When it was initially released for DSiWare last year, Shantae: Risky's Revenge [Free / $2.99 IAP], was an underappreciated gem on a service that most people didn't bother using. Now, thankfully, the game might find a little more grounding with the wider release on iOS, but as we've seen time and time again, platformers are a difficult sale on touchscreens, and Shantae, despite its pedigree, will have to keep up.

The game is a sequel to the Shantae, which was released for the Gameboy Color well into the rein of the Gameboy Advance. It follows the story of the belly-dancing, hair-whipping Shantae, as she seeks out her arch nemesis, Risky Boots, in order to get a magical lamp.

As a game, Shantae takes most of its cues from Castlevania and Metroid, meaning it's essentially a large, open-world 2D platformer, where gaining certain transformational powers will unlock new areas. You'll be able to turn into a monkey to scale walls, an elephant to pound rocks or a mermaid to swim underwater. As you discover new powers, you'll be backtracking and searching out new nooks and crannies to explore. On top of those powers, you'll also get magic spells, which are purchasable in the main hub town, and performance enhancers, which enable you to attack faster, stronger and more.

Most interesting is its introduction of a somewhat three dimensional plane, where each smaller 2D area has several levels to it -- like a stack of papers with levels drawn on them -- you'll bounce forward and backward through each section. It's too bad they're not used more throughout as it's truly the most interesting addition to the genre.

It's all rather clever and the level design keeps up, which is a good thing, because in general, most Metroidvania games we've seen so far have been lacking in their ambition. Unfortunately, you won't find guides of where to go and the maps in the game are terrible and unhelpful -- Shantae is all about exploring and figuring things out for yourself. This is frustrating at points, especially when you're at a loss for where to go next, but the reward for finding your own way often makes up for it, even if it does make it so you never feel like your properly progressing. Despite its clear influences, it's not derivative of either of the above games, and mostly forges its own path while maintaining the feeling of a good homage.

Most frustrating is the lack of a quicksave option, and the fact the game has a tenuous relationship with multitasking, working seemingly at random, doesn't help. I've complained about this before with iOS games and you can call me weak for doing so, but when playing on a mobile device, I'd like a quicksave option for when I need to put it down for a moment -- even if it's just one slot, a bookmark to come back to but not exploit. There's also an option for iCloud saving, but it doesn’t appear to be working at the moment, but thankfully, the IAP of the full game has no problems transferring from device to device.

Visually, the game is hit or miss. It's weird to say, but the game actually looks better on the lower-resolution DSi screen, because the pixel matching feels more natural. On retina display, the it looks a bit muddy and it isn't helped by the hideous bright-blue border around everything. It looks even worse on an iPad, like a blown-out tiny image. Despite itself, it still manages to be passable on the quality of the animation alone. WayForward has a way with 2D platformers that few developers can imitate and even through the pixels don't look quite right, the game itself never feels gaudy or horrible and you'll quickly get used to it. I don't think they needed to invest in making everything a higher resolution, but I feel like the emulation of the pixels could have been a little more clear, especially considering the border around the game screen and characters are all converted up.

The sound too, is worth mentioning. Jack Kaufman's soundtrack is like something pulled straight out Aladdin, with a chip-tuned, Middle-Eastern vibe pushing you along the whole way. The game was created to look and sound in the vein of SNES and Genesis classics and it succeeds in nearly every way.

Unfortunately, it's still a platformer on iOS and the virtual controls will never have the tuned accuracy of a physical stick. It does feel like the game was loosened up a bit from its DSi counterpart to correct this, although since Nintendo doesn't allow for downloading older games onto a different device, I can't redownload the DSiWare version to confirm this. It's certainly a bit easier than most of the games that inspired it, which is nice considering the controls aren't as precise as they need to be. For what it's worth, the virtual stick works as well as it can, but can't be customized or moved, so if your hands don't conform to where they're at, you're out of luck.

If you don't have a DSi or 3DS, or you just don't want to plop down $12 to play on those systems, Shantae: Risky's Revenge is a solid port, but marred with the same problems we've come to expect on iOS. It's certainly one of the better virtual control schemes and you'll only occasionally find problems with it, especially when required to jump and attack, but overall, it retains the engaging gameplay from the original.

TouchArcade Rating

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YSYYB7PKCRIMLNBDJNUTEMWSAQ Steve

    Not sure it will generate more sales on IOS, I'd like to see sales comparisons.  On the DSI it sticks out more because it sits along with a very small number of downloadable games, on IOS it's literally a needle in a massive haystack, there are so many more games to compete with.

    I'd be really suprised to hear it didn't sell well on the DSI though because almost everyone I know that has a DSI bought it.

    • Anonymous

      Also 80 percent of the games on the 3DS eshop are just horrible so this one definitely sticks out if you have a 3DS. Nintendo has a gold mine and they haven't a clue how to use it still. All the VC games should be available for that 3DS. The sales of that system would go through the roof.

  • http://twitter.com/spacecowgoesmoo Taylor Calderone

    (Jake Kaufman*)

    • http://twitter.com/kingthor Thorin Klosowski

      Derp. You are correct -- my brain and my fingers were not communicating there. 

  • Anonymous

    Decent little game, decent little franchise.  Hope this game sells so we'll see more out of this franchise.

    Also there's a map here, which might address some of the shortcomings of the one in the game for some people:

  • http://twitter.com/Platronic John Francis

    Awesome review. I'm kinda on the fence because while the DSi online store is a DOA  service I'm inclined to always get the better controlling version. Also, it's understandable given the nature of pixel being "hand stippled" if you will but unfortunate that there were not high res source images and Way Forward instead just blurred everything out. Oddly enough, that's apparently what the 3DS does to all DS titles unless you turn it off.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YSYYB7PKCRIMLNBDJNUTEMWSAQ Steve

    This would be great if it were not the emulated DS version... strange how they brought all the dialog out of the game and onto the ipad screen but did nothing to improve the low res DS window.... kind of a lazy port....

    • Real Hero

      Considering the price for DS version is $12 while for iOS is way less than that, I think that lazziness is justified.

  • http://about.me/davidlnguyen David Nguyen

    I loved the Shantae games ever since it came out on the Game Boy Color but I'm a little let down to see that this is a port of the dsi game. I'm gonna buy this anyways though and I really hope the developers consider making a full blown Shantae iOS game in the future. 

    On a related note, Nintendo really needs to get their act together when it comes to digital purchases. If I buy a game on the Wii or DS, in addition to owning the game I want to be able to transfer it to different consoles seamslessly through my email address like how Apple (and Microsoft on the 360) does it.  Otherwise, I would have never bothered buying digital content online in the first place and just stick to physical media.  

  • Anonymous

    I pretty much agree with this review. One thing you did get wrong: there actually are ways to find out where to go next- go to the town and talk to your uncle or the bird lady and they'll give you help/hints.

    Still haven't decided whether I should buy the rest of the game for iOS or just get it off of the eShop. Might wait and see if it comes to PSN as a mini (like Mighty Flip Champs did), since they tend to be cheaper (and better) than the dsiware versions.

  • http://twitter.com/Sanuku Sanuku

    Even i did the hole Weekend a "Feature" about Modern Combat 3 in my humble Mind this Game ( Shantae: Risky's Revenge ) is even greater then MC3. The Controls works great on an iPad 2 with iOS 5 so if you own an iPad and love Jump`n`Run Games there is no way to skip this Game. I felt instant in love with the iOS Version since i already did enjoy the DSi Version and love it now on the bigger Screen even more.


    nice boss this is my best post

  • Alejandro

    Plays great with Blutrol on the iPad with PS3 controller

  • Daniel Hadida

    It's funny how nobodies ever mention an obvious influence of the game : Metal Slug.

Shantae: Risky's Revenge Reviewed by Thorin Klosowski on . Rating: 4