Leo's Comfy Corner: Shantae Series: I Dream of (Half) Genie
First comfy game review. Some of you may be thinking, "How can a game be comfy?" For those of you harboring such thoughts, I can only ask a simple question: If you were sick with the flu or having a bad day, would you rather play Doom or Mario? If you answered the latter, you just reaffirmed that games can be comfy. If you answered the former, you are likely a psychopath, not unlike Shantae's unhinged zombie friend Rottytops, but probably not as cute.
I first got into the Shantae series during my recuperation from wisdom teeth surgery. Having a mouthful of blood meant I'd want something cute to play, so I downloaded Shantae: Risky's Revenge, the second installment in the series, but a first for most people, myself included. This is because the original Game Boy Color game came out after the release of the Game Boy Advance, which is a really bad idea from a marketing perspective. Speaking of perspective...don't image search this game without safe-search on. I am so very disappointed, internet. I need to look at cute Shantae transformations to get comfy again.
The series are Metroidvania platformers, which I consider to be the comfiest genre for both nostalgia and simplicity. However, most platformers nowadays range between the purely reliant on nostalgia, 99th sequel for done-to-death Nintendo characters...to gritty morbid indie games on steam. Shantae: Risky's Revenge found a wonderful, happy medium. Cute characters, bizarre-yet-familiar settings, and easy, fun, repetitive gameplay designed for exploration and/or speed runs, not high scores or brutal survival; you can't get more comfy.
Shantae, the half-genie protagonist, even uses her hair as a weapon and upgrades her strength and speed with...wait for it...shampoo and conditioner!
The game featured fun villains, adorable transformations (the source of the Metroidvania-powerups needed to continue exploration) and plenty of humor, ranging from 4th wall breaks to surreal commentary.
Even the main antagonist, the pirate Risky Boots, doesn't come across as particularly monstrous.
I was hooked. The following year I got Shantae and the Pirates Curse. The animal transformations were gone due to plot reasons, replaced by something just as interesting. But the game had the same Scuttle Town (with the same imbecile mayor), same unusual, funny cast of antagonists.
Other than Risky, there are four barons: Techno Baron, Hypno Baron, Ammo Baron, and Squid Baron.
The graphics got an upgrade and the gameplay was more complex, and personally, I'd have to say this was my favorite of the series, despite the lack of monkey Shantae, which is objectively the best Shantae.
I recently played Shantae: Half Genie Hero. More transformations, amazing graphics, all paid for via kickstarter. The previously posted crab form is unique to this game, and thankfully, my favorite, the monkey, was back.
All the forms are adorable, all the familiar characters I'd come to love were back, and the peculiar brand of humor was in full swing. The character dialogue was less expressive and smaller on screen, and it felt even shorter than the notably short (the games reward you for speed-runs) previous installments. That being said, it was still a very satisfying, very comfy play-through.
If you like platformers, Metroidvania or otherwise, and you can stomach a game with more "dawwws" than "aaaaahhhs!" then you will enjoy Shantae. Give them a try. I'm eagerly awaiting news of another sequel.