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Saturday, April 2, 2022

Shantae

A very late-comer to the Game Boy Color scene (over a year after the Advance had already debuted, no less) made Shantae a game that wasn't exactly flying off store shelves; however, it gained enough of a cult following in subsequent years to get a sequel on DSiWare, and it has since gone on to become a beloved indie franchise with sequels across numerous platforms.  Upon playing the original Shantae, however, I found that it's an ambitious but seriously flawed experience.  A beautifully animated game with some expressive characters and great music to match, the gameplay doesn't quite stack up.  Shantae's walk speed is glacially slow, and running usually means you just run smack into enemies and pits with no chance to evade them owing to the limited view you're provided.  Hit detection with Shantae's ponytail attack is awkward, and enemies almost always take too many hits to bring down, making combat arduous and something I often tried to avoid entirely.  The day/night cycle definitely doesn't help with this, doubling all enemies' health when night falls (but you can only get fireflies - the game's collectibles - during night hours, so that's a pain too).  Overworld platforming screens seem to go on forever at times, enemies are frequently positioned in places where they're difficult to avoid and/or can get cheap shots at you from offscreen, and dying at any point puts you all the way back at the entrance you came in from (unless you lose your last life, at which point you're dumped back at the last save point you visited).  Even purchasable weapons in shops don't help much, as they're all disposable and quite pricey to boot.  Shantae's later outings are regarded as modern classics, and rightfully so, but, the original is a victim of its own hype; while it was a gorgeous-looking game for the platform and its rarity gave it a certain mystique among fans of mascot platformers, it's rather clunky to play and easily the least fun of the series.  But with the advent of digital versions, at least you don't have to shell out over $1000 for it on eBay anymore.

Developer: WayForward
Publisher:  Capcom, Limited Run Games
Released: 2002
Platforms: Game Boy Color, 3DS, Switch