First Impressions: Shantae Half Genie Hero (PS Vita, Wii U, PS4, PC)

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The Shantae series is one that I have talked about on 3WIREL in the past but today, I want to share some early thoughts I have on the latest release in the series Half Genie Hero. I got the other day for my PS Vita and as of this writing have clocked in two hours of gameplay time.
While I don’t have a review ready (that will release either Friday or this coming weekend) I want to talk about it still. Here are some early thoughts about the game and I hope this helps decide if you should consider getting this game or not.

Shantae Half Genie Hero takes place after Pirates Curse and the plot, at least early on, feels more like a lot of mini stories that connect at the very end rather than a continuous journey Shantae goes through. This set up works, as each of the main levels I played so far feel really varied in both style and level design.
The opening stage is the iconic Scuttle Town on Fire that has been in place since the original Shantae but you soon venture to Mermaid Factory that is trying to turn helpless maddens into fake Mermaids and joining a magic carpet race high in the sky. This sense of variety helps level design, as compared to the past game in the series (Pirates Curse) it feels far more like a Classic 2D Platformer compared to an exploration focused adventure.
You still backtrack to past locations (one hour of my two hours with the game was just me simply going back to use new tools/transformations to get new items I couldn’t get before) so the focus on exploration is still present. But the act of platforming is a greater ‘focus’ and I really like this.
The focus on platforming is only helped with the transformations coming back, as Shantae has a large amount of creatures & objects she can morph into. Between a cute little bat to help with challenging platforming too a little crab to gently float underwater, you use your transformations as tools for exploring the different levels. But how fast you can change between your different forms and basic form is so snappy, that it makes morphing enjoyable.
Levels were built to use both your basic form and the different transformations, so you are never ‘forced’ to turn into something you don’t to. But having the option to make things easier or harder on yourself is nice and shows how WayForward smartly designed the games levels for creative play.
Like past games in the series you can also visit shops to get spells you can use (like fire balls or summon a bubble for defense), upgrade yourself to have faster/stronger hair whip attacks and get healing potions to help restore health. The basic structure of the game is solid, with every level opening up once you get a new map, which your friend Sky will let fly you to the level you want to visit.

But I have to comment on the games presentation, as I am very impressed with the entire package so far. It is one of the most beautiful games I’ve played this year, with wonderful animation for the different characters and NPCs making the entire world feel alive. Despite the backgrounds and aspects of the game being in 3D (which might be odd as the characters, enemies and NPC’s are 2D animated sprites) everything meshes well.
The game runs well on Vita, having a solid 50-60FPS almost all the time with only minor slowdown at specific points in the game. While the slowdowns can be distracting, the game maintains a high enough frame rate to prevent those from becoming a problem. Shantae also runs at native resolution on Vita, ensuring the art leaps off the screen.
Honestly I did not expect the game run as well as it does on Vita, so the fact it runs over 30FPS and run at native resolution shocked me once I picked up and played the game. WayForward did great work utilizing the Vita hardware in bringing Shantae to the platform. Musically, the soundtrack here so far is wonderful. Having catchy beats and melodies, the music sticks with you long after you turn the game off. I am reminded of the amazing scores from Genesis and Super Nintendo games for the levels I played thus far and I hope the soundtrack continues to offer great tunes to listen too. 
Overall, I am really enjoying Shantae: Half Genie Hero and while I still need to play more before I can recommend the game, I’m impressed so far.

This game was played on the PS Vita platform using a digital copy I purchased myself. The game is currently out for the PS Vita, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 4, and PC. You can get the game digitally on all platforms and currently you can purchase a retail version (Published by XSEED Games) for the Vita and PS4 versions. Physical Wii U versions will be releasing starting Dec. 27th.

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