Friday, June 9, 2017

Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero (NSW) Review

The latest Shantae game has made its way to the Nintendo Switch after becoming available several months ago on other platforms.  While I didn't get to review that release, I was very happy to review this one.  Mostly because, after Shovel Knight, I learned the Switch was a good platform for this type of game, and Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero shows why.

I mostly used the 4-button d-pad on the Joycon, and for 2D movement, it worked great.  Shantae's normal moves felt controlled and precise.  I really like the Switch's 4-button d-pad, even though I didn't think I would.  Jumping and attacking was also very responsive.  The only parts where I found the analog stick was better was while swimming in the mermaid form.  Especially the start of the last stage.

The concept and game flow is fairly similar to before.  You have to go to various places and collect something or other to advance the plot.  The areas felt smaller than in previous games, and it also felt like there was less to explore.  Most areas allow you to save after and before moving on to the next, which is nice.  If you fall down a pit, you are sent back to the last of those, or the last door you went in.  This made some parts a pain to do, especially the auto scrolling bits.  They made sense in context, but I still don't like those parts in games.  Didn't back in the day, and that hasn't changed.  I will say this excludes the shmup section, since I love that genre.

Platforming difficulty seems more balanced than the previous game.  Yes, there are some tough bits, but the hard one near the end isn't nearly as bad as the one at the end of Pirate's Curse.  Also the boss fights got easier.  Maybe it's the multitude of healing items, but I didn't use them often.  Before you had to learn their patterns, and now it is much easier to just power through them.  Yes, that will turn some people off, but I appreciate it because I can play and enjoy the game, but see areas to improve if I want to invest the time.

The beginning of 1/2 Genie Hero is harder than previous games, mostly because of the low starting health.  If you get a game over, it sends you back a bit, but doesn't refill health, making it harder to progress sometimes.  Bosses don't drop health increases like they used to, so you have to find them in the wild.  I was struggling through the first and second dungeon, but once I increased my max health, I didn't run into trouble dying (but I still fell into pits).

My problem with the game flow is how much they send you back to previous areas.  In most games in the genre, you return with more abilities to get an item or two, but a lot of the secrets and items are left up to your discretion.  Not so in 1/2 Genie Hero.  They are helpful in hinting at where you need to go.  Even so, I want to return to previous areas because I want to get items, less so because the game requires me to.  It's not a deal breaker, but it's not a choice I prefer.  It's probably to pad the game time, since it took me just over 7 hours to beat the game with 94% of the items.  That was after wasting chunks of time looking for things I couldn't find.  At least I know what areas I needed, since the map is great about showing what is available to find.

Shantae gets a lot more dances than she's ever had before, some much more useful than others.  The bat transformation and the warp dance are much more valuable than they initially appear to be.  There's also a harpy one that lets you fly.  It sadly controls terribly, which makes a part near the end a huge pain to deal with.  As for upgrades and spells, Shantae has her usual assortment.  Yay, pike ball!  Thankfully money is much easier and consistent to come by than previous entries, so the upgrades felt much more evenly spaced.

Overall, I really liked Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero.  It has some improvements over the previous games, even if I think it forces you back to the same area too many times.  While it's only about 7 hours for the first playthrough, it's appropriate for the genre and price, and there is an unlockable mode if you are so inclined.  Plus, the art and animation are still top-notch and beautiful.  Action/platformer fans should definitely check it out.

The Good:
Very fluid and precise controls on the Switch.  Looks great, too.

The Bad:
Forced, multiple retreads of areas.

The SaHD:
The Grandma Blobfish and the palette swap lines were very funny.

(Review code for Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero was provided by the publisher)

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