Why Shantae: Half-Genie Hero Is the Best Game About a Dancing Genie Girl You'll Play This Year

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is the latest video game starring the magical dancing heroine Shantae, and while it may not be the best game in the series, it comes pretty darn close.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

(via WayForward Games)

In the game, players take control of the half-genie Shantae yet again for another 2D platforming adventure. As a magical being, Shantae is the resident hero of her town in Sequin Land, and with the power to transform into various animals and objects, she's really the only one to get the job done.

As the game begins, Shantae can only jump around and whip enemies with her long purple hair—which may not seem like much, but her hair really does pack a punch! But as you progress through the game you unlock various genie transformations. Obviously, Shantae has to do a cute little dance to transform.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Shantae monkey climbing in factory

(via WayForward Games)

With the push of a button, time freezes around Shantae and the player can quickly and easily choose one of her 12 spells to execute. For the most part, these are animal transformations that allow her to traverse through the levels. Sometimes, it's necessary to quickly swap between animals, and the game makes those transformations pretty seamless.

Becoming a monkey allows Shantae to climb walls and jump to new heights, while becoming a mermaid lets Shantae explore underwater areas and being an elephant lets her bust through walls. Each of the eight animal transformations also has a special move that makes them even more useful.

Other spells will turn her into a tree that produces healing fruit or a jug that turns magic into money. One even turns her into a happy bouncing blobfish just for fun.


The Shantae games have always teased players with items that are just out of reach without the right power-up, and Half-Genie Hero is no different. With each new transformation or power I had an aha! moment thinking back to previous areas that would suddenly be accessible thanks to a crab claw or the power of flight.

The game also cleverly hides secrets in plain sight. What I thought were simply Greek-inspired labyrinth patterns in one level's stones were actually tiny interconnected mazes I could only navigate in mouse form, and innocuous flowers scattered throughout levels hid surprises that could only be unearthed by an elephant's stomp.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Elephant transformation in desert

(via WayForward Games)


If you care to explore every nook and cranny you'll find plenty goodies like more heart containers and extra moves that will make your adventure more painless.

You can also buy power-ups when you return to the main hub, Scuttle Town. Items like fireballs and magic bubbles require magic to use, but there are also improvements available to Shantae's bikini armor and magic capacity. The Shantae games are also the only ones I've ever seen where hair cream and shampoo are power-ups, but as Shantae's hair is her main weapon, it's a cute touch and totally appropriate.

If you're not a fan of backtracking in video games, I have to warn you that it's a critical part of Half-Genie Hero's gameplay. You'll have to return to the same levels again and again to unlock everything and progress the story. While I didn't think it ever got too repetitive, I'm sure some players out there would disagree.

The game, available on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Wii U, and Xbox One, is the fourth in the Shantae series and the first to move away from a highly detailed retro pixel style to gorgeously rendered hi-def graphics. With the old style being so beloved, the leap was a risk, but it's definitely paid off.

Nowadays, many 2D platforming games insist on using an art style that hearkens back to classic '90s games. Shantae's sleek and smoothly animated characters and locations prove it's very possible to feel like a great retro platformer without looking like one—and I hope it inspires other similar games to try crisper graphics as well.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Tinkerslug

(via WayForward Games)

The creative folks at WayForward know how to make a platformer feel just right. It's something that a lot of modern game companies are getting wrong, and it's great to see WayForward hasn't lost its touch with this game.

One downside—and this is only a downside because the game is so enjoyable—is that it's not long enough. Even if you were being extremely thorough and going for 100% of the collectables, you should beat the game in under eight hours.

To be fair, I've only beat one other Shantae game in the past, and it happened to be Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. At the time, I didn't realize that Pirates Curse deviated a lot from the other Shantae game, being the only one where she loses her genie powers of transformation and is forced instead to utilize her greatest enemy Risky Boots' pirate gear. That game was bigger, tougher and a little more fun thanks to the elements introduced by the pirate items.

But with varied, colorful and fun level design—aside from a couple of slide levels I had to complete again and again that drove me mad—quirky, lovable characters and creative boss battles that make you think, it's the full package. The game is a challenge without ever getting frustratingly tough, and the charming storyline will keep players engaged all the way through.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero - Wilbur

(via WayForward Games)

And while there might not be as much to do in the game as there was in Pirate's Curse, the game also promises future downloadable content with more playable characters and all-new levels and bosses. The adventure's not over just yet!


For even more video game excitement, click HERE to see our most highly anticipated video games for the Nintendo Switch.