Cover art of Shantae
(Game Boy Color)
|Release date(s)||Game Boy Color
Shantae is a platform video game developed by WayForward Technologies and published by Capcom for the Game Boy Color. Released in 2002, it became obscure due to its release coming a year after that of the Game Boy Advance, even if it did show support for the new handheld, as special features are available when played on a Game Boy Advance. However, the game was a critical hit and has received recognition since its release, being nominated in some lists of the best Game Boy titles; it is therefore now considered a cult classic. The game was re-released via the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console on July 18, 2013. A sequel, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, was released for DSiWare in 2010, with an iOS port released in 2011 and a PC port released in 2014. A third sequel, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, was released on October 23, 2014, and a fourth entry, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, is currently in development.
The game takes place in a fictional setting called Sequin Land, and focuses on a young "half-genie" by the name of Shantae. Having been appointed as the Guardian Genie of a small fishing town, Scuttle Town, Shantae's life is fairly quiet. That quickly changes when a gang of pirates, led by the sinister Risky Boots, attacks the town and steals a prototype steam engine from the town's resident Relic Hunter, Mimic.
Shantae soon finds herself traveling far and wide across Sequin Land, determined to retrieve the steam engine and foil Risky's wicked plan.
- Shantae: Shantae is the heroine and a young half-genie charged with protecting Scuttle Town. She is described as "young and somewhat naïve, with a strong sense of justice". She fights by whipping her ponytail and can also transform into various creatures through magical dances. She has to find Risky and get the steam engine that the pirate stole from Scuttle Town back.
- Risky Boots: A pirate and Shantae's nemesis, and self-appointed "Queen of the Seven Seas". She commands a Tinkerbat army and plans to use the steam engine for evil.
- Tinkerbats: Tinkerbats are Risky's silent shadow army, a group of little pirate creatures bound to Risky's will.
- Mimic: Uncle Mimic is a Relic Hunter and resides in Scuttle Town. A sort of surrogate parent to Shantae, he is the one who discovered the steam engine.
- Bolo: Bolo is Shantae's sparring partner and is described as being kind of dumb. He is under the charm of Risky Boots and almost every other girl except Shantae, and a sort of punching ball to the rest of the cast.
- Sky: Shantae's lifelong friend and ally. She is a war bird trainer always researching eggs around Sequin Land, and is rarely seen without her pet war bird, Wrench.
- Rottytops: Rottytops is a zombie, friendly, attractive and independent, but also untrustworthy and manipulative. She is obsessed with Shantae for some reason.
Shantae is a Metroidvania-type platformer, which means some areas are first impossible to access and can only possibly be reached after acquiring some new abilities, which in Shantae come in the form of dances which transform her in other creatures, such as a monkey who can climb up to higher platforms, or a harpy who can fly. Some items are also required at times. The game also features puzzles and a day/night cycle which allows to access some items only appearing at night.
Shantae's main mean of defense is the hair whip, which allows her to smash enemies, but she can collect money to purchase further attacks, and other items with offensive or defensive powers.
The character of Shantae was created by Erin Bell, the future wife of Matt Bozon, the game's creator. In 1994, while both were engaged, Erin got a flash of inspiration while coming back from her camp counselor days, and created the character, naming her Shantae after one of the campers. Matt liked the idea and fleshed out the mythology and cast of the game. Erin also imagined that the character could summon or charm animals by dancing. This would later become the basis for the transformation dances. Matt came up with the idea for the hair whip, inspired by the nine feet long hair of his future wife.
The game was considered for development by WayForward Technologies as far back as 1997. An archived version of the company's official website showcases a very different approach to the game, which was at the time considered for development on PC or PlayStation, in full 3D with traditionally animated characters moving before a 3D background.  Shantae was presented as a troubled genie born without magic powers, who had to save the world from the Jins, powerful beings once sealed who escaped at the beginning of the game and planned to drain all magic from the world. Back then, her magic was capable, as in Erin's view, to summon animals, but transformation was already planned as Shantae could turn into a harpy. Her dances could also launch attacks and she had different outfits with different characteristics.
In Matt Bozon's idea at the beginning, the game was planned for the Super NES or PC. He and Erin pitched the game with help from veteran programmer Jimmy Huey, who worked with WayForward at the time. After the completion of Xtreme Sports, Voldi Way, the founder and owner of WayForward, greenlit a Game Boy Color version of the game. As Huey had already built a graphics engine for Xtreme Sports, this engine was adapted to suit Shantae's needs. This allowed the game to showcase rare effects on GBC games, like parallax scrolling and transparency effects. In the first four months of development, the team created most of the animation, and Huey programmed an art-capturing tool that allowed to take full-colored animation frames, turn them into three-colour chunks and reassemble the whole on the GBC's screen.
The game needed a 32 megabit battery backed-up cartridge to work properly, and was expensive to produce. This factor deterred some publishers, alongside the fact that launching a new IP was considered risky. WayForward tried to find a publisher for years, before Capcom eventually picked the game for release. Capcom, however, held back the release for months, and the Game Boy Advance was released in the meantime. It is rumored that the game had only one run of 15.000 copies. WayForward saw that the console's screen had a tendency to darken the colours, so they took back the game and made further developments on it, incorporating a feature to brighten the screen if played on a Game Boy Advance, alongside some bonus features.
The sound was, by 2000, developed in Musyx audio format, but WayForward chose to switch during development. The soundtrack featured about 20 songs at the time. Music was composed by Jake Kaufman with total creative freedom. Kaufman ultimately used the Paragon 5 GameBoy Tracker to create the music. Paragon 5's CEO, Paul Bragiel, served as music producer, and the tracker's creator, Stephane Hockenhull, performed music replay. The final soundtrack features 31 songs and was released for free on Big Lion Music, Jake Kaufman's blog, on August 4, 2001.
Shantae was generally well received by critics. IGN gave the game a 9 out of 10, calling it a "wonderful platform adventure". GameSpot scored it a 7.7 out of 10, claiming it to be a "fine example" of a portable platformer. However, Game Informer 's Andy McNamara gave it a 3/10, saying "the game just isn't compelling enough to keep you playing."
Game Informer 's Ben Reeves called Shantae the 15th best Game Boy game and felt that it was overlooked. Complex named it the 7th best GBC game in 2013. GamesRadar listed Shantae as one of the titles they want in the 3DS Virtual Console.
Several plans for a Shantae sequel were made, including Shantae Advance (or Shantae 2: Risky Revolution) for the Game Boy Advance, or Shantae: Risky Waters for the Nintendo DS. However, a new sequel would not be announced until September 15, 2009.
On September 15, 2009, a sequel titled Shantae: Risky's Revenge was revealed as a downloadable DSiWare title on Nintendo of America's 2009 Holiday lineup, with a tentative 2009 Q4 release date. Details on the 3-part episodic sequels were revealed in the November 2009 issue of Nintendo Power. However, plans for the episodic release were cancelled, and the game was instead released as a stand-alone sequel for a title to be available on DSiWare on October 4, 2010. The game was later ported to iOS and Microsoft Windows.
A fourth title, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, has also been announced for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One; the game was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter, receiving over $914,000, more than doubling its initial goal, and is still receiving additional funding as of November 2014 through PayPal on the company's official website.
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