate how useful that beach ball can be. Also, I think it goes without saying, but Shantae is a fucking dream in that beach outfit. But this mode was easily the most infuriating and bullshit of them all. Constantly backtracking to previous sunscreen is annoying, as is moving so fucking slowly through each section which only makes you need to backtrack more often in order to conserve your health. But blasting ahead to reach the next unknown sunscreen location puts you into a rushed panic that usually ends up getting you hurt in the process of trying to get the sunscreen to keep from getting hurt. So you need to be very familiar with these layouts and very precise about everything. The dream squids only further the annoyance to the point where I pretty much just used the stage select exploit of selecting the same stage I was on right after getting each one so that I wouldn’t lose them from unexpected or cheap deaths. The bosses are the worst offenders. You only get sunscreen during certain parts of each phase. Sometimes you get too many too close together and grabbing them early will screw you over for the long drought ahead of you, which means you’ll often die to the sun rather than the boss itself. Other times you just aren’t given any sunscreen due to some poor luck, imposing an unintentional time limit on the encounter as a whole. And with no ways to reliably cool off, heal yourself on the fly, or increase either of these meters through some type of progression… prepare to to be pissed off as you hope for a perfect run and some good luck. I got so upset that I didn’t even finish this mode. I was about 80% of the way there, but what was the point of finishing? A few images of Shantae in beach clothes is not enough to endure the genuine frustration and disappointment. I wasn’t motivated to beat a challenge. I was just discouraged by tedium and bullshit. Whether it gets better, worse, or stays the same was totally irrelevant by that point. Besides, with all the other times I’ve run through the game, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m missing out on at this point. It’s a hardcore task, not a challenge. You have to want it.

Overall, for eight bucks this costume pack is well worth it for even the fun two out of three campaigns. Who knows? You might even like them all! As long as one is good then you should be satisfied. It’s a great way to play through a lot of the same stuff in a different, more interesting way rather than simply a more difficult one. It’s not about being harder. It’s about adding variety. It’s the spice of life. And Shantae in a variety of outfits is both highly spicy and also IS life. I’d recommend this pack as your second one after Pirate Queen’s Quest because it still lacks some of the weight of progression or story, but it more effectively switches up the gameplay in a fun manner than Friends to the End. Besides, you know you wanna peek at her in all those outfits. Don’t lie. Which part of Shantae was YOUR favorite? How would you rank the DLC packs? Do you think it’s all worth it or are you just going to get the cheaper Ultimate Edition instead? I mean… it includes all of this AND a bit more so… I wouldn’t fault you for it. But hey, some of us don’t have fancy computers or newfangled game systems to work with. I’m okay with what I’ve done as it was the only way to get more of what is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorite game characters of all time. If you want to judge me on that then that just shows how jealous you are. Or it shows that I’m a freak. Hell, maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s both.

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