Back in 2002, all eyes were on the upcoming Game Boy Advance that was set to be released in a year. However, WayForward Technologies led by Matt Bozon teamed up with Capcom and decided to give one last gift to the Game Boy Color with the release of Shantae, a platformer filled with dungeon exploring and plenty of bouncing action but more on that later. The original Shantae was met with critical success but due to the late release in the Game Boy Color flew under the radar for a while. Today, Shantae still lives spawning numerous sequels. I whip my hair back and forth in this Shantae review!
You play as Shantae, a cute purple-haired half-genie who protects Scuttle Town from danger. Shantae doesn’t have the full powers of a real genie but she makes do with what God gave her. One day while relaxing in her hut by the ocean, Scuttle Town is bombed by a pirate ship led by the infamous evil female pirate Risky Boots.
Risky Boots pillages Scuttle Town and discovers a brand new invention, the steam-powered engine! She steals the prototype and vows to retrieve four elemental stones that will power up the steam engine to the max making her ship nearly invincible. As the protector of Scuttle Town, Shantae sets off to stop Risky Boots by traveling to the neighboring towns and getting clues on where the stones are hidden. All four stones are guarded in dungeons scattered across the land and with the help of a few friends, Shantae discovers each dungeon, explores them and retrieves the stones. Each dungeon comes equipped with plenty of enemies and locked doors where you must find keys around the dungeon.
Shantae rescues a caged genie in each dungeon who grants her new powers in the form of shapeshifting. By performing different dances, Shantae can transform into a monkey, elephant, spider, and hawk. You’ll need these powers to further explore the dungeons and world around Shantae.
After retrieving all four stones, Shantae is deceived by Risky Boots who steals all the stones at once and travels back to her pirate ship. Shantae storms the ship and defeats Risky Boots and her crew of pirates. After defeating Risky Boots, Shantae is transported to the genie realm where she is offered a home there and full genie powers. While tempted, Shantae declines and chooses to stay a half-genie so she can stay with her friends in Scuttle Town.
Shantae was tough for me to beat. In my Shantae review I had to learn that avoiding enemies was better than killing them. I’m the type of gamer where if I see a monster on the screen I’m going to attack them. With Shantae, I learned that it’s better to avoid them altogether.
As Shantae, you will travel to different towns seeking help to find the stones. Each town is separated by a few screens of environments. For example, there might be two forest screens before reaching a town, or two desert screens. Each of these environments has enemies that are scattered throughout the scrolling screen. It’s not easy getting past them, it took me numerous attempts sometimes to get past an environment before reaching the safety of the town. It was my least favorite part of my Shantae review because admittedly it was the hardest. Some enemies would jump up and down and fling arrows at you while others would shout supersonic waves. You had to prepare for anything when in the wild.
The various towns in Shantae offered a lot of activities and were presented in a unique way for the Game Boy Color. Looking over the shoulder of Shantae, you can direct her toward buildings. Citizens of the towns walked in front of you and if you wanted to you can talk to them. Each town offered a few staple buildings. There was a bathhouse that healed Shantae, a save center, an item store and a squid hut which worked as a warp center once you collect four squids and deliver them to the Mama Squid of each town. Some towns offered unique challenges to Shantae where she could collect extra gems that could be used to buy things like potions or temporary spells.
Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice about the characters of Shantae is that they are all rather friendly, especially the females. It always seemed like whenever Shantae interacted with the other females in the game that I was one conversation away from starting a softcore porn scene. Whether it was the girls at the bathhouse, Shantae’s friends or even Risky Boots her self, all the females were top-heavy and complimented Shantae, not that it was an issue, not at all, but there’s some sexual innuendo going on behind these cute colorful graphics. Even the way Shantae wiggles her little rump, when she is on the ground, was cute. Don’t worry, this won’t negatively impact my Shantae review!
The game comes down to a basic formula. Help/Talk to one of Shantae’s friends in a neighboring town, discover where the dungeon is at and explore through it to retrieve an elemental stone. The dungeons can be difficult, there were a few times where I’d get lost or it’d take a while to figure out what to do next. I’ll admit I watched playthrough on some portions so I understood what I had to do next. With enough practice, you should be able to get through each dungeon, but it will take some time. There was one section that I got pissed at in the final dungeon. It involves shooting Shantae up through a tunnel and landing on the cliff above. No matter how many times I did it, she wouldn’t land on the edge. I did it constantly for five minutes with no luck. Five minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, but it was when it’s literally just pushing one button to shoot her up and steer her to the left. I finally gave up and had to restart the entire dungeon again. For some magical reason, she stuck the landing on my first attempt when I tried again.
Part of what makes Shantae tough is the save points. There’s not many around in the wild, so if you die in the dungeon, you’ll have to restart the entire thing. I was not pleased, to say the least whenever I died, especially if you fall on spikes because that’s a one-hit kill. Each dungeon ended with one of Risky Boot’s henchmen or creatures trying to kill Shantae. The bosses were the best part of the dungeon and were relatively easy to defeat compared to the rest of the game. Risky Boots was the toughest boss but I still managed to beat her my first attempt. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know I love a good boss fight. Having these included in Shantae increased the fun and scored extra points in my Shantae review.
Shantae earns a new power when she is halfway done with each dungeon. You’ll learn a new dance move to transform her into a new animal. The monkey will let her jump high and climb walls, the elephant will be able to smash through objects, the spider climbs webs and unique surfaces and finally, the hawk gives you the power to fly. Earning new powers and shapeshifting is nothing new to video games back in 2002, but it added so much to the game, especially on the Game Boy Color.
I digitally downloaded Shantae a few months back on my Nintendo 3DS. It looked like a cute game and I knew it was received well but I didn’t realize the difficulty of it. I gave up halfway through my first playthrough and set it aside for a while. I picked the game back up recently and was able to play through it with the help of some guides. It always gave me anxiety trying to reach the next save point, that’s the only thing I didn’t care for with Shantae.
Shante Review Score:
Pushing the limits of the Game Boy Color, Shantae sent the system out with a bang or I should say a dance. The first Shantae is tough, make no mistake about it. It will take patience and time to master the dungeons and you’ll replay them over and over. In the end, I think it’s worth it. Shantae was a unique game that gave me a run for my money. I’m excited to check out the sequels.
Shantae scores a 7.9 out of 10.
What would you write in your Shantae review? When did you first play Shantae? Did you find it as hard as I did? What was your favorite animal to transform into? Is there some weird tension between Risky Boots and Shantae? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!
If you’d like to own a copy of Shantae for the Game Boy Color, you can purchase a preowned version from eBay for between $600 and $2,500. Wait, what? Yes, that’s true. I guess the game is ultra-rare in physical cases. Just do what I did and buy a digital copy for $5 from the Nintendo eShop.