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Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - hands-on at IndieCade 2015

The half-genie Shantae returns to help celebrate WayForward's 25th anniversary and she's come with an upgraded art style. Shacknews recently had a chance to give the game a look during last weekend's IndieCade event.

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Among my favorite games from IndieCade's Nintendo booth last year was Shantae and Pirate's Curse, the third chapter in WayForward's series about a powerful half-human, half-genie heroine. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the developer return to IndieCade this year with another new Shantae game in the works. But there was something distinctly different about Shantae: Half-Genie Hero than anything I had seen from her past efforts.

But after about a minute, it hit me as hard as a hair-whip. Shantae wasn't running on sprites anymore. No, WayForward has upgraded Shantae's visual style from her vintage pixelated art style. She now runs with a more high-resolution cel-shaded look, along rendered 3D environments, a style that should look familiar to anyone that picked up DuckTales: Remastered just a couple of years ago. The result is a much more expressive Shantae than ever before, allowing her a wider range of expressions and gestures.

In fact, the new art style feeds into Shantae's new transformation mechanics. Holding the X button will see Shantae perform a quick genie dance and transform her into a helpful animal. For the seabound level I was playing through, Shantae turned into a monkey that allowed her to climb walls, as well as a crab that could duck underneath objects. The new art similarly brings life to Shantae's environments. A desert level, for example, throws in fierce sandstorms every couple of seconds. Those sandstorms appear fully animated, as do the expressions on Shantae as she attempts to trudge across them.

The rest of the game is classic Shantae, navigating platforms and making sure to take out any incoming enemies along the way. Players must be careful, since enemies all have their distinct attack patterns and an errant hit can cause major setbacks. With the level I was playing employing vertical layers, getting hit mid-air caused Shantae to fly all the way back to the bottom, where she was forced to work her way back up. And unfortunately, the enemies do respawn.

The Shantae games have always been underappreciated gems, but the young genie has never looked better than she does in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Visually, it's a major step forward and it doesn't compromise any of the gameplay elements that have made the original games so enjoyable. There are other elements that the game will feature, including a playable Risky Boots, but those were not available for this particular demo.

Look for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero to make its Wii U debut this winter. It's also set to hit PC, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms around the same time.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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