Also available on 3DS via Virtual Console (North America and PAL only)
Played via 3DS Virtual Console
Unfortunately, I had to play this game via the 3DS virtual console. I have a good sized collection of extremely rare and valuable games, but Shantae isn't in it (yet). Despite this game's cult following, the universal critical reception every game in the series has received, and the commercial success of its sequels, I can't help but find myself feeling a little disappointed after finishing the first game. It's not bad by any means, but I suppose half a decade of beloved sequels and a legendary original release (at least in terms of rarity) has built up an expectation in me that no Gameboy Color game could ever have met.
Shantae is an action platformer not entirely unlike Mega Man, although instead of killing enemies with an arm cannon, you beat them to death with your pony tail. THAT aspect of the game will never cease to bring me joy. You play as Shantae, a half-genie who protects a small coastal town and who ends up on a quest to stop Risky Boots, the nefarious pirate queen, from building some steam powered super weapon by finding some magical tablets before she does. Or something like that. I played this game on and off for three years before actually finishing it, so forgive me for having a bit fuzzy a memory.
For the most part, the game's mechanics are fairly solid, but there are some aspects that feel like they could have used just a little more TLC. The hit detection, for example, felt very hit or miss to me (no pun intended). Most of the time, it was just fine, but there would inevitably be an instance every now and then where I definitely should have hit an enemy and didn't or definitely shouldn't have been hit by an enemy and was. It is, however, a Gameboy Color game, and even if it was released in 2002, so I cut it some slack due to the system's technical limitations.
Where the game really shines, however, is with the visuals. It seriously puts the "color" in Gameboy Color. The character models are the most vibrant and colorful I've seen in any GBC game, and the animations are a technical feat for the system. When you finally clear a dungeon and find its magic stone thing, her twirling animation is something that seriously shouldn't be possible on hardware as limited as the Gameboy Color. The music is also absolutely delightful - a surprise given how painful to the ears a lot of Gameboy Color and even Gameboy Advance music can be. Truthfully, I think the game is worth playing despite its few mechanical shortcomings just to appreciate the visual and audio design and the performance that WayForward was able to coax out of the aging GBC.
Shantae is not a masterpiece of a game (although the case for it as a masterpiece of visuals for the system can be argued), but it is a good game. It's also an almost mythically rare game for the system if you have the original cartridge. The color, the animations, and the music are all worth experiencing as they truly showcase what hidden potential the Gameboy Color had. It's just a shame that the gameplay doesn't live up to the standard set by the series' reputation and the other design elements of the game.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.