Also available for Wii U, DSi, iOS, and Windows
With the release of Shantae: ½ Genie Hero on PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC this month, I'm finally getting around to playing some of the series. Since I have one of the sexy and rare Limited Run physical copies of Risky's Revenge on PS4, that's the version I decided to play through (I also have the DSiWare release downloaded on my 3DS). Having wrapped up the original a few days ago, I can say that this game improves on its predecessor in just about every way imaginable.
Risky's Revenge takes place after the events of the original game (although there's not really a grand narrative or lore one must know). Risky Boots, the nefarious pirate queen, is butthurt after Shantae beat her in the last game, so she steals some mysterious oil lamp as part of her plot for revenge, hence the game's title. The game is an action platformer like the original, and you're tasked with finding and collecting three magic seals before Risky can get her hands on them. These magic seals unlock the power of the oil lamp; obviously, getting these before Risky can will put a pretty big dent in her plans.
Even when playing on Playstation 4, it's important to keep in mind that this is just a port of a DSiWare game. It's got certain enhancements, and the dialogue scenes obviously look quite good, but you're still in for a relatively pixelated game. That is by no means a bad thing - the game looks fantastic for the DSi - but don't expect a full HD rework beyond upscaling. The one gripe I do have with the visuals, however, is the aspect ratio. While it's not technically locked into 4:3 - you have the option of 4:3 with borders (seen above), 4:3 with just black borders, or 16:9, the 16:9 option just stretches the 4:3 screen, making it look warped and awkward. You get used to it in 4:3 after a while, but when you've become accustomed to playing games on a 16:9 screen, 4:3 can get irksome for some.
Like the original game, you've got different forms you can take based on your magic belly dances. The monkey and elephant return from the original game plus a new mermaid form (no spider or harpy, though, I'm afraid). In addition to the forms themselves, there is a power-up for each form - the Monkey Bullet, allowing you to shoot through the air as a monkey when hanging on the wall; the Elephant Stomp, doing exactly what it sounds like; and the Mermaid Bubble, letting you fire a bizarrely distructive bubble through the water in front of you as a mermaid. All three forms as well as all three power-ups are needed to get through the game's various challenges, and if you want to acquire all 34 collectibles throughout the game, you'll need to go back and re-explore most of your previously visited areas once finding all three power-ups.
One of the things I said about the original game is how damn technically impressive it was for the Gameboy Color. The sound design was phenomenal, the colors just popped off the screen, and the animations looked like they really shouldn't have been possible on such primitive hardware. While Risky's Revenge doesn't quite "wow" for the DSi the way that Shantae did for the Gameboy Color, it did improve in every single area. Colors remain exceptionally vibrant, the music is still just as charming, and the animation is still smooth and fluid. The humor in the writing still gets a good smile and chuckle out of me. Where the game most improves over its predecessor, however, is in the are of controls. The first game, while charming and technically impressive, had very hit-or-miss feeling controls. That's not the case with Risky's Revenge. The combat hit detection still isn't flawless in my opinion, and there are several platforming sections where the inability to see very far below you led to several irritating deaths, but the improvement in overall controls is still night and day. I had to force myself to finish the original despite my love of the character and visuals; while a little frustrating in a couple places, at no point did Risky's Revenge ever begin to feel like a chore.
Risky's Revenge is exactly what a sequel should be - it improves on the original in every way while retaining the core gameplay that made fans appreciate the previous game. The character of Shantae is delightfully charming, and the gameplay finally feels polished enough to be more fun than frustrating. Couple that with the pleasant music, the clever level design, and the cute dialogue, and you've got a winning combination here regardless of whether you're playing on DSi, Playstation 4, or Wii U.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.