Shantae (3DS eShop) - Review by Andrew
Almost a decade a go WayForward Technologies released a platformer for the GameBoy Color. The game hit the shelves at the end of the handhelds lifecycle and was almost completly overlooked due to the new and far more powerful GameBoy Advance. Since then the platformer has had a number of sequels and fans have been pleading with the developers to re-release the original. After a long wait (and a little help from the 3DS's Virtual Console) it's finally here but have the years been kind to Shantae?
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 mere mortal.
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 3DS 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 was a GBC title, so the control design was 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.
For a GBC game, the visuals here are something a little special and the developers have 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 other handheld titles should be doing.
With the standard of sound quality we now obtain from the 3DS, 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 3DS title you may be less than impressed.
For some gamers, the hardware since the GBC hasn't always delivered 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 3DS titles I've encountered recently.
This is the one GBC/eShop title everyone should own, even these days when the 3DS appears to rule handheld gaming and the days of the humble GBC seem all but forgotten. An instant classic and one game which should gain a whole new generation of fans. Get in now!
Pro: Every Bit as Entertaining as it Was Almost a Decade a Go
Con: It may feel a Little Dated for the 3DS Generation
Final score: 9