Game by Wayforward Technologies/Capcom
Reviewed by Philip "Pocket Squirrel" Wesley (Deluxe Version 08/29/2014)
Size: 73 BLOCKS on the eShop. (Verified by our Download Guide) 8 MegaBits on the Game Boy Color.
Save: Battery Back Up/3 Slots
Works with: Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Player. Available on Nintendo 3DS eShop Virtual Console. Enhanced for Game Boy Advance, but those features are not accessible on the 3DS eShop version.
ESRB Rated: E
Rating Descriptions: Suggestive Themes, Comic Mischief
Quick Opinion (Highlight to View): Own
Opening Snide Remarks
Honesty in a review is the hardest thing to achieve, when you are emotionally invested in a product or feel a devotion to a company that makes that product. When Shantae first came out on Game Boy Color in 2002, DMG Ice pushed it pretty hard. I personally love all the characters in the game, I love the atmosphere of the game, and Shantae was happily proclaiming her love of our logo at the bottom of nearly EVERY issue of our "Viral Speak" feedback articles. There were a few independent games that I loved and promoted heavily. Hungry Are The Dead, Mythri, Drymouth, Magi-Nation 2, and then there was Shantae. Shantae was the little independent game that DID get picked up by a publisher. Picking up this game at a Game Stop was a thrilling experience. I still carry a torch for the characters that Matt Bozon created and I still carry a torch for this game.
I feel that it is time to be honest about Shantae though and I will finally get down to reviewing this title. Initially, there was a user submitted review of Shantae on the website. The old template for reviews would probably net the game a 100% score and that would be it. The problem with the old template is that it was way too easy for a game to get a 100% score and I felt that cheapened the scores at DMG Ice. I did not feel it lent an air of honesty to the site or to our reviews. The template I am using now has been in development for years and the review you are about to read has been simmering in my mind for over eight years. The new format makes it fairly difficult for a game to get an S rank, which is our highest honor that we can give a game. In these reviews, the important part is our percentages and the letter scores are for developers and publishers to use on boxes. This is a "best of both worlds" approach to review scores. There are some games that are hard to go back and re-review. The Legend of Zelda 4: Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy VI Advance, Chrono Trigger DS, and Shantae are a few of those games that are tough for me to review because I have an emotional attachment to them.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, it is finally time for me to take an honest look at the merits of Shantae. Since I finally have a template that allows for the type of in depth reviewing that my readers deserve.
Prepare for this journey to Sequin Land with me!
Shantae is not an ordinary platform game at all, when compared to other mascot platformers of the time. There really are no "levels" in the game, nor is there a "set" goal at first. The game starts out with Shantae being rudely awakened by pirates, led by Lady Pirate Risky Boots, attacking Scuttle Town. Shantae is the Guardian Genie of Scuttle Town and it is her duty to protect it! However, Shantae is just a HALF-Genie. So, instead of PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS, she hits things with her hair, dances, and occasionally transforms into different creatures.
The introduction level teaches you some of the basic mechanics of the game. Shantae is able to run, jump, hit things with her hair, and has a life bar. There are three little hearts in the bottom right corner and when you get hit, they slowly disappear. If they all disappear, or you fall into a pit, Shantae loses a life. Lose too many of those and you get a Game Over. The first area has a pretty simple goal, beat enemies, dodge things, and get from Point A to Point B. Then you take on a boss fight where you figure out the boss pattern and take it down!
Then -after a few short cut scenes- the real game begins. The game has a huge variety of "styles" in it. This is an open world side scroller. When you leave a town, you can go either Right or Left toward other areas and towns. Now, some areas you will NOT be able to pass to yet because you lack a special power or ability. This makes the game a little like Super Metroid or Castlevania 2. Shantae has to dodge enemies, discover items that expand her powers, and collect money to spend on items inside of the towns. You have to be careful outside of towns because this game has a Night and Day cycle. When Night falls suddenly, it would appear that the enemies get stronger, shops open or close in the towns, and special items appear in the fields. Daytime is a lot easier; but the Nighttime will probably get you a little upset. It's like someone decided to make the Night time enemies a bit of a curse. And it is a horrible night to have a curse!
I had to go there and I make no apologies for it.
A lot of the story advances inside of the towns, which are presented in a "3D" view where you get a "Behind The Genie" view of the town. You can enter shops, talk to villagers who pass you by, save your game, replenish your energy, visit whatever weird place is available in that town, and more! The first town you visit has a Dancing Mini-Game that you can play for sheer profit. That dance hall is only open at night though and it brings us to another weird aspect of the game: The Sexy Dancing.
Tap that SELECT button and Shantae will stop whatever she is doing in the field or inside of a building. A beat from no where starts up and a note accompanied by a few dots will become visible in the bottom part of the screen. Hit any of the D-Pad directions, A, or B to witness Shantae doing a dance move. Later on, you can perform specific dances in a specific sequence to transform into creatures like an Elephant, a Spider, a Monkey, and so forth. You can also warp to towns, provided you have collected four "Warp Squids" in the various dungeons in the world and earned the dance for the town you want to warp to. You can also replenish health or do other effects with your dancing. The dancing is a bit like the ocarina item in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
When you are at a Dance Hall, you have to hit the buttons at the right time to match up with a string of directions on the side of the screen. This earns you cash and praise. It also does wonders for those glutes and sides. There are other little mini-games hidden away, but some of them are plot related and I will not go into that territory..
The plot dictates that -in order to stop Risky Boots and her evil plan- Shantae must collect four stones from the temples in the world. First, she will have to visit people in the towns to gain entrance to the dungeons, than she will have to solve the puzzles in the dungeons and defeat the evil enemies that live in those dungeons. She will have to hunt down switches, enemies, hidden areas, and a lot more in her quest to find the four stones before Risky does. If that sounds a bit straight forward, it is a bit straight forward. However, the dungeons, the fields around the dungeons, and the characters that inhabit them are very compelling. There is a ton of stuff that is hidden in the game. The game never forces you to collect all of those items, but collecting the items will make your life a bit easier. There are also huge bosses and a fun storyline. This game creates a great world that is fun to play in, except for a fairly obvious flaw.
The game is also cheaply difficult and challenging. The enemies take absurd amounts of hits sometimes, and seem to be placed in ways that make it tough to avoid getting hit. Thankfully, this is not as unforgiving as games like Mega Man 2 or The Legend of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link. The animal powers help the balance of the game as well. You end up relying on a lot of those powers to get past the legions of enemies in the main fields. The powers are used frequently and nothing in the game feels like it was just there as a gimmick. I love platform games and this game is really fun. This game is not for a novice player though, as it can be reasonably cruel from time to time.
And one more thing, they do not give you a map of the areas. So, you will have to keep track or make your own maps of the areas. Some places would knock points off for this, but I honestly feel that a map would make the game a lot easier than it should be.
Liked: There is a lot to do in this game, it feels natural, the puzzles are great, there is no "fat" in this game. Everything has a purpose and all of the skills you earn or learn are used.
Hated: Sometimes, it is tough to hit enemies with your hair without getting hit yourself. This and some of the nastier patterns that bosses, and even normal enemies give the game a bit of bite that may be too much for some players. Especially when there is no reason for a minor enemy to be a "hair sponge" and require so many hits to become the exact opposite of alive.
THIS IS A GORGEOUS GAME BOY COLOR GAME. A few of the enemies may be mono-chromatic; but that unfortunate aspect of Game Boy Color games is drastically lower in this game. The areas you visit are full of lush colors, lighting "effects," scrolling backgrounds, details, and animation. Shantae herself has silky smooth animation that demonstrates how well animated a sprite game can be. The game looks better than some Game Boy Advance games and is bursting with character. Some of the cinema scenes are also mono-chromatic and that is unfortunate. The opening sequence with Shantae and the bridge is a moment where many people will say: "So, the Game Boy Color was capable of this?!" There are layers of scrolling backgrounds in many of the levels, the bosses are large and in charge, the towns look great, the special moves are great, and everything is done with a sense of wacky humor to it as well.
Screenshots of the game in action!
The script is pretty well written with a slightly off sense of humor. Everything is pretty easy to visually understand and clipping is minimized in this game. This is a feast for the eyes in comparison to other Game Boy Color games. A lot of very obvious pride and care went into making this game look amazing and it really shows. This is a high watermark for Game Boy Color games.
Liked: This game is freaking gorgeous and the animations are sultry!
Hated: There are a few mono-chromatic enemies; but that is more of a system issue than a game issue.
The sound track to Shantae is composed by Jake "Virt" Kaufman and is pretty appropriate to the game visuals and style. The songs range from jaunty over world music to foreboding dungeon music. The sound effects are pretty well done and the "dance" music is pretty entertaining as each dance move has a different "track" attached to it. This allows you to make your own little freestyle DJ-ish dances when you're not running, jumping, and whipping things with your hair. The music has a suitably "Aladdin" style tone to it which matches up well and a few of the tunes are quite catchy. The composer of the music has made the entire soundtrack for this game available online for free and I suggest that you certainly check it out.
Liked: The sound effects and music work very well in this game in their duty of complementing the gameplay and graphics.
Hated: The music complements the game a bit too well and you will probably not remember too much of the music after you finish playing.
Play Control/Game Design
The set up of the world map is pretty cohesive and the areas locked off by the lack of an ability are fairly easy to take note of in this game. The only thing that needs to be changed is the reach of Shantae's attacks. You will spend a lot of time getting hit in this game because Shantae has such limited range with her attacks. You are going to want to grind for gems and money to stock up on items that can heal you. In order to do that, you have to spend some time around monster generating spots. Then you can beat up endless waves of enemies to gain money to buy new moves, or other items. This grinding aspect can become tedious to some players. This aspect of the game is very similar to the original Kid Icarus on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
This game borrows heavily from Castlevania 2, The Legend of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link, and the Metroid series of games. This is a perfectly acceptable way to design a game, if the game has good play control and presentation. Luckily, Shantae has charming presentation mixed with responsive and manageable play control.
There is no level up function in the game, but you are given a lot of items to buy that help "level up" your abilities. This causes the game difficulty to be a little lopsided as you upgrade Shantae's abilities.
Liked: Easy to control and easy to get into, sometimes I do not mind going into the game and grinding for more money to buy better weapons.
Hated: Hair needs more range to be effectively lethal! The enemies tend to take forever to defeat.
Improve (Free Ideas For Game Designers!)
Longer Hair for Shantae is a must and enemies should not be obnoxious "hair sponges" when it comes to dishing out pain with their name on it.
RIYL (Recommended If You Like...)
Castlevania, Metroid, platform games that have a lot of exploration in general. This game borrows rather heavily from Castlevania 2 on the Nintendo Entertainment System in particular.
I should mention that the game also has Game Boy Advance enhancement in the form of a dance you can only learn while in a Game Boy Advance. The amount of secrets hidden in this game, the graphics, the fun atmosphere, and design make this a game that you SHOULD track down and play!
It is more difficult to review games that I love than it is to review games that I hate. Shantae is one of those games that I love and I recommend that people buy it. At this point and time, the game is going for about $200+ on eBay. While that may be a bit excessive, you can find the game digitally on the Nintendo 3DS eShop Virtual Console service for relatively inexpensive. We suggest that you go check out Shantae on the Game Boy Color as it is a game that you SHOULD experience.
Play Control/Game Design: ****
Star Total: 69
Personal Opinion Merit: 25
Final Score Tally: 94%
Here is the image we had at the bottom of almost all of our Viral Speak columns.