Developed By: Wayforward Technologies (original), Limited Run Games (port) Published By: Wayforward Technologies (digital), Limited Run Games (physical) Categories: Adventure, Platformer, Retro Release Date: 04.22.21
You can play every Shantae game outside of the Apple Watch game on the Switch. This isn’t the first port the original Shantae has received, but it’s the first one to include the GBA Mode functionality. Something the 3DS Virtual Console version, unfortunately did not. The game was infamous for being a mess to emulate and rare. So even almost twenty years after release, I’m happy to see the game on more consoles.
While Shantae now a days is considered a Metroidvania, it’d probably be closer to consider it a Wonder Boy-like. Almost like an amalgamation of Dragon’s Trap and Monster World IV. There’s an open world, dungeons, and you earn powers to get to new areas. With Shantae you get the power to transform into different animals. A monkey, an elephant, a spider, a harpy. And if the game was played in a GBA (and this port if you chose that mode), the Tinkerbat, one of the evil Risky Boot’s underlings. Seeing as the game was one of the final Gameboy Color games, released after the GBA came out, it looks fantastic for the console. Excellent spritework and animation has always been Wayforward’s strong suit. Jake Kaufman being the composer means the music is fantastic, the man never disappoints.
Shantae is probably not the most refined in the series, as the series would keep on evolving as it goes on, but the level of ambition to have what we have as a Gameboy Color game is nothing to scoff at. It feels like an uncompromised vision. However it seems at times that maybe it should have just been a GBA game particularly due to the screencrunch. A map would really help. This is mostly an issue in overworld areas, and especially early in the game when you have little HP and no extra powers. Inside of the dungeons, you’re going to be fine.
Shantae on Switch isn’t exactly a port, but an emulation of the first game. There’s filter options like having the game fill the screen 4:3, the original resolution, or an LCD filter. There’s also save states, which considering the game has lives and those GOTCHA moments, it’s nice to have. Dancing being mapped to the X button is a change I appreciate. In the main menu you also get an art gallery, with concept art, promo art, sprite sheets, even maps to the dungeons. Love this kind of stuff.
The emulation isn’t without flaws however. I cannot help but feel like there’s an unfortunate amount of input lag. Dances to transform didn’t feel quite right and I could not for the life of me do an A Rank Dance Hall minigame. This never felt like an issue on the 3DS Virtual Console. Occasional audio quirks fill the game. Music cuts off for brief moments, sound effects won’t play. I’m not sure if this is just how the original game functioned, but if it was…why weren’t these ironed out?
Lastly, I’m aware that the Color and Advance modes being separate saves was something announced beforehand, but it still seems like it should have just been a toggle and not two entirely different roms. This makes doing comparison shots rather difficult to pull off unless one plans to play the entire game twice.
While the Switch release does have issues, I’d still argue this is the definitive way to play the game on a budget and on modern hardware. The issues I found could most likely be patched out.
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*Game Download Code supplied for reivew purposes