I've heard a lot about this game in the past few
months that I just had to get hold of a copy for review.
Because of its limited run (15,000 or so) and even more
limited availability (released in the US only), it was
quite tricky to track down. There really aren't that
many new Game Boy Color releases these days, with the
only major game slated for this year being EA's latest
Harry Potter title.
Developed by Way Forward Technologies, Shantae's
path to its release was not a smooth one, and it was
quite some time before Capcom stepped in to help secure
its release and distribution. So the question remains--is
this one of the last, great Game Boy Color titles? Read
on and see...
Shantae follows the adventures of a young genie-girl
in her quest to uncover a missing steam engine. Said
engine has been stolen by a female pirate known as Risky
Boots (no, really!), who will seemingly stop at nothing
in her dastardly plan to rule the land.
The action takes place over an incredibly varied
landscape, and Shantae's only weapon initially is her
ability to whip enemies with her hair, but you can equip
her with more complicated and powerful moves by collecting
money. You can also gain magic powers, which lets you
transform into anything from a bird to a monkey, which
in turn allows you to access areas out of reach to a
The levels in Shantae are huge--you can travel through
some of the lands for what seems like ages before you
reach an end-of-level Boss (or any type of conclusion,
for that matter). The end of the first area takes place
on a ship, where you must battle it out with Risky Boots.
The action not only scrolls from left to right, but
also up and down. They're also incredibly well designed,
so there's never just one route from A to B, and straying
from the usual path usually delivers hidden bonus items.
A battery save function with three separate slots completes
what is a perfectly fashioned game. If all GBA titles
were like this, there'd probably be no need for reviewers.
In addition to the expansive playing areas, you'll
also discover some mini-games where you'll find yourself
solving puzzles and even dancing. Further gaming enjoyment
is added by the fact that time actually passes in Shantae's
world, which results in very different events occurring
when you visit a location in the day or the night.
What really sets Shantae apart though is the variety
of gameplay, meaning that you're never entirely sure
what's going to happen next. This all makes for a refreshing
and satisfying gaming experience, so even though Shantae
appears to be a run-of-the-mill classic platformer,
there really is far more to it than that.
Remember, this is a GBC title, so the control design
is always simplicity itself. In a platformer, what gamers
are generally concerned with is the sprite detection,
and Shantae has some of the best you'll ever come across.
It's also very intuitive, as the game is laid out in
such a way that what you should do always seems obvious.
This is due to the stunning design employed throughout,
and as a result, Shantae doesn't suffer from the pitfalls
that have plagued some GBA titles.
For a GBC game, the visuals easily match, and in
some instances, exceed those that have appeared to date
on the GBA. The developers have also employed some clever
routines with color and light sourcing to give a wonderful
illusion of time in both day and night.
In addition, the sprite animation for Shantae and
the range of other characters is outstanding. The whole
game is truly a visual feast; Shantae will stand out
as one of the few titles to demonstrate what the GBC
was capable of, and more importantly, what the GBA should
Sound & Music
With the standard of sound quality we now obtain
from the GBA, it's hard to look back and assess just
what was good in terms of sound when we only had the
Game Boy Color. The only way I could judge this was
to browse through my GBC collection and replay titles
I had previously given high praise to the game's audio
content. Shantae is well above average--in fact, it's
possibly one of the better sounding GBC titles I've
played, although if you're coming in from a GBA title
you may be less than impressed.
For some gamers, the GBA hasn't really delivered
yet on all its promises, although this has little to
do with the hardware; it's more related to a completely
saturated games market containing more than its fair
share of mediocre titles. Shantae was produced at a
time when the developers knew just how to squeeze every
last byte of gaming power from the GBC, and Way Forward
Technologies did just that. This title has everything--it
looks great, sounds wonderful, and the gameplay is outstanding
and varied. It's also huge; there are more play hours
to be had here than in most of the GBA titles I've encountered
If you're completely attached to your GBA, you'll
also be pleased to know that like Wendy: Every Witch
Way (Way Forward's previous GBC title), popping Shantae
into your new handheld will deliver some game and level
enhancements. This is the one GBC title everyone should
own, even these days when the Game Boy Advance appears
to rule handheld gaming and the days of the humble GBC
seem all but forgotten.