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Shantae: Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut Review

Shantae Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut (1)

As studio names go, WayForward Technologies has one of the more incongruous monikers in the industry. While the Southern California studio’s designator seems to infer an output of bleeding-edge innovation, in reality WayForward’s greatest achievement is a collection of retro-inspired, two-dimensional action platformers. In execution, titles such as Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame, Mighty Switch Force!, and Aliens Infestation feel like forsaken gems from the sixteen-bit era of gaming. Each title transported us back to a halcyon age where layers of parallax scrolling, sinuous sprite animations, and instinctive controls captivated a generation of gamers.

Arguably, the 2010 DSiWare title, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge still stands as the studios’ magnum opus. Purported the result of an eight-year development cycle, the title paid palpable homage to the pantheon of platforming classics, integrating mechanics from the early Castlevania and Metroid franchises. But Shantae did more than just ape a number of Japanese masterworks, ushering in a layer of impish charm in lieu of drab seriousness. Although the recently released Director’s Cut does a commendable job of transporting the portable title onto PC monitors, and even adds a few enticing extras- a few flaws go unfixed, revealing a niggling inelegance in Shantae’s otherwise beguiling shimmy.

Shantae Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut (3)

Smartly, the game’s storyline is largely elective, giving gamers in need of an impetus a bit of plot to ingest, while those who prefer to get to the platforming merely have to pass a few minutes of front-loaded exposition. This introduction uses text-based conversations to articulate returning villainess Risky Boots’ intention to seize three magic seals- which if brought together could spell doom for Shantae’s otherwise serene home of Sequin Land. Naturally, it’s up to the protagonist to journey through locales like scorching deserts, enchanted forests, and subterranean grottos to put a stop to Boot’s malevolent agenda. Largely, the game’s dialog is tolerable, occasionally transcending mediocrity when Risky etches on the risqué. Parents will be relieved to know that the allusions never get too racy, dabbling in well-veiled innuendo that’s bound to be overlooked by youngsters.

Once players sample Shantae’s play mechanics, any shortcomings with the storyline will likely be forgiven. Soon, they’ll encounter the character’s different forms, which permit the protagonist to transform into a monkey, elephant, or mermaid. Each of these creatures come with their own set of capabilities, extending distance to your jump or the ability to smash stony obstacles. Like Metroid, these forms also grant admission to previously inaccessible areas, allowing the diminutive simian to slip through a petite ingress or reduce a rocky barrier to rubble.

Shantae Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut (2)

The preferred weapon of the Belmont clan is contextualized as Shantae’s mane, which was allegedly inspired by the lashing locks of lead developer Matt Bozon’s wife. Much like Castlevania, enemies aren’t dispatched in a single stroke, most requiring a few whips until they perish, leaving behind the intermittent bit of currency. And mirroring the Hitoshi Akamatsu-developed title, players also have access to a number of helpful secondary armaments that can be purchased with procured gems. These range from the ability to launch fireballs, a protective pike ball that rotates around players, and even a storm cloud that sporadically send out bolts of injurious lightning.

The majority of Shantae’s journey is a textbook example of old-school bliss, as the half-genie shapeshifts, neutralizes foes, and bounding her way across increasingly perilous platforms, all in an effort to ruin Risky’s scheme. Before Mutant Mudds employed multi-plane platforming, allowing players to hurdle into the background or foreground at designated spots, Risky’s Revenge popularized the mechanic. Here it’s used with just enough frequency to keep the mechanical novel throughout Shantae’s six hour adventure. Other details have yet to be copied by modern platformers- such as the helpful visual signals which indicate a bottomless gap in the ground.

Shantae Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut (5)

But, some of Risky’s Revenge’s shortcomings tragically remain. The game’s map is much less helpful than in most of Shantae’s contemporaries. Not only does it take a few button presses and stick pulls to bring up, but it’s woefully ambiguous- displaying general locations in a disorienting isometric form. As such, players can expect a few of their backtracking assignments to instigate tedium, as the title gives little indication of the specific position players are supposed to go. Worse, Risky’s second-rate cartography fails to show locations visited and those that have yet to be seen. In all, expect a few bouts of frustration unless you have a FAQ ready.

For the PC port, WayForward added a few ancillaries to the game. Warp points scattered about remove some of the irritation associated with traveling across the map for a fetch quest. Shantae’s new enchanted costume not only brings a bit of fan-service to the game, but offers a nice variation- where players trade some of their defensive capacity for a more formidable magic ability. Both dialog and conversational portraits have been redrawn with high-resolution assets, as well.

Shantae Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut (4)

Elsewhere, the conversation varies from sound to sub-standard. Don’t expect a high-resolution upgrade or even an option for widescreen support for this port- Revenge’s pixel art and aspect ratio remain faithful to the DSi original. Although the initial impression might not be positive, the fluidity and charm of the game’s animation soon shines through, as Shantae’s lissome wiggle is destined to mesmerize gamers. Likewise, the game’s enemies, bosses, and backgrounds are meticulously drawn and move with uncommon gracefulness. Naturally, the Directors Cut supports controllers, but a few of default key bindings are inverted (the red button on the Xbox 360 controller is used to confirm, while green is used to backtrack). Changing the control scheme is a little too difficult as well, with the title prohibiting assigning multiple tasks to the same button.

Although Shantae’s pilgrimage on PC isn’t faultless, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had. At its core, Risky’s Revenge is a throwback to the action/platformers of old, deftly intermingling navigation with confrontation, as players push through each enemy-infested area and trek toward every epic boss battle. It’s the type of game that has characterized WayForward output, and more specifically stands as the developer’s best effort. Just be sure patience is in suitable supply before you sashay over to the Steam marketplace.

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut was played on the PC with code provided by the publisher.

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut
Platform: PC
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: WayForward Technologies
Release date: July 15th, 2014
Price: $9.99 via Steam
Language(s): English text

As studio names go, WayForward Technologies has one of the more incongruous monikers in the industry. While the Southern California studio’s designator seems to infer an output of bleeding-edge innovation, in reality WayForward’s greatest achievement is a collection of retro-inspired, two-dimensional action platformers. In execution, titles such as Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame, Mighty Switch Force!, and Aliens Infestation feel like forsaken gems from the sixteen-bit era of gaming. Each title transported us back to a halcyon age where layers of parallax scrolling, sinuous sprite animations, and instinctive controls captivated a generation of gamers. Arguably, the…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 85%
Control - 80%
Aesthetics - 75%
Content - 80%
Accessibility - 75%

79%

Good

Summary : Although the map system is less than cooperative and there’s a few snags in the conversion to PC, the Director’s Cut of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is the definitive iteration of the half-genie’s enjoyable adventure.

User Rating: 4.35 ( 3 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

21 comments

  1. I always wanted to play the original GBC game. Are the stories connected at all, or can I jump into this?

    • Its like the Mario Bros. game, the plot is 1st grade simple. You’re not missing anything jumping right into this.

    • The plot of this game does reference the first, but there’s no issues going straight in. Most character relationships and roles are quickly established for newcomers. Actually even in the first game it’s implied that all the characters know each other prior to the plot’s beginning, so really the introductions here are pretty similar.

  2. Thank you for not using the word “metroidvania” which is up there with Rogue-like for greatest misused word in game journalism.

  3. I was waiting for a real review for this. Those steam ones are kind of sketchy.

  4. Added to my Steam wish list. Maybe you can host a giveaway.

    PLEASE??? 🙂

  5. Good review. Is Bozon related to Mark Bozon, the ex-IGN writer? He was the last good IGN employee. Since he left, I stopped reading the site.

  6. I don’t think Shantae was the first game to let you jump to different planes. Didn’t Goonies for the NES kind of do that?

  7. Shantae is pretty loli like. Why not an 85% ?

  8. Might have to get this. Great game on iOS but so hard to control.

  9. Pretty good review. I wish WayForward would have really fixed the map.

  10. looks 180p, not 1080p. Perfect for the Xbone.