I didn’t learn about the Shantae games until they started gaining popularity on the 3DS with Risky’s Revenge.
The game looks like a blast, and I’m really excited to play it. I have both the 3DS Virtual Console version to support the devs as well as a GBC reproduction of the game for the sake of playing it on native hardware, and my daughter plays the repro all the time, and frankly it makes me a little jealous. Now I finally get to play it!
Day 1: That wave was cheeky and perfect. Shantae easily lives up to all the hype surrounding its presentation. The game looks phenomenal for a GBC game and the music is excellent. Animation is smooth and fluid and everything just looks and sounds amazing. Something about that hair whip attack… The very beginning of the game has you rushing through a city under siege to get to Risky Boots’ pirate ship. Once you’ve sent her packing you’re free to check out different locations in town, or just leave and travel through to the next. In Shantae, different cities are connected via these field maps, and eventually you can warp between different cities if you collect the right items. I have to say, and I know I need to give it more time, my knee jerk reactions to this game are… not great. Yes, I know I said it looks spectacular, but once you get past that the actual gameplay just isn’t really doing it for me. Something about it just feels “off” compared to my preferred platformers… That’s not to say I’m putting this one down any time soon! …
Suspicious save point is suspicious…
I finally made it to Water Town where I met Bolo who was… not helpful. I mean the guy had his priorities straight, sure, but… I should mention that the road before Water Town is horrible. Huge waterfalls to climb, tons of blind jumps, annoying enemies that come out of nowhere, etc. Of course when you die there, even if you were just inches from your destination, you’ll have to start all over on whatever side you entered the zone from.
I mention that because I’m now told I have to go all the way BACK across those water falls to get to the Water Shrine!
The first dungeon in the game wasn’t particularly difficult or complicated, which is good. It also introduced the first animal dance, allowing me to transform into a monkey… sometimes… See, the GBA Player on the Gamecube, unlike the Super Gameboy on the SNES, does introduce a bit of lag to whatever game you’re playing. Typically, Gameboy games aren’t so precise that you can’t adapt, but when it comes to the dancing system in Shantae that’s not really the case. I’m sure with enough practice you could get used to the weird timing, but for me it was an exercise in frustration.
Later, to confirm the issue was indeed the latency, I would try the game in both a GBA SP and my GB Boy Colour, as well as the 3DS VC version In all cases the dance was much easier to manage, and the timings made a lot more sense.
The rest of the dungeon was pretty straight forward with some light puzzle solving, and eventually I’d meet the game’s first real boss…
Just like the dungeon before him, the boss was very straight forward, just, hit the eye! There was a point in the fight where the room would fill with water. The expectation was that you’d transform into a monkey during the build up to the attack and climb the walls to avoid. That… did not happen. Luckily I only got hit by it once before the boss went down.
After that it was ANOTHER run across the falls to start working my way to the next city. As usual, I was at the end of the zone, exit literally inches away, when a rogue snake manages to land that last hit…
So here’s the problem: After two days of playing this game, totally around 3-4 hours of actual playtime, clearing the first major dungeon, and unlocking the first cool ability… I’m not actually having fun. Like, at all.
Yeah, I’m calling it.
So, I’m really conflicted about this game. On one hand it looks and sounds absolutely incredible for a GBC game. The presentation alone is worth the price of admission… I mean… not for a legit cart but… you know what I mean. On the other hand, the actual gameplay just feels so unexceptional considering how much fanfare this game garners. I want to love it, but I just can’t. I want to give it more time, but the thought of actually playing more is putting me to sleep.
I’m actually really interested in play Shantae and the Pirates Curse for the Wii U, as I feel like with some refinement and with a bigger screen in mind, a game set in this universe with these characters could really be a blast to play. As it is, the half-genie’s first outing is just really hard to recommend.
– Could be a GBA game. Looks and sounds incredible. Absolute technical achievement.
– Characters are very charming and full of personality.
– Fun writing and interesting ideas had me looking forward to talking to every NPC I could find.
– Unforgiving death system in an already difficult game. Dying means starting whatever zone you’re in from the beginning.
– Part of the difficulty comes from being a Gameboy game with such large sprites, as avoiding damage becomes nearly impossible.
– Another issue with the large sprites is the frequency of blind jumps, force you to play through levels very slowly at best, and often jumping and “hoping for the best” at worst.
– Taking a wrong turn often meant wasting 5-10 minutes of time, probably dying repeatedly, and then just being told you went the wrong way.
– The hair whip attack is really cool in concept, but really awkward in practice, making combat feel tedious.
– Actual gameplay itself just felt uninteresting, and failed to compel me to continue playing the game in spite of its faults.