Shantae is one of those game series that has garnered a niche fanbase over the years. Slowly but surely, developer Wayforward is bringing its half-genie heroine to a broader audience. It started with a Virtual Console re-release of the hard to find Game Boy Color title, and now continues with the second game’s release onto Steam. Previously released on the often neglected DSiWare and later ported to the iOS, Risky’s Revenge is now available to a wider audience than ever before… and is a gem of an action platformer that should be experienced by every fan of the genre.
While Risky’s Revenge may pick up where the original title left off, that shouldn’t deter you from picking up this Steam release: You can still enjoy the story without prior series knowledge. After Shantae’s uncle finds a mysterious magic lamp, the notorious pirate Risky Boots steals the artifact, hoping to unleash the power that’s held within it. It’s up to Shantae to collect the three Magic Seals before Risky does, to ensure that the power of the lamp is never released.
The story is little more than a vessel to both introduce you to the colorful characters of Scuttle Island and give you reason to explore the small, but vibrant overworld. Every inch of Risky’s Revenge is lovingly crafted from detailed pixel art, and everything from the character animations to the lush backgrounds is a wonderful assault to the eyes. Even with the upscaled resolution making the pixels look just a bit more blocky, the game still looks great and every frame of animation still looks as smooth as can be.
But of course, Risky’s Revenge isn’t just a pretty game to look at; it is fun to play, as well. Shantae’s normal attack consists of the half-genie whipping her hair, and is an effective way to dispatch of single enemies. In addition, you can pick up various magic spells to help with crowd control. These spells, along with upgrades to Shantae’s hair attack, require not only gems to purchase, but a collectible item called Magic Jams. These jams are hidden throughout Scuttle Island, requiring skills and sometimes skills obtained later in the game to get to them. They provide a good incentive to go through old areas again, and also as a stopgap so you don’t obtain the strongest items and spells at the beginning of the game and decimate everything in your path.
In addition to these offensive abilities, Shantae will also learn transformation dances, which will allow her to change into various animal forms. These dances are unlocked as you work through the game, and help to get past various obstacles. For example, the Monkey form will let Shantae jump higher and more nimbly, while the Elephant form will allow you to break through certain stones. These forms are also upgradable, though you’ll have to find these upgrades out in the overworld. Since these upgrades are required to advance and require a fair bit of backtracking, it can be a little troublesome to look for them when you just want to move on, but given the size of Scuttle Island it generally won’t detract long from the main quest.
Risky’s Revenge is a relatively short title: A first time playthrough will probably run you between five and six hours. This title is meant for multiple playthroughs, however: Beating the game with all thirty-four items, or in under two hours (or both!) will unlock different ending images, giving an incentive to speedrun the game. Not only that, the Magic Mode from the iOS version makes a return, too. Once you beat Risky’s Revenge once, you can play through again with a new outfit that grants double attack but halves defense, giving an added challenge for series veterans. Finally, the various typical Steam additions (achievements, trading cards, and the like) make this the most definitive version of Risky’s Revenge yet.
It’s a little difficult to recommend to double-dip if you already have another version of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, but if you don’t, make sure to pick this up on Steam the next time you can. Unless you’re allergic to brightly colored pixel art and exploration based gameplay, there’s not many better ways to waste an afternoon.