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Review: Shantae: Risky's Revenge

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: E10 - Everyone (Ages 10 and up)
My Rating: Ages 10 and up
Genre: Metroidvania
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2014
Review Published On: May 5th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

You'll choose use one of three save slots to record your progress at the beginning of a new game. However, there is no autosave, so you'll need to talk to an old sage who will record your progress for you.

You can pause the game at any time by bringing up your inventory or the pause menu.

Summary of
Major Issues:

The biggest issue most parents will have with this game is its art style, which is much more suggestive than you'd expect for a game that was once on a Nintendo system.

Screenshots

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Exploring a dungeon

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Under the sea

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Flame Broiled Naga



Game Overview

Chances are, you might have heard about the Shantae games, as they're a popular Metroidvania series. The first game was, unfortunately, released on the Game Boy Color right as it being replaced by the Game Boy Advance, and so Shantae's first adventure was largely forgotten about. The second game in the series, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, was released as DSiWare, another format that has disappeared in the course of time. Thankfully, Wayforward ported this game to the PC in 2014, and from then on, the rest of the series has been available for the PC market, allowing waves of new fans to learn about Sequin Land and its unique inhabitants.

Our story goes something like this: Shantae, a half-genie, works to protect Scuttle Town from various monsters, pirates, and villainous types. After some quick training against the weak local monsters, she heads into town to visit the annual Relic Hunter's Expo, where Uncle Mimic is preparing to display a recently recovered artifact. However, things go sideways when the relic is revealed to be a small, ordinary lamp. Before anyone can explain what's going on, the dreaded pirate captain Risky Boots attacks the hall and steals the lamp from right under Uncle Mimic's nose.

This prompts the mayor of Scuttle Town to dismiss Shantae from her role as the town's guardian, as Risky Boots' attack demonstrates that she's not up to the task anymore. Understandably angry at the situation, Shantae wants to help, but Uncle Mimic tries to discourage her. True to form, he lets slip that the lamp's power was divided into three Magic Seals, and that these Magic Seals are currently in the hands of Sequin Land's notorious Barons. Thus, our heroine resolves to gather the Seals before Risky Boots can find them herself.

From this point on, the game is a fairly standard Metroidvania, as you'll be spending most of your time looking for the next item or ability in the sequence to progress the story. Combat will feature pretty heavily as well, since every screen has a number of respawning enemies for you to deal with. Of course, you're probably expecting Shantae to fight her battles with the incredible magical powers her genie half provides, but you'd be wrong. While she can learn and utilize a small number of magical spells, her main attack is to simply swat at enemies by whipping her long hair in their direction.

This doesn't mean she lacks supernatural abilities though. Her real magic is the power of DANCE: after discovering the relevant Magic Fountain, she can use her dance moves to transform herself into one of three different animal forms. The player doesn't need to remember any codes or anything though, as there's a dedicated "dance button" that cycles through various dance moves. Each dance step corresponds with a specific animal form, so no memorization is needed. By becoming a monkey, an elephant, or a mermaid, Shantae can access to areas that she wouldn't be able to reach normally, such as tree tops or undersea caverns. Finding transformation relics enhances the various forms further, so exploring is highly recommended.

On the downside, there are some issues with this game. The biggest is obviously the art design, which tends to overemphasize some of the characters' features in ways that might make parents uncomfortable. It's also a fairly short game with only three main "dungeons" (excluding Risky Boots' lair). This might be due to it having originally been a DSiWare title, but I can't really say for sure. All in all, it's still a fun game and an excellent entry into a new franchise for Metroidvania fans.

Points of Interest

Lots of collectables
While you're searching Sequin Land for the three Magic Seals, you'll want to keep your eyes peeled for two other types of magical artifacts. The first of these are Magic Jams. These jars full of a red preservative are hidden all over Sequin Land, and are used to purchase the more powerful items and abilities from the Item Shop. The other key item to watch for are heart containers. As you can probably guess, these extend Shantae's health meter and are extremely rare.
New Game Plus
Upon beating the game, you'll be shown one of four unlockable images. Which image you get depends on how long your game took and how many items you found, though they are all simple still images of different characters from the game.

The more fun benefit of completing the game is the new "magic mode" that unlocks. This mode gives Shantae a new golden "magic" outfit, and changes the game's rules a little to make things more interesting. For example, using magic now requires less energy, but as a trade off, you'll also take more damage from enemy attacks.
Steam community features
There are 26 achievements to be earned as you work to put an end to Risky Boots' evil plot. Many of them have silly names, including one named after a famous song from the 1980s. In a pleasant twist, most of them require the player to try various things rather than just beating the game, adding some extra challenges.

Of course, there is also a set of Steam trading cards, if you're interested in collecting those.
Downsides of being a port
The Nintendo DS had a very small resolution compared to our computers. The majority of the artwork wasn't changed during the porting process, so while the text boxes and character dialog images are very clean and crisp, the rest of the game is heavily pixelated. Also, as mentioned above, this is a rather short game. Most players will be able to play through it in about three hours or so.

Concerns and Issues

The art style is very suggestive
Despite being a sprite based game, every female character in this game has jiggle physics (ie, their large breasts bounce almost constantly). It's rare to see this sort of thing outside of a pornographic game, so it's not surprising to learn that some players aren't very comfortable with the art design. Additionally, some of the women are also posed in suggestive ways, such as leaning over their desks. This can even extend to the spirits seen in the Magic Fountains, as they appear as large blue Shantaes, sans clothing.
Magic and magical creatures
Most of the monsters Shantae will be dealing with in her adventure are based on different creatures from various mythologies, giving this game a rogue's gallery full of orcs, nagas, scarecrows, harpies, and hooded sorcerers. Shantae herself is a human/genie hybrid, and some of her best friends include zombies like Rottytops.
Mild violence
Defeating an enemy tends to have one of three effects: either they disappear into nothing, explode into a shower of bones, or they simply bounce off the screen. Shantae herself bursts into magical light when defeated, similar to how characters die in the Mega Man franchise.
Crude humor
The creators of this game definitely tried to have as much fun with the game as they could, as they peppered a lot of jokes throughout the game. Most of these jokes are funny enough, but every so often you'll come across a poop joke. In fact, one appears during the opening scenes of the game, possibly giving people watching a bad impression about the maturity of the game's content.
Dark twist at the end
Just about everyone will have recognized that a magic lamp is going to be like Aladdin's lamp; ie, that it can trap and force genies into servitude. However, I doubt you're expecting what actually happens when Risky Boots finally activates it: she uses it to rip Shantae's magical half right out of her body!