Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut PS4 Review
I’d never played a Shantae game before Risky’s Revenge; in fact I’d never even heard of the Shantae franchise before I played this, but it does seem to be a praised classic of some kind. Now, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge was originally a Nintendo DSi title that came out back in 2010 and was only recently released on the PC and PS4, although I’m not sure of the goal. I understand that they want to give players background so they can easier get into the latest title, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, but it turns out that Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is actually the second game in the series; so why they didn’t just release the most relevant game, or start from the beginning of the franchise is beyond me. Either way it’s quite evident from the get go that this game is already outdated.
It’s understandable that the game was not re-created, graphics wise, for the newest release; instead choosing to simply blow up the old assets and shrink the game window to suit, but I also found it rather outdated in the gameplay aspects too, which is where the problem lies. It’s one of those classic type games with little story, just to get things going. Many classic games were like that – quick introduction then right into the action. The problem with Shantae is that even the action is slow. You mostly fight with a forward short-ranged attack and can also gain the ability to use simple magic powers. This reminded me a lot of the first Castlevania game’s combat, but unlike that timeless gem, Shantae is never once really challenged in platforming, combat, or a mixture of the two. Enemies mostly either shoot a long ranged attack that it easily avoided or walk back and forth waiting for death. Maybe that’s the biggest complaint I have – the combat is simply not fun, but that may just be a game-killer because the whole adventure is based around it.
The goal is to recover 3 magic seals from 3 dungeons but to get the dungeons open you have to complete a bunch of fetch quests. That’s basically it. There are a few simple puzzles to complete, a few bosses (which are actually pretty great) to defeat, and a few transformations to unlock. Transforming into different creatures in order to unlock abilities seems to be a cornerstone of the Shantae franchise. So bellydancing yourself into a monkey and other thing, is pretty cool and allows you to access new areas through a variety of methods. Each transformation also has power-ups to unlock, which allow even further advancement through the game. This is character powering-up at its finest – a nice progression of new and interesting unlocks as you go through the game. Not too many, not too few. You can also return to the shop in town and purchase magic and life upgrades yourself, spending the gems that pop out of enemies when they die. Ah, just like the good ol’ times.
Traversing the world is rather simple, even if the map if not very intuitive right off the bat. Although, there are some issues I noticed. For example – if I use a teleport statue, why can’t I teleport directly into town, the focal point of the game? Instead I need to teleport 2 or 3 screens to the left or right of it and be forced to fight my way through the same set of areas time and time again. I’m pretty sure I could have done them blindfolded by the end. There’s also the backtracking. Famously in the ‘Metroid’ sense, the player will often pass objects or places in the world that can’t be accessed until a new power is unlocked and then need to re-visit those areas later. I’ve always been one of them them that writes notes of all the things I see that I’ll need to come back for later, as not to miss anything – so there was no problem with myself running around in circles looking for what to do next. The problem I did have, once again, is that every time I was forced to go back somewhere I needed to fight my way through the same, stale enemies again.
I definitely need to point out that the animation, colour scheme, and music are all incredibly well done. You just can’t get tired of looking at the world, even when you’ve explored the same areas multiple times. It’s even fun just going through the town chatting to folk because the dialog is often comical and well written. It’s nice just to see what people are thinking as you progress through the story. Overall, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is a nice throwback, even if it’s not really that old, with a single glaring problem – being ‘Metroidvania’ style comes with some responsibilities that this title just couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain for. As a side note – I’ve already begun playing Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and I’m already seeing vast improvements in the gameplay. Shantae, Risky, and the gang might just be staying with us for a long time to come.