Here we go, Part Two. Sorry it’s late, moving into a new apartment is time consuming. Who knew right? After trying and failing to find a publisher for their Game Boy Advance version of Shantae, Wayforward returned to licensed games. It wasn’t until the release of the Nintendo DSi, when Wayforward was able to release a new game in the Shantae series due to the ability to self-publish the game digitally on the eShop (ALL PRAISE THE ONLINE STORE GODS, FOR THEY HAVE TRANSFORMED THE GAMING WORLD). Unfortunately, the DSi never really caught on so Shantae:RR didn’t get very good exposure. Which is a major shame, because the game itself is quite good. With Risky’s Revenge, Wayforward did a good job of making a more modern entry in the series while fixing many of the flaws of the last one.
Refining the Formula
Almost all of the issues that I had in the previous Shantae game got fixed in this one. The screen is bigger, the sprites are more detailed, attacking is faster, the worlds are easier to navigate, the warp system is easier, the dialog is more entertaining, there’s actually a map (even if it kind of sucks). Heck, dancing now pauses time in order to transform safely. Everything that was good is better, and everything that was bad is now at least decent. Best of all, you don’t have lives anymore. So you don’t have to get all weird with your save points and how far you got, etc. Being able to take the first game, admit that you did some things wrong, and then successfully address those faults in the next game is hard, but Wayforward did an excellent job of doing it. If you liked the first one at all, then you’ll like this one. It’s just better.
In Shantae GBC, you could buy items in a shop, and then use them a limited number of times. They were always so expensive though that you felt dirty if you used them despite having enough gems to buy them pretty consistently. Risky’s Revenge replaces this system with a Magic Meter and spells. In this game, instead of being consumables, all of the items found in the last game are one-time items you buy and then drain points from a refillable magic meter. This works really well in contrast to the old system, where I was hording everything like a miserable miser. Magic isn’t to OP, and it doesn’t drop fron enemies all that often, so you don’t have to worry about not having enough, or it breaking the combat. It felt well integrated with the rest of the mechanics and I was excited to use a feature I never used in the previous game.
Writing and Characters
With the modern age also comes the age of “no” storage limits. Games are no longer FORCED to rely on slapstick visual gags to incite humor. What am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that Shantae is really funny, because it can actually be articulate enough to communicate those jokes in the text instead of just using slapstick. For the first time in the series, characters feel like characters instead of just pixel art with mission objectives. Each character has a voice and a purpose, they have personality and motivation. There’s some fourth wall breaking, some in-universe jokes, misunderstandings, the whole kitten caboodle is a pretty solid package. The story also has more depth than the original game. It’s nothing ground-breaking and kind of ends on a cliff-hanger, but I enjoyed the couple of small twists near the end. Once again, it actually had a story to tell instead of the default, “go get some stuff and do some stuff”. You just couldn’t do that before now, so it’s pretty great that the game came out when it did. Finally, Shantae RR did a good job of expanding the world of Sequin Land and setting up characters and stakes for the rest of Sequin Land. The Ammo Baron and Squid Baron are both great and are pretty involved in the next game. Ultimately, the writing added a whole other dimension to the series, and it’s a piece of the Shantae formula that I look forward to enjoying in future games.
I have mixed feelings about re-playing this game. On one hand Wayforward included a magic mode costume you unlock after beating it the first time. This doubles your magic meter and half’s your health, which is a pretty cool idea since the magic meter was my favorite part change from the GBC version. On the other hand, there’s not a whole lot to replay. There aren’t very many collectibles, so it’s pretty easy to get them all in one go. Maybe I’ll come back and play this game again in the future, but probably not.
Though I don’t know if I have all the facts right on this one, Risky’s Revenge was originally supposed to be an episodic game, with this portion being the first of two or three. That didn’t pan out and we ended up with a game that ends right as it feels it’s getting good. You can add some artificial length to it by getting all of the collectibles, but the world feels too small and short. There’s only two and a half dungeons as opposed to the original Shantae’s five. There are concepts that are introduced and then never really fleshed out. Power-ups that are creative and then only used once. It just feels like it could have been twice the game that it actually is.
Risky’s Revenge is a much more fun game to play than the first Shantae. It’s easier to play, the mechanics work better, it’s more accessible, they added new things, they refined the old things, and it’s an overall higher quality, more skillfully constructed experience. The problem is that it feels gimped, like the legs were cut out from under it. It gets over with too quickly, and ends just when it feels like it’s getting started. Shantae GBC felt epic, the world was big (if not confusing), the story felt long (if not simple and hard to progress), and it had way more dungeons and transformations. I enjoyed this one marginally less that Shantae GBC, but it’s easier to recommend if that makes any sense. It’s a great point to jump into the series, and is a lot of fun to boot. It’s not exactly epic, but it’s a nice, small, fun game. I really did like it, it’s a really good game, just the lost potential of it makes me feel sad inside. Lost potential is something of a pet peeve for me, so it probably gets to me more than it would other people. If you want to get your feet wet in the series, catch up with the lore, and get your thumb on the pulse of this fascinating series, this a great place to jump in.