Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Action, Adventure & Platformer
Release Date: 12th of December, 2017 (EU & NA)
The Power of Three returns, except move over Charmed Ones, it’s time for Sky, Bolo and Rottytops to take to the stage!
I hope you’re ready for some more Shantae related hijinks as WayForward has wrapped up on the development of the Friends to the End DLC for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (formally known as Friends Mode) and it’ available now. However, for the players who didn’t back the game’s Kickstarter campaign, it’s time to ask, is the DLC worth the purchase? So to answer that question, it’s time to review it.
Since it is DLC for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, in terms of what is Friends to the End is and what its plot concerns, Friends to the End is downloadable content that builds upon the story as seen in Half-Genie Hero. Whereas before when the Dynamo is activated and inverts Shantae’s magic to make her evil, and her friends snap her out of it within seconds, thanks to some well-spoken dialogue, it turns out Shantae’s friends did more than just say a few lines. With Friends to the End, Shantae’s corruption is merely the beginning as Shantae’s friends must enter Shantae’s mind, only to find themselves in a world of horrors for the turmoil within Shantae has festered and become the newly added. Although, don’t get too attached to spending too much time in the Nightmare Realm, as you’ll actually find yourself spending more time exploring areas that should be familiar to you, if you’ve played Half-Genie Hero already.
Just like with Pirate Queen’s Quest DLC, the events of Friends to the End, sees Shantae’s trio of allies exploring a number of areas all from the original game and doing battle against the same old bosses. It would have been fantastic if Friends to the End featured more of the Nightmare Realm, as I did like the twisted aesthetic of it, instead of heavily focusing on levels we’ve seen time and time again, but it was not meant to be. Instead, what we get is a slightly altered version as the levels have been adapted just a touch, for the likes of Bolo, Sky and Rottytops to tackle, so it’s a good thing they do bring some variety to the game.
Asides from each character having a voice of their own as Sky, is voiced by none other than Karen Strassman (voice of Fire Emblem’s Olivia and Anna from Awakening and Anna, Olivia and Hana for Fire Emblem Heroes,) the trio also have their own way of doing things. Sky is a master of birds and can use Wrench to glide, through eggs that will hatch Hover-birds that can be used as impromptu platforms and use birds to fight. Rottytops on the other hand, a zombie who is all too happy to be inside Shantae’s mind, can detach her own head and throw it through Nightmare barriers and then have her entire body sprout up where her head lands and reattaches herself. As for how she attacks, well, she wields a leg with a big boot on the end!
Last but not least, there is Bolo. From first impressions of him, I thought he was going to be the character I would play as the lease, but it turns out he can be quite the formidable fighter, second only to Rottytops. She can deal more power, but he can attack a lot faster and smash through cracked blocks. Oh, and with regards to what he comes in handy for, with his Spring Claw, he can spring onto any peg or hoop you see and swing from it. (For what it’s worth, there is a lot of swinging, so be sure to practise if you need to and don’t forget to jump with B to really send him where you want him to go.)
In addition to each character’s unique talents, they also have a special Skill move (A button,) that vary from one another, but the most useful one is of course Rottytop’s ability to recover life, which is handy since you start off with 3 hearts and you end that way too. But if you’re worried about needing to pick one character over the other, that isn’t the case as you can play as all three characters on any given level, thanks to the fact you can easily swap between them via the ZR and ZL buttons. (The DLC is called Friedns to the End after all and it is all about friendship and working together.)
What sets these guys apart though from the other modes of play we’ve seen in Half-Genie Hero though, is the fact that there is no shop and a hub world like area to return to inbetween levels. There’s also no upgrading anything or buying things from a shop, so when you do collect the money that drops from enemies and jars. You put it to use via another purpose, levelling your character up. The more you get, the higher the level your character can attain (4 is the highest,) but be warned! Just because the three characters share the same hearts, they don’t share the same level, so they each need to be levelled up and getting hit will cause you to drop gems and level down when you lose too many, which also means the damage you inflict upon others will also decreases upon levelling down.
Another trait that Friends to the End, finds itself sharing in unison with Pirate Queen’s Quest, is that both games can be completed well within 2-3 hours minimum and that’s with 100% completion. Only to earn that special mark, players will be promoted to take on 17 stages, undergo various boss battles with one against Nega-Shantae and collect a total of 48 Dream Squids that are secreted away. Aside from some gameplay differences though, for the players wondering if there is enough Shantae charm to make this extra content deserving of existing, it is still very much so a Shantae game with Shantae dialogue, visuals and charm, but it lets other heroes step into her shoes for once and in fairness, the gang do in fact do, a decent job of it! Plus you’ll be playing through it more than once since as per usual, there is more than just the image to collect upon beating the game.
Much like with the Pirate Queen’s Quest DLC, Friends to the End does not have enough bite to ever really be a full game in its own right (unless something like a Hard and Hero mode were to be made available for it, like what Half-Genie Hero had when it released on Switch,) but it is a necessary purchase as it goes a long way to completing the Half-Genie Hero. Plus, for the first time ever, Sky, Rottytops and Bolo are all playable in a Shantae game, so for that reason alone, if you’re a Shantae fan you would be foolish to pass it up. Just don’t go expecting anything really new, as Friends to the End is just more of the same, but makes a good game better. But if you want to save your cash for now and never brought Half-Genie Hero, there is a Switch physical release in 2018 and it will come with all the previously released DLC, so you’re more than welcome to wait until then.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by WayForward