Title: Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Genre: Metroidvania, Platformer
The Shantae series has delivered consistently simple yet worthwhile platforming Metroidvania experiences for years now. Wayforward’s efforts to bring older titles to modern platforms have reinvigorated my interest in these classic games. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut is one such classic that I clearly remember enjoying several years ago, and playing its native PlayStation 5 version has only reinforced that same appreciation.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut features the titular protagonist on a quest to prevent her nemesis, Risky Boots, from utilizing a dangerous lamp. Various obstacles make themselves known, such as necessary Magic Seals Shantae must acquire and her hometown’s mayor being kind of rude. Still, they are all pretty much par for the course for this half-genie hero.
The narrative is not exactly a selling point for this or any other Shantae game, but they provide enough engaging character banter and humorous exchanges to be entertaining. In addition, the writing is quite genuine and comes off as real conversation, thanks to well-built character dynamics. Unlike some other Metroidvanias/platformers that try to have a story, I always looked forward to further scenes as the game rarely takes itself super seriously, but not in a self-demeaning way. Instead, it knows how to deliver authentic character emotion and stakes without ever feeling needlessly grim, given the jovial atmosphere and aesthetics.
The fundamental core of the experience, though, is the gameplay. Players control Shantae across 2D screens as she hair-whips enemies, engages in platforming, and performs other related tasks. Further, the hub area, Scuttle Town, holds a few shops one can use to upgrade Shantae’s capabilities. Enhancements like quickening hair whipping speed or spells like rotating a spiked ball around her character help make Shantae a truly threatening force which is especially emphasized given the brief playtime.
Still, these add-ons that amplify combative prowess and survivability are never necessary and are instead just cool ways to play around with action and the like. Speaking of combat, enemy designs are simple to maneuver against after some trial and error. Even though bosses can seem daunting at first, a few attempts to learn telegraphs and patterns go a long way to eventual success.
Embarrassingly enough, I almost died to the second boss during my first attempt. But, by the end, I learned his patterns and attack timing. While this may seem relatively pointless to discuss, it does actually matter for replays because there are multiple endings players can obtain. And, since ending requirements vary and getting them all ultimately requires more than 1 playthrough, mentally carrying over the ins and outs of the enemy design is a significant boon.
World map design is one facet that might stump new players because it’s surprisingly simple to get lost if one isn’t paying attention. There are various diverging pathways, and if a player forgets to utilize the map, I can see how losing one’s way would occur. However, it’s best not to overestimate the area sizes because the overall game map is rather small in the grand scheme of events. Just being cognizant of where you are in relation to prior areas should be enough to get your bearings and learn how the locations tie into one another.
Still, like any compelling Metroidvania, the gradual learning of proper traversal and progression in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut is immensely satisfying, providing a real sense of accomplishment that makes the prospect of replays even more enticing if just to flex your newly attained knowledge.
One of the central mechanics of Shantae as a character is her ability to transform into other creatures such as a monkey and elephant. As expected, each form provides their own benefits and weaknesses and are truly at the crux of what makes this game a Metroidvania experience. The monkey, for example, can climb walls and, aside from necessary dungeon progression, can also be used to obtain varied upgrades.
To transform into these states, Shantae must dance, though it is worth noting that only certain poses correlate to particular transformations. As initially perplexing as grasping this particular mechanic might be, the incorporation of having to pay attention to specific sprite work on a gameplay level aids in granting further appreciation for the appealing pixel goodness.
And the artwork is spectacular. The aesthetic manages to feel old-school but not historic enough to the point where it’d be difficult for modern gamers to feel endeared by it. This style is honestly timeless; I find it as adorable as I did years ago. Lastly worth noting is the soundtrack, as it powerfully encapsulates the many environments so they each stand out distinctively.
There’s a noticeable mix of upbeat catchiness and ominous trepidation emitted in the soundtrack, making it diverse in application. On the PlayStation 5 version, some sound effects come out of the DualSense’s speaker, which is a neat touch. If there’s one nitpick I have, it’s that I really don’t like the font, but in such a short game with not too much dialogue in the first place, it never became an actual bother.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut is a must-play Metroidvania that boasts an enjoyable gameplay loop of continual discovery, well-designed enemies, and a charming presentation. If you haven’t managed to play this version via its other release platforms, this is an opportune time to do so. You can’t ever go wrong with Shantae, and hopefully, many more gamers come to appreciate the infectiously exuberant splendor that this game radiates.
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