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May 2024

Shantae Advance: Risky Revolution

Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Release Date: October 2024


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GBA/Switch/PS5/PS4/PC Preview - 'Shantae Advance: Risky Revolution'

by Adam Pavlacka on April 2, 2024 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In this hair-whipping, belly-dancing action-adventure, Shantae's nemesis, the nefarious pirate Risky Boots, has a "groundbreaking" new scheme that will leave Sequin Land spinning.

When I received the invite to go hands-on with the latest Shantae game, I had to do a double-take — because of the platform. It's 2024, and I was heading out to play a brand-new Game Boy Advance title. It didn't seem entirely real until WayForward's Game Director Matt Bozon and Shantae creator Erin Bozon pulled out a GBA SP and handed it to me. I wasn't playing on an emulator; this was the real deal.

Development on Shantae Advance: Risky Revolution started in 2002, but the game was put on hold in 2004 when WayForward couldn't find a publisher. In 2013, Shantae fans got a peek at Risky Revolution when WayForward streamed the prototype to promote the Kickstarter for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Aside from that, Risky Revolution more or less sat idle for nearly 20 years. Thankfully, WayForward kept the source code and assets secure because in 2023, WayForward announced that development had resumed on Risky Revolution in partnership with Limited Run Games.

Sitting down with the GBA SP, it was impressive how good Risky Revolution looked. Two decades may have passed by, but WayForward hasn't forgotten how to squeeze the most out of Nintendo's classic system. The pixel art looked fantastic. It's one thing to play a GBA game on an emulator, but on the real hardware, Risky Revolution's visuals just popped — especially with the brightness turned up on the AGS-101's backlit screen. Animations were crisp, while movement was smooth and responsive.

Risky Revolution is a bit story-heavy in the beginning, so Matt Bozon used some developer magic (AKA debug cheat codes) to move me further into the game. It wasn't long before I was running around, exploring the world, and taking out enemies with Shantae's purple ponytail.

While it may not seem like much today, one of the big technical improvements in the Super Nintendo era was being able to move your character back and forth between different movement planes in the game world. Remember rotating Mario on the fence in Super Mario World? Risky Revolution makes use of that same mechanic, both for exploration and for puzzle-solving. You can swap between the planes at a gate, go to the rear plane to bypass an obstacle in the front plane, or to reach a new area.

As the story goes, the pirate Risky Boots got tired of only being able to pillage towns along the shore. She used the Tremor Engine to rotate the world and move inland cities to the coast, where she could more easily steal their riches. Shantae will have to use the Tremor Engine to expose new paths and eventually defeat Risky Boots. Once you've rotated the rear movement plane, areas that were previously inaccessible (for example, a platform was too high) may become accessible when you swap between planes.

Fans of the series will also get a chance to see how Shantae and her friends met for the first time. Since Risky Revolution is technically the second game in the series, it fills in the backstory for events that happened prior to Shantae: Risky's Revenge.

Platforming challenges seem to fit well with the theme of the game, such as using Shantae's ponytail to smack bugs into the mouths of oversized carnivorous plants. Once a plant's mouth is shut, Shantae can use it as a platform. In another area, I had to pull on a rope to drop a bomb from an overhead door, and then use Shantae's ponytail to smack the bomb into a brick wall so I could open up a path. It's all very on-brand.

Shantae also has the ability to transform into various animals by using dance magic. Each animal form has special powers that can help you explore more of the world. For example, the monkey can climb and see behind solid objects. You never know when something might be hiding nearby. Her elephant form doesn't have quite as much mobility, but it is very strong.

One feature I didn't get a chance to check out is the four-player battle mode. Using the GBA link cable, you can use one Risky Revolution cartridge to connect four different GBA systems. You can play on GBA hardware, a GameCube with the GBA adapter, or even connect up an Analogue Pocket.

I only got a chance to play with Risky Revolution for about 20 minutes, but from what I saw, it has all the hallmarks of a classic GBA game. Given WayForward's track record with both the Shantae series and the GBA hardware, retro fans should mark this one on the calendar. It may be 2024, but come October, you'll be playing like it's 2004.

Unfortunately, the GBA version of Risky Revolution is only available via pre-order until April 7, 2024. If you want the GBA cart, you'll need to purchase it sight unseen.

If you don't have access to GBA hardware or if you want to wait for reviews before buying, Shantae Advance: Risky Revolution is also coming to the Nintendo Switch, PC (via Steam), and PlayStation consoles via digital download in the first quarter of 2025. The Switch, PC, and PlayStation versions will be using Limited Run's Carbon Engine to run Risky Revolution on modern hardware. Limited Run Games did say the Carbon Engine versions of Risky Revolution will include extras beyond the base game but wouldn't get into details just yet. Physical releases are planned for consoles but don't yet have a set release date. They will likely appear shortly after the digital release.

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