Shantae: Half-Genie Hero review (Vita)

The Playstation Vita is ending the year on a high with the release of Shantae: Half-Genie hero, possibly the best platformer for the system in years.

Aside from the quality of the game, what’s also remarkable about Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is that it’s the debut for the series on the Playstation Vita, because Risky’s Revenge and The Pirate’s Curse never made it onto Sony’s handheld even though they did (like Half-Genie Hero) come out for PS4. That the series is a perfect match for the platform is demonstrated by WayForward’s latest, which came out just in time for the holidays.

With Shantae: Half-Genie Hero being a 2D platformer with cartoon-like graphics, it would be easy to draw parallels with both Rayman games on the Vita. But where Rayman is the epitome of the modern 2D platform game, Shantae stays much closer to classic platforming conventions from the eighties and nineties – and even throws in a few elements of RPG games and metroidvania action. If that’s not your thing, then don’t be afraid, these are of the uber-lite variety.

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Shantae, the heroine in the game, has a very original primary attack: she flings her long purple hair at enemies or objects to destroy or move them. As you progress through the game, other abilities become available as well. When Shantae gains the ability to use her mermaid powers, she can traverse water. When she unlocks her inner monkey, she can cling to walls and jump higher. These aren’t temporary power-ups either – once unlocked, you can enable them whenever you like.

This is where the metroidvania aspect comes in. Some areas don’t become accessible until after you’re able to use a certain power, so a decent amount of backtracking will be required. The game is very easy-going about this though, and more than willing to hold your hand and point you in exactly the right direction through an integrated hint system. Areas can mostly be tackled in any order you’d like, and the same can be said for Shantae’s powerups – hence the ‘lite’ I mentioned earlier.

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On the Vita, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is gorgeous – the animations are well done, and the game is extremely colorful and detailed. Aside from the visuals, the soundtrack is also worth mentioning. Upbeat melodies are constantly playing, turning the experience into even more of a feel-good campaign that the gameplay already does. Boss fights are well done as well, and give off that retro platformer vibe or finding the right tactic to beat them as they unleash their crazy and diverse attacks.

If you’ve been looking for a great platformer to play on the Vita ever since Rayman Legends, then look no further. Shantae might not have the production values of Ubisoft’s Rayman titles, but it oozes charm and fun – and a lot of that is thanks to the bright visuals, smooth animations and well designed gameplay.

Score: 8.8/10

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