By: Mike Chen
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is a cult classic 2D platformer originally released in 2010 for the Nintendo DS. Now it’s available on PS4 (and Windows), which may make you wonder why it’s getting a re-release on modern platforms. While far from a technology buster, Risky’s Revenge is a packed adventure platformer with plenty to offer in pixelated form.
While a little more expansive than the 8-bit NES two-button controls, Risky’s Revenge would fit comfortably into the 16-bit world. The two primary buttons, like any game in this genre, are jump and attack (which can be held down to slow Shantae to a walk when more precise movement is required). Shantae’s dance button is the equivalent of in-game magic, though it is often more contextually based.
For platformers, it’s important that controls feel crisp and accurate, which they do here. Most good platformers allow you to get into a rhythm with dense combat after getting a feel for the controls, and Risky’s Revenge is no exception. After a good hour or so with the game, most players will be able to precisely jump, attack and land in one smooth motion, all while avoiding enemy attacks.
Risky’s Revenge doesn’t feature any true upscaling, re-skinning or other graphical improvements. The original pixel-based visuals are still here, for better or worse. The visual options allow you to play in standard 4:3 aspect ratio, zoom in or stretch it out to fill the screen.
Otherwise, you’re working with old-school pixel graphics and chip tunes. What’s here is done with obvious attention to detail and care, though if you’re not nostalgic about these things, it may be off putting. Otherwise, the character design, environments and animations are strong despite the limitations of their inherent technology.
As old-school platformers go, Risky’s Revenge takes many different elements from 8- and 16-bit classics and mashes them up into its own successful beast. At its core, Shantae jumps and attacks (her hair is akin to the Belmont whip from Castlevania), and this is executed with crisp and precise controls.
Beyond that, there’s also interaction in towns (like Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest), dungeons (like side-scrolling A Link To The Past), side quests and return-and-unlock areas (Metroid). All of this is seamlessly blended into Shantae’s world, where genies and pirates hang out with zombies and golems.
The world map is traversed on foot, though warp points can be unlocked. The game primarily plays as a side-scroller, though “jump pads” allow you to move in different z-axis layers of areas for a pseudo-3D effect. While it can be easy to get lost or stuck, an on-screen map helps (buy it early, you’ll need it).
Power ups, dances (magic) and fetch quest items populate the world, and while it is reasonably linear, there’s still plenty of leeway for exploration at your leisure. Combat and puzzles (in dungeons and overland) can be challenging but hardly ever show-stopping, making for a well-balanced mix of thinking, fighting and exploring. Save points are clearly marked on the map, and while not generously assigned, there are enough of them so that deaths don’t feel disastrous.
Since this is technically a sequel, new gamers will go into the story cold, and there’s not much to catch you up. Fortunately, all you really need to know is that Shantae is a half-genie, Risky is her pirate nemesis, and that’s basically it. The opening segment is packed with dialogue to fill in the blanks, though much of it comes in the form of poorly written humor.
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge successfully blends elements from many different throwback classics and creates a world and identity all its own. Perhaps its only problem is that the game doesn’t come with any remastered/updated elements other than a few smoothed-over mechanics. Still, its low price point makes it a worthy investment for any fans of 2D platformers.