Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Action Platformer - DSi Ware
I never got a chance to play the original Shantae - partly because I never owned a Gameboy Color, and partly because I'm skeptical about western developers taking on the 2D action platformer - a genre that has largely been dominated by the Japanese. But Shantae nevertheless had a cult following and is highly regarded as being a fine contribution to the genre. Developer Wayforward was supposed to release a follow-up on the Gameboy Advance, but because of the length of development and the timing of the GBA's demise, the project was scrapped. It wasn't until the DSi debuted a downloadable network that Wayforward decided to continue and finish the project. Thankfully they did, because this is without question, the quintessential DSi Ware title.
In Risky's Revenge, you take up the role of Shantae, a half-genie. You walk around in a free environment, talking to people you meet, jumping over bottomless pits, and facing off against enemies. Your primary weapon in the game is actually your hair, which is pretty effective at whacking all enemies from start to finish. There are some magic spells that you can purchase too, that expand your arsenal and give you access to projectile attacks, but they drain your magic meter so you can't proceed by magic alone. The structure of the game very much follows the Metroid / Igarushi Castlevania / Haggleman 3 style, where you are given freedom to go anywhere in the game from the get-go, but certain barriers will prevent you from progressing unless you have the right skill.
Here lies one of the more amusing parts. As a half-genie, you can discover powers along the way that allow you to transform. For instance, the very first form is that of a monkey. Because of the monkey's ability to grip walls and climb surfaces, it allows you to scale new heights, giving you access to areas you couldn't go to before. You'll pick up other forms along the way, and upgrades to those forms. So a lot of the fun is seeing what options are open to you at any stage of the game, exploring where you can go, and switching between the different forms to progress. It's apparent that a lot of polish went into level-design, and integrating the different acquired abilities into it.
Did I mention that the game is gorgeous? The visuals are sprite-actular and colorful, just like the best of the SNES era. Shantae's animations are really fluid and there's a lot of personality even in the way she walks around. The backgrounds are also really neat, because of the way you can shift planes. Enemies that are in your plane suddenly become part of the background when you leave that plane, giving a bit of depth to your 2D gaming. The surroundings are pretty detailed besides that too.
The adventure lasted 8 hours for me, which is quite reasonable for a platforming game, especially one that costs $12 retail. It might be the most expensive download on DSi Ware, but believe me, it's the most complete package. I loved the game from start to finish as it's truly one of the finest maze games out there. If there's any complaint to be had, it's that just like Haggleman 3, I'm left wanting more.