Monday, April 27, 2020

Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut Review

Developer: WayForward
Available on PS4, Wii U, 3DS (DSiWare), PC
Version Played: PC
Price: $10

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is the sequel to 2002’s Shantae for GBC and the second game in the Shantae series. It’s still a Metroidvania in the same style as the first game, but with a lot less meat on its bones. It was originally released on the Nintendo DSi in 2010 as one of the launch games for the DSi Shop. From what I’ve heard, it was supposed to be a GBA game at one point, and a 3 part episodic game on WiiWare at another. It feels like they never even completed part 1, though. Risky’s Revenge just feels like it’s trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, if you know what I mean.

Risky’s Revenge fixes a lot of the problems with the first game, but doesn’t carry over many of the good things from the original. The biggest problem with Risky’s revenge is that it’s severely lacking in the best parts of Shantae, the dungeons! There are only 3 dungeons in Risky’s Revenge. That’s 1 less than the first game, but only 2 of them are traditional dungeons. The second dungeon is just a quick race through a bunch of enemy filled rooms. It takes maybe 10 minutes to complete, and it’s not challenging, creative, or even all that fun. This would literally be some cave where you get a heart container at the end in a Zelda game. The third dungeon isn't much fun, either. The only really good, non-gimmicky dungeon in the game is the first one. The last level is a weak Mermaid Shantae shoot ‘em up level, which is not anything close to what I’d call a dungeon.

The bulk of the game consists of running around hunting items and talking to NPCs. It feels like filler, but thankfully, the overworld is much better than the first game’s, so it’s not all bad. There's lots of little caves to explore and NPCs to do quests for everywhere you go. It’s more fun than most of the dungeons. The Simon’s Quest-like day and night system is gone, so you don’t get the super tough enemies at night, there’s more warp points and you don’t have to collect squids to unlock them, and best of all, the camera isn’t as zoomed in as in the GBC game. Shantae’s sprite isn’t taking up a third of the screen anymore, so you can see what’s up ahead just fine. If you could take the first game’s dungeons and put them in this overworld, you’d have an amazing game.

It’s a shame that this game is so full of filler because it plays really well. Shantae actually feels powerful now. She has a backdash, her hair is longer, she gets hair whipping speed and attack power upgrades, and she uses magic for subweapons now, so you can just refill your magic to keep using them and save your money for new stuff. The whole economy of the game also feels much better because you're not constantly avoiding enemies to survive, you can kill them without much trouble and keep getting money.

Shantae's dancing is also much better implemented. Enemies freeze while you dance now, so she's not a sitting duck while transforming anymore. The input method for the dances is also much better because it's no longer rhythm based, you just hold the dance button down longer to get different transformations.

The animal forms themselves are a bit of a step back from the first game, though. There's only 3 forms here, and 2 of them are the same as in the GBC game. The monkey and elephant forms return, and they're still used for wall climbing and breaking blocks. The only difference is that their relics give you different powers. The elephant can now do a downwards stomp out of a jump to break blocks, and the monkey can do an air dash off walls. The new transformation is the mermaid, which allows you to swim underwater. Its relic unlocks a bubble shot you can use to break underwater blocks. The mermaid transformation is okay, but you get it at the very end of the game, and there aren't many places you can use it.

For a game that originally came out on DS, Risky's Revenge looks amazing. The sprite work in this game is better looking than most indie games released today, even at its low resolution. The game is scaled very weirdly, though. The “Original” resolution is 723 pixels high, which looks very small when running in a 1080p screen, and is not a multiple of the DS’s vertical resolution of 192, which could have fit nicely scaled up 5 times to 960p on a 1080p screen. I just played it in “Full” at 1080p so I could actually see what was going on. The PC version also has a weird frame pacing issue. Basically, the game runs at 59fps, and some frames are not being rendered at the same frequency as others, so you see what looks like the game stuttering or skipping frames of animation. Buildings in the background skip across the screen as you run around town, for example. It's more noticeable in the overworld since you're constantly moving and making the backgrounds scroll.

I think the music is okay. It's not the best of the original trilogy's, but it’s not bad. It's by the same composer that did the Pirate's Curse and GBC game's soundtrack, Jake Kauffman. I like the new versions of songs from the GBC game, but I wasn't really impressed by some of the new stuff.

Risky’s revenge is just mediocre and disappointing. It’s like a filler episode of your favorite anime. The world and characters you know and love are there, but there really isn’t much going on. I like how Shantae controls, the overworld exploration and questing are mostly fun, and the graphics are really nice aside from the frame pacing, but it only has 1 good dungeon, and that’s just not enough for a game like this.