Developer(s) – Way Forward Technologies
Publisher(s) – Capcom
Director – Matt Bozon
Producer – John Beck
An early indie game five years in the making and having gone through a number of developmental ideas before release, Shantae is a traditional 2D platformer, but with elements of the Metroidvania genre thrown in for good measure. I was actually quite surprised to find out how good a game Shantae is, and would recommend it to anyone who may have a Game Boy or DS, and looking for a hidden gem.
Graphics – 9/10
For the time of its launch and platform it initially appeared on, the game could easily be considered revolutionary in terms of visuals. Aside from being extremely colourful, the universe of Shantae is extremely detailed and varied; featuring conceptual design inspired by not only Middle-Eastern culture, but also by pirate culture. It’s a very interesting blend, that has gone on to be a constant throughout the rest of the series, and works astonishingly well.
Gameplay – 7/10
Having elements of the Metroidvania genre attached to it, there’s quite a fair bit to play for in the game, and quite a bit of satisfaction to be had out of it for the time it lasts. Aside from the encouragement of exploration and challenging enemies, there is also a series of mini games present, involving activities such as racing and belly dancing to gain more in-game money. The belly dancing in particular can be quite a satisfying challenge if the player is able to complete the higher-ranked dancing sequences. But regardless, it presents a fair enough level of challenge without it being far too inaccessible.
Controls – 8/10
For the most part, the control scheme of the game is pretty straightforward. Moving and combat are easy to get to grips with, and how the in-city exploration was handled is pretty unique. The biggest problem with it, however, is that it has an open world, but no map system. I think that this is actually not only the biggest flaw in the game in terms of controls, but the biggest flaw in the game in general. It was something that was made complicated, but didn’t need to be so.
Lifespan – 6/10
Though it is on the Game Boy Colour, and that it could be argued that memory usage would have factored into it, 4 hours still seems to me as particularly underwhelming for a Metroidvania game. I cant hep but with perhaps a few more mini games, or some side quests attached to it, it could have been made to last a fair bit longer. It was at around this time that open world 2D platformers were being made to last longer than many others in the past, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so where this game may have been ahead of the time from a graphical standpoint, it was lagging behind in terms of lifespan.
Storyline – 6/10
Although the general atmosphere and visual style of the game was different to many others, the story wasn’t anywhere near as much so. It follows Shantae, a half-human half-genie hybrid, who is charged with protecting a small town called Scuttle Town. One day, the town is attacked by the pirate Risky Boots, who steals a prototype steam engine for her diabolical plan. And so Shantae resolves to get it back from her. For a video game story it is pretty typical; only kept somewhat interesting by small elements of humour here and there.
Originality – 6/10
Though it may have been particularly advanced for the time in terms of graphics, especially on a handheld system, I think it did want for uniqueness somewhat in terms of gameplay. It did have some standout mechanics for the time, such as the ability to transform into various animals to get around, but ultimately, the most standout thing was indeed not only the graphical marvel of the visuals, but also the game’s conceptual influences,
Overall, despite the absence of a map system and a prolonged lifespan, Shantae is still fairly enjoyable game, and worthy of the attention of anyone who may own a Game Boy. It isn’t the best platformer to have ever been released, but it indeed has its charms.