In 2010, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge released as a DSiWare title for the Nintendo DS. It did fairly well, but it was its cult following that put the series on the map and ensured the series’ success going forward. Since its initial release, the game has seen ports to various other platforms. However, it wasn’t until recently that the title made its way to the Nintendo Switch in the form of a Director’s Cut version of the game, touting several changes and improvements to the original.
The game opens with the seaside village of Scuttle Town hosting the annual Relic Hunters Expo. Shantae, the half-genie protector of the town escorts her uncle Mimic to the town hall for his presentation in front of the attendees. Uncle Mimic unveils a relic he found with the intention of putting it up for auction, but has a change of heart once he sees what it is: an old oil lamp. Before he can take it back, the roof gives way and the villainous pirate captain Risky Boots descends via anchor to steal the lamp. She soon defeats Shantae and flees with the lamp. Uncle Mimic informs Shantae that Risky Boots will soon seek the three magic seals, necessary to unleash the lamp’s dark magic. Thus, Shantae’s journey to find the seals to avoid disaster begins.
The plot development in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is relatively light throughout the game. Minor scenes take place after finding each seal, but those are really just leading up to and foreshadowing the game’s climax. As there aren’t many dungeons in the game, this means the number of story segments is meager. The characters Shantae meets do make the story fun and humorous though, several of which fans of the series will recognize from their appearances in later Shantae games. Ultimately, if you enjoy anything about the game, it will likely be the gameplay more than the minimal story.
Risky’s Revenge is a side-scrolling action platformer with metroidvania elements, featuring several regions connected into one map and lots of backtracking to open new areas with abilities. Every region has a distinct look and music track, as well as different enemies. Shantae can attack by whipping her ponytail and jump to traverse the platforms on each screen. A central element of the series is dancing, which allows Shantae to use different animal abilities to help her defeat enemies and reach places she normally can’t.
Enemies encountered can be defeated with Shantae’s aforementioned hair whip. At the start of the game, her attacks are rather slow, but that changes after purchasing upgrades from the item store. Spells can also be bought that offer a few different elemental attacks, such as lightning. These can be a great source of supplemental damage. There is a bar that decreases as you use magic, as well as a display that shows your current health in the form of filled or empty hearts.
Should combat get a bit too dangerous, you can also do a quick dodge backwards or hold the dodge button to do a long slide that gives you even more breathing room. The game offers all the tools necessary to survive enemy encounters, and the difficulty of combat tends to be particularly mild as long as you have a good grasp of the controls (and perhaps keep a good stock of health/magic potions as well).
Enemy types in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge can vary depending on where you are. Every region and dungeon has its own set of enemies unique to that area. All enemies have their own attacks as well. However, there are a few enemies that make appearances across multiple locations, most notably crabs. Luckily, you will likely never feel like there isn’t enough variety in the kinds of foes you face.
Shantae will have to face off with a boss enemy when she reaches the end of every dungeon. Most of these bosses will reward her with one of the magic seals she’s looking for. As you’d expect, every boss has their own style of attack and a vastly different look. If you take the time to buy the attack upgrades from the item shop, and especially if you buy upgraded magic spells, these bosses are not much of a challenge. Do not be surprised if you breeze through each one on your first try. If this isn’t an issue for you, boss fights will be an enjoyable experience, even if it’s one you’ll only be able to have a few times in the entire game.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge only has two actual dungeons, which might be a shock if you’ve played other Shantae games. Dungeons contain many enemies and the occasional puzzle. During your journey through these two dungeons, you’ll need to find keys to open locked doors. The design and music of both dungeons are different enough to make them feel unique.
The item shop in Scuttle Town sells healing and magic potions, which you can use if you’re running low in battle or while adventuring in a dungeon. You can also find heart and magic pick-ups out in the world and in dungeons that provide healing, if you like living dangerously. The shop also sells magic spells and attack speed upgrades. There are three progressively more potent versions of each spell that cost more as you upgrade, but are well worth the price.
If collectibles are something you fancy, there are two kinds in the game: heart holders and magic jam. Both types of items have a use as well. Heart holders increase your maximum health by one heart, while magic jam is required to purchase the item shop’s more powerful items. Most of these are hidden in places inaccessible the first time you are in a dungeon or area, and thus require you to backtrack later once you have the ability necessary to reach them.
Shantae can obtain the ability to transform into different animal forms. Each form has its uses, like the monkey form that allows you to climb walls and jump higher. These tend to be especially important in obtaining heart holders and magic jam, which are often hidden in spots that are difficult to reach. Fountains that grant you these abilities are spread throughout the game’s dungeons. Once you’ve obtained a form, you can transform into it by holding down the dance button and releasing it at different points during the dance depending on the form. There aren’t many dance forms in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge; however, they fulfill such different roles that it doesn’t feel like there should be more.
Director’s Cut Content
The updated version adds several things to the game. A Magic Mode is unlocked after you complete the game, which gives Shantae a new costume to wear and reduced magic consumption when casting spells. This is at the expense of taking twice as much damage, so this particular mode is a good choice for anyone not impressed with the game’s difficulty the first time around. The fact that this is only an option after playing through the entire game might mean you won’t be up to doing an entire run again. In addition to this new mode, character pictures during dialogue scenes have been updated to HD versions that look much nicer on modern displays.
The most welcome change in this director’s cut version is the improvements made to the warp system. In the original release, warp statues came in pairs; you were limited to transporting yourself between two specific statues. Now you can warp to any statue you have previously found, making fast travel more convenient. Unfortunately, there are a few stretches of the map that have a lack of warp statues, so you’re required to do a lot more legwork than you’ll want to.
ART & GRAPHICS
This port of the game features the same graphics as the original release. You have the option of displaying the game in its original aspect ratio (seen in the most recent screenshot), a 4:3 ratio with or without borders, or a stretched 16:9 aspect ratio that really blows up the pixels and is frankly not recommended. It would have been nice if the graphics were updated in some way, but you might enjoy playing the game as it originally looked all the same. To its credit, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge has a great amount of quality in its environments and character models, especially for a game originally developed on the Nintendo DS. The variety in the regions is conveyed really well, with underwater areas having various details and dank dungeon screens having small things like water drips and torches setting the mood nicely.
MUSIC & VOICE ACTING
One thing enthusiasts of the later Shantae game will notice is that Shantae: Risky’s Revenge does not have voice acting. This might be a disappointment for some, but overall, it doesn’t detract too much from the experience. The music does all the heavy lifting in the sound department, and it does the job wonderfully. The soundtrack is competent, carrying a Middle Eastern vibe throughout all of the tracks that befits the style of Shantae and the central Scuttle Town. The songs that play in each region suit those areas well.
Magic Mode does a great job of scratching any lingering itches you might have concerning the game’s difficulty. The double damage you receive will require you to find different strategies for combat and especially bosses. You can also go back into your original save and try to find magic jams and heart holders you missed. These are usually in areas that require you to backtrack, so there is a high chance you missed some. In fact, the ending screen you see upon beating the game will tell you how many of these items you were able to find.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge Director’s Cut provides the good platforming fun the series is known for. It gives long-time fans a rush of nostalgia with its pixel graphics, and if you’re new to the series, this is a great title to introduce you to the adventures of the famous half-genie hero Shantae. The graphics aren’t as crisp as later games in the series, and the game only clocks in at around 6 hours for your first playthrough, but for only $9.99, you get a solid metroidvania with great environments and music. The risk is minimal and the reward is great, so don’t be afraid to join Shantae on this adventure.
Final Rating: 8/10.