Fifteen years ago today we were first introduced to Shantae. The game launched on June 2, 2002 for the Game Boy Color in North America. While WayForward Technologies was formed in 1990 and had worked on several games in that decade’s time they were all licensed based properties, or ports. Their first game, Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge, launched for the Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System, and Sega Game Gear in 1994. After that they were pretty dormant. They resurfaced in the new millennium and released seven games between 2000 and 2001. Those games include Xtreme Sports, Bear in the Big Blue House: Bear’s Sense of Adventure, Sabrina: The Animated Series: Zapped, Sabrina: The Animated Series: Spooked, Pearl Harbor: Defend the Fleet, Wendy: Every Witch Way, and WWF Betrayal.
Now that may seem like a lot of garbage, but some of those are actually pretty good. I won’t get into that now, as that venture seems more worthy for a WayForward retrospective. For now I do want to call out the models for Sabrina, Wendy, and Guppi from Xtreme Sports. You can clearly see a lot of inspiration from Shantae’s movements from these three charcters especially Guppi who is kind of ridiculously sexualized in her GBC game. I will point out she is eighteen at least so that’s less creepy I guess. You can see more of what I’m talking about in the accompanying video part of this retroactive. History lesson aside let’s get back to Shantae.
Being that it launched in 2002, a year prior to Nintendo discontinuing the system, the game was produced in low quantities and is thus pretty rare. It’s also worth mentioning that the Game Boy Advance launched in 2001, which didn’t help its cause either. This is a shame seeing as Shantae is one of the GBC’s best, which is astounding considering it was WayForward’s first effort in creating something original. For those unaware Shantae is about a half-genie, of the same name, who is the protector of Scuttle Town. When the town is ransacked by pirates lead by Risky Boots, Shantae takes off in an adventure to thwart evil in its tracks.
It, and the games that follow, are all Metroidvanias to some degree. Shantae‘s main attack is her hair. Gems from defeated enemies let players upgrade Shantae’s stats along with buying various potions and offensive items. She also gains magical powers throughout new dungeons that transform her into animals. Her monkey form, for example, can climb on walls. It’s a bit different than typical Metroidvanias though in that most areas are divided up into levels instead of taking place in one giant hub dungeon. This is great in that it gives the games more flavor, but the backtracking is a bit more painful because of it. Plus all four games retread a lot of the same ground literally and figuratively.
Graphically this first game looks great and they only get better from here. The same goes for the music too. That’s pretty much Shantae in a nutshell though. As I previously teased there’s more detail in the supporting video. I recommend checking them all out, but if I had to choose one for you readers it’d be the third: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. That’s my favorite and I think it’s pretty much available on everything. Even your toaster! Lame jokes aside I wish Shantae a happy 15th Anniversary.