Review: Shantae (GBC)

It’s been nigh almost 13 years now since Shantae snuck out onto the Game Boy Color. All this time, I had assumed from the box art and gameplay screens it was a simple 2d side-scroller. It appeared to be critically lauded for the tight gameplay mechanics and bright colorful graphics.

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And for 13 years that’s what I thought. I held that misinformation in my head tightly, like a clutch full of jewels. Shantae (and its 2 direct sequels) was just another side-scrolling affair on the GBC, and I wasn’t missing all that much by not playing it.

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Something funny happened, on the way to the airport last week. I realized that my 3DS was woefully unprepared for a long journey. With the original Shantae being under 5$ on the eShop, I decided to bite the bullet and play through this (probably short) side-scroller.

Queue to a week and 2 plane rides later. It took me nigh on 20 hours to play through Shantae. What I had mistaken for a simple side-scroller was a Metroid-vania game of the highest caliber.

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Quality oozes from Shantae at every turn. The bright colorful animations that are almost too good for the Game Boy Color. The optional upgrade mechanics and hidden upgrades keep you searching high and low. The meticulous design of the dungeons beckon you to return, always daring you to come back and delve their secrets when you’re more powerful.

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The boss fights are fun, and the challenge level is sometimes cranked up to NES level heights. Even clocking in at 20 hours of gameplay there were a few times I used the Virtual Console’s save state feature to get me past a tough section.

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I was engrossed and fully immersed in the world of Shantae from start to finish. I immediately went out and purchased the DSiWare sequel (which has also been ported to iOS devices.) This is a colorful world full of interesting characters that defy typical videogame tropes. If you’ve beaten Steamworld Dig and are looking for a bit more depth (no pun intended), you can’t go wrong with Shantae. I give Shantae a 92/100, excellent. My only regret is not having played it sooner.

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