Developer - WayForward
Publisher - WayForward
Platform - Windows, Wii U [version tested], PS4, Steam
Price - £Variable
Genre - Metroid-like
Some people always seem to be having one of those days, don't they? Take Shantae - a half-genie who has been appointed Guardian of the nearby port of Scuttle Town. As soon as her Uncle Mimic showcases an old oil lamp at the Relic Hunter Expo, her arch nemesis Risky Boots, the pirate scourge of the however many seas there are in the game, swoops in and nabs it, despite Shantae's best efforts to stop her. It then falls to you to stop Risky getting her hands on three Magic Seals that will unlock the lamp's full power. Quest GET!
Initially your armoury consists of Shantae's purple ponytail, which she can flick in front of herself like a whip. With the right amount of cash, though, you can buy magic spells that include a shield and a projectile. All of these weapons can be upgraded - yes, including the hair - until you are a veritable one-woman army of hair-whippin', flame-firin', lightning-zappin', rotatey-shieldedin' death and glory. That's not all, though - as you get further into the game, Shantae's ancestors bestow further magic powers upon her.
Through the magic of belly dancing - naturally - Shantae eventually gains the ability to transform into one of three handy alternative forms. The monkey, for example, has a higher jump than ordinary Shantae and can also scale walls. The elephant is slightly less delicate but has the necessary grunt to break some of those goshdurn blocks that, er, impede your progress. And so it goes: as Shantae gains powers, the map gently opens up further. The progression is pretty well-handled: you'll never feel able to relax, even if you're jogging through a slice of world for the fiftieth time (although simply upgrading the enemies in old areas is a bit cheap).
Shantae: Risky's Revenge started life as a 2010 DSiWare game and that does sometimes show. Improvements have been made in the warp system and the in-built map but the level designs have not been touched, so you'll be doing a lot of heading left to right (or vice versa) to get to places of interest. Dungeons spice things up a bit by having a decent bit of y-axis to them but it feels like a small game at times which, at heart, it is.
What is there is rollicking good fun. Shantae moves and controls well, with the possible exception of her monkey form, which can be a bit slippery. Everything is bright and clear, although it does look like you're playing a GBA game through the Wii U rather than a brand new title. A little sharpening of the sprites and backgrounds would not have gone amiss. The exception to this is the character portraits that pop up in conversation, which seem to have been ripped directly from Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (more on that later).
Sound effects are sparse and uninteresting, which is par for the course for most platform adventures. Fortunately, the music more than makes up for this. Jake Kaufman, WayForward's long-time music man, has done great work here and deserves his royalty cheques. The visible bustle of Scuttle Town is matched by the area's tune, as is the promise of the first strides you make into other areas and the horror of the dungeons. The only area that didn't click for me was Tangle Forest, whose relaxed piece jarred with the on-screen action.
Pretty much every aspect of the game considered in this review so far has essentially been described as "It's good, but". However, the game's biggest issue will never be encountered in gameplay, for it is this: its objectively better sequel, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, is also out on Steam, Wii U, 3DS and XBox One (worry not, PS4 owners - the game is coming soon) (review here). That title has sharper graphics, greater depth of gameplay, a more helpful map, improved music, more characters... the list could go on. For me there are only two areas where Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut wins out.
Firstly, RR - DC captures more of the essence of who Shantae is than Pirate's Curse can, for plot reasons that we won't spoil in this review. Secondly - and potentially a much bigger consideration - is that Pirate's Curse costs more. On the Wii U, at least, over twice as much. It's worth pausing before handing over your hard-earned doubloons, and that's without mentioning anyone who's already played through the original Risky's Revenge. If you're in that boat, the biggest innovation on offer is the addition of Magic Mode, which kits Shantae out in the Space Princess outfit from Pirate's Curse. In-game it means that Shantae's magic meter runs out half as slowly but she does take twice as much damage as before.
Final Verdict: An odd choice of game to re-release for many reasons. If you're after a cheap, cheerful, colourful Metroid-like, it's an easy recommendation. Anyone not in that rather narrow category would be better served looking elsewhere - perhaps at its superior sequel, or by getting hold of the better-than-the-both-of-them Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition.