Shantae (video game)
|Platform(s)||Game Boy Color|
Shantae is a platform video game developed by WayForward Technologies and published by Capcom for the Game Boy Color in 2002. It is the first title in the Shantae series, and would later be followed by three sequels: Shantae: Risky's Revenge in 2010, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse in 2014, and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero in 2016.
The game follows the adventures of the eponymous half-genie Shantae, who must travel across Sequin Land, the setting of the series, to foil the domination plans of the evil lady pirate Risky Boots. During her quest, she learns various dances and acquires items which make her progressively stronger as well as unlocking new abilities and locations, leading her to ultimately face off against Risky in her hideout.
The game became obscure due to its release coming a year after that of the Game Boy Advance. However, it received favourable reviews and has garnered recognition since its release, being included on multiple lists of best games on the platform, and being called a "cult classic" by some reviewers.
Shantae is a platform adventure game, in which players play as the eponymous Shantae, a half-genie who must travel across various areas in order to stop the evil lady pirate Risky Boots. Shantae's default attack involves using her hair like a whip. Shantae can also use gems obtained from defeated enemies to purchase items, such as life-restoring potions and damaging items with various uses, as well as learn upgraded combat moves. The game features five towns, with various areas filled with enemies and obstacles in between them. In order to progress through the game, Shantae must seek out various characters who will open up dungeons, with each dungeon containing a guardian genie that will teach Shantae a new dance. By using these dances, Shantae can transform herself into different animals, including a monkey that can climb on walls, an elephant that can smash objects such as boulders and tree stumps, a spider that can climb across webbing in the background, and a harpy that can fly in mid-air. Shantae must use these abilities to reach new areas or find hidden items.
The game features a day and night cycle, with enemies becoming stronger during the night. During nighttime, players can collect hidden fireflies, with a reward available for collecting them all. Other collectible creatures include Warp Squids, which are squid-shaped items hidden within dungeons, and which can be given to larger mother squids in each town in exchange for the ability to instantly warp there. Finally, heart vessels can be obtained to increase Shantae's maximum health. The game also features various minigames, such as dancing or gambling, in order to earn additional gems.
Setting and characters
The game takes place in a fictional setting called Sequin Land, described as a magical place, formerly protected by Guardian Genies who won the land years of peace. With time, genies fell in love with humans and had children with them, half-genies with limited magical powers. For obscure reasons, genies ultimately vanished, with their children taking their place as protectors of the land. The main character, Shantae, is one such half-genie, appointed as the Guardian Genie of the small fishing village of Scuttle Town, where she resides in the abandoned lighthouse.
The game features a small cast of recurring characters, including the main character, described as "innocent and somewhat naïve,[...] with a childlike view of right and wrong", although she's also determined and skilled at fighting. Other characters include the antagonist, Risky Boots, self appointed "Queen of the Seven Seas", who reigns over a silent pirate crew of creatures called "Tinkerbats" who are bound to her will; Uncle Mimic, an aged member of a congregation of adventurers called the Relic Hunters who acts as a surrogate parent figure to Shantae; Bolo, Shantae's sparring partner who happens to be somewhat air-headed and submissive to women; Sky, Shantae's lifelong friend who raises and trains war birds, and is always shown with her pet war bird Wrench; and the zombie Rottytops, who is described as friendly, but mischievous and untrustworthy.
A gang of pirates, the Tinkerbats, led by Risky Boots, attacks Scuttle Town and steals a prototype steam engine from Mimic, the town's resident treasure hunter. Mimic tells Shantae, the guardian of Scuttle Town, that if Risky retrieves four magical "elemental stones", she could power up the steam engine and create an unstoppable weapon out of it. Shantae travels across Sequin Land, determined to retrieve the steam engine and the elemental stones and stop Risky.
With help from her friends Bolo and Sky and her acquaintance Rottytops, she gains access to three dungeons where she retrieves three of the stones. At the fourth dungeon, Shantae finds the fourth stone, but is ambushed at the exit by Risky, who leaves with the stones. Shantae subsequently discovers the location of Risky's hideout with a magical flying telescope called the Sky Scope, and teleports there. Shantae reaches and destroys Risky's weapon, the Tinker Tank. Risky tries to kill Shantae but is defeated; and as Risky's hideout collapses, Shantae escapes. After, she is magically abducted to a place called the Genie Realm where the genies offer her a chance to remain with them as a reward for her courage, but at the price of never seeing her friends again. She refuses and is sent back to Scuttle Town where she announces to Mimic that she had to destroy the steam engine, but is relieved to hear from him that it was probably for the better.
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 envisioned by Erin Bozon, the original creator of the character, 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 the idea of Matt Bozon, who created the game's universe based on Erin's character, at the beginning, the game was planned for the SNES 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 intellectual property was considered dicey. WayForward tried to find a publisher for years, before Capcom eventually picked the game for release. Capcom, however, held back the release for months, during which the Game Boy Advance was released. It is rumored that the game had only one run of 20–25,000 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.
In 2000, the sound was developed using the Musyx audio format, but WayForward chose to switch during development. The soundtrack featured about 20 songs at the time, and was composed by Jake Kaufman. Kaufman ultimately used the Paragon 5 GameBoy Tracker to create the music. Paragon 5's CEO, Paul Bragiel, served as music producer, and Stephane Hockenhull performed music replay.
Sales and analysis
Sales figures for the game have not been made public, but according to Bozon, it sold poorly; he said that he had heard that 20–25,000 copies of the game were produced, which did sell out, but that a second print run did not get made.
Matt Bozon has refused to blame Capcom, the publisher of the game, for responsibility in the game's failure. This was despite Capcom holding it for 8 months after completion, with the game finally releasing when the Game Boy Advance was already in its first year of existence. He says he went in "very naive", believing that if the game was good, it would sell anyway. Bozon believed that from a creative standpoint, he never really settled on a target audience, with the character being "iconoclastic", "too sexy to be a kid's brand, and too girly for a male gamer brand". Also, before the game was even released, Bozon claims that he had come to understand anyway that the game "would probably not sell", as during WayForward's search for a publisher, many market analysts were skeptical at the idea of having a female lead character, and Bozon ultimately acknowledged that they probably "genuinely knew their markets". He still did not give up, as he felt that Shantae had to exist, "even if it was just to reach out and see if there was an audience reaching back."
Shantae was generally well received by contemporaneous critics. IGN called it a "wonderful platform adventure", with "tons of variety in its level and character design", adding that it "looks fantastic as a Game Boy Color game". GameSpot claimed it to be a "fine example" of a portable platformer, "firmly rooted in the traditional conventions of the [platform game] genre", and added that "one area that this game truly shines in is the animation", although they complained about the music being "simple" and "repetitive", with "bland" sound effects. However, Andy McNamara for Game Informer was less positive, saying "the game just isn't compelling enough to keep you playing."
Retrospective reviews were positive as well, with Kaes Delgrego and Corbie Dillard of Nintendo Life and Kyle MacGregor of Destructoid claiming the game to be a "cult classic". Delgrego added that it was a "love-letter to the side-scrolling epic adventures of the NES". He added that the graphics and sound are "outstanding", although acknowledged some issues with the tiny screen of the Game Boy and overall lack of guidance in-game. Delgrego concluded by saying the game "does proper justice to the golden era of gaming". A new 2013 review for the re-release of the game on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console by Mike Mason claimed that the "2D platformer is sprinkled with enough genie-magic to keep it fresh and interesting for a modern audience."
Shantae was nominated in several lists of the best Game Boy games. 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, calling it a "solid platformer". GamesRadar ranked it as the 8th best Game Boy game, saying that "Shantae's filled with typical 2D platformer stuff [...] but it’s all done remarkably well and with a visual flair the GBC rarely saw". In 2018, the game was ranked as the 9th best GB/GBC game by French website Jeuxvideo.com, calling it an "excellent action-platforming game with superb art direction".
Several plans for a Shantae sequel were made, including Shantae: Risky Revolution for the Game Boy Advance, or Shantae: Risky Waters for the Nintendo DS. On September 15, 2009, a sequel titled Shantae: Risky's Revenge was announced, and 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, Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4. A third game, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, was released on the Nintendo 3DS eShop on October 23, 2014. Later the game was also released on Wii U, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Amazon Fire TV.
A fourth title, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch; it is the first HD game in the series. The game was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter and PayPal, receiving nearly $950,000, more than doubling its initial goal.
Shantae was digitally re-released via the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console on July 18, 2013. The game is available via eShop in North America and for the first time in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
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