Saturday, April 21, 2018

Shantae: ½ Genie Hero - Costume Pack! Review

Costume Pack is the latest and final DLC pack for Shantae: ½ Genie Hero. It adds 3 new modes to the game; Ninja Mode, Officer Mode, and Beach Mode. Each of these modes is a separate game from the main game, just like Pirate Queen’s Quest and Friends to the End, so it's really 3 new versions of the game. It's available now for $7.99, and is included with Shantae ½ Genie Hero Ultimate Edition.

All the new modes start pretty much the same way. Shantae gets a new costume and sets off to put it to use. She decides to master the way of the Ninja when she gets the Ninja costume, for example. They are not deep or thought provoking stories, but there’s a lot of funny and cute dialogue that Shantae fans will enjoy.

These new modes are all in the “Friends to the End” mold. They take the old levels and change the enemy placement and platforms around a bit to fit the new characters, or new costumes this time. The levels are built for straightforward action platforming and most of the hidden areas from ½GH and PQQ are blocked off. The bosses are mostly the same as in all other DLC packs, aside from some costume specific platforming changes.

The squid collecting, leveling, and continue systems from Friends to the End all return for Costume Pack. Every level has 3 blue squids (or 5 Space Hooligans in Officer Mode) for Shantae to collect. If you get every squid, you get an extra piece of artwork after the credits. Collecting gems that drop from enemies and jars will level you up and upgrade your abilities up to level 4. For example, Ninja Shantae will throw more shurikens and slash quicker with her sword as you level up. If you get hit, you lose gems and go down in levels. There are no lives in these modes, so you restart from the last save whenever you lose all your hearts. Shantae only gets 3 hearts for the whole game, but getting hit by enemies and falling into pits only takes off half or a quarter heart most of the time.

The unrestricted stage select function from Friends to the End also returns, and it pretty much breaks all of these systems. Want to level up and fill your hearts before a boss? Just go to a stage with an easy heart or gem jar near the beginning, rinse and repeat. All bosses have a save point right before them, so you won't lose any progress. Want to save your squid collection progress before you die in a level you haven't beaten? Just use the stage select and you’ll be able to save, and then come back refreshed and with all the squids still collected. I was kind of surprised that they didn't change any of this from how it worked in Friends to the End.

In Ninja Mode, Shantae dons a green Ibuki costume and does her best Ryu Hayabusa impersonation. This mode plays kind of like Ninja Gaiden with a smoke bomb teleport move. Shantae’s main attack is a sword slash, she throws shurikens, she can back dash, and she can cling to walls and jump off them, just like in Ninja Gaiden. She also has the Naruto run down pat. The teleport is the main platforming gimmick in this mode. You can teleport a short distance in any direction while in the air, and in any direction except down while on a platform or on the ground. You can’t teleport through stone platforms or walls, and you can only teleport once in the air, so you can't use it to go wherever you want, like Nightcrawler or something. Ninja Mode is my favorite new mode in this DLC. I hope WayForward makes a full Ninja Shantae game, or at least brings the costume back in a future Shantae game.

In Officer Mode, Shantae cosplays as Patricia Wagon and gets the block switching mechanic from Mighty Switch Force. If you haven’t played the Mighty Switch Force games, they revolve around Patricia’s ability to push and pull groups of blocks into and out of the background with a switch on her special helmet. For example, you can jump off a platform and pull the platform you’re going to land on forward, while pushing the platform you were just on into the background at the same time, while in mid-air. Shantae also gets a stun gun as her main attack, and she loses the ability to duck, swim, and back dash. This mode also replaces the collectable blue squids with Space Hooligans, like in MSF. I'm not a big MSF fan, but this mode is a lot of fun. The block switching mechanic works really well in a platformer with longer stages. Don't worry if you're no good at Mighty Switch Force, this never gets anywhere near as hard as those games. I thought Officer Mode had the best platforming out of the 3 new modes.

In Beach Mode, Shantae wears a bikini and is looking for a good place to tan, or something. The main gimmick in this mode is the sunburn meter. Shantae has about 20 seconds to either collect a bottle of sunscreen or jump in some water, or she will get sunburned and start losing health, even indoors and in caves. She will lose health very quickly, too. This makes me feel like I have to rush though the level, which I hate, because Shantae is not a blue hedgehog. Shantae gets her familiar hair whip and backdash here, and she can throw a beach ball, which bounces around the screen diagonally. This is a good move for attacking enemies above and below you. Shantae can also get inside a bubble and (very) slowly float around for a bit. The bubble will burst if it hits anything, though, including walls and platforms. I don't like this mode at all. The bubble is really slow, and since I was rushing through the levels, I was not collecting gems, so I was constantly around level 2. It also makes no sense to get sunburned in a cave.

If you're going to get one Shantae: ½GH DLC pack, get Pirate Queen's Quest! If you can get 2, this is on par or maybe slightly better than Friends to the End. The Ninja and Officer modes are both a lot of fun. You might feel a little dejavu if you already played the other campaigns, though. Even though the platforming is different enough to be enjoyable, it's not different enough to make you forget that you've already played these levels to death.