Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut

Year: 2014
Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 1/8/17
Rating: ***

Shantae is an adorable half-genie who is in charge of protecting Sequin Land, and Scuttle Town in particular. When the notorious pirate girl Risky Boots attacks Scuttle Town and steals a magic lamp, it's up to Shantae to stop her from unlocking its dark power. Shantae can attack with her devastating hair whip, as well as transform into various animals with her belly dancing magic. It's a delightful old-school platforming romp with charming characters, excellent writing, colorful graphics, and a wonderful soundtrack. The art direction is superb and has a genuine Japanese anime look and feel. The difficulty feels just about right, and the game allows you to power up Shantae with side missions as much as possible before rushing into boss encounters. It's a fairly short game and I managed to complete it in about eight hours.

It's a fun and exciting game to play, but I do have a few minor criticisms. First of all, the complete lack of instructions is annoying, so you have to learn the controls either through trial-and-error or by tracking down an online FAQ. It seems like the controller layout should be a menu option of some kind. Secondly, the world map is pretty weak, and often doesn't tell you where you are or where to go. However, the biggest problem is the clunky inventory screen, which offers no direct way to use consumable items. Every time you want to consume an item, you have to first equip it, and then go back to the main game screen to use it. And then you have to remember to immediately unequip it so that you can use your magic again. It's a really cumbersome system, but I suspect it's an artifact of the original Nintendo DS design. Apart from these minor issues, I highly recommend "Risky's Revenge" for anyone who likes old-school scrolling action games and appreciates amazing pixel art.