Shantae has come a long way since her humble Game Boy Color origins so let's revisit her debut adventure and see how it has held up.
If you've been here before, you'll know that I'm a huge Shantae fan and have reviewed every single game in the series as well as wrote a full walkthrough for each title. Although I never played the original Shantae on Game Boy Color when it released, I remember downloading it on 3DS via Virtual Console. At the time, Risky's Revenge was already out so the 2002 classic felt quite dated and I never ended up finishing it. However, now that it's out on Switch, I felt compelled to finally beat it while chronicling the adventure in my walkthrough. Now that I've finished it, I must say that it's impressive as a Game Boy Color game although that statement alone may not be worth much because many GBC games definitely haven't aged well. That being said, the adventure is still surprisingly epic.
For whatever reason, I assumed that the original Shantae would be a short game without much substance but to my delight, it's about the length of its sequels and possibly longer than some of them. The campaign will have you travel between a handful of towns while mastering dungeons that are filled with exploration-based puzzles and unique enemies. Unfortunately, there aren't any in-game maps so traversing this world will prove rather difficult even if you have a good memory. I mean, the fact that you can activate warps in each town after gathering certain amounts of Warp Squids is helpful but only if you can remember exactly what's around each town. Plus, having to perform a complex dance to warp is needlessly cumbersome and the same thing could be said about the gameplay.
Although later installments feature tight gameplay, the original Shantae certainly takes a long time to get to grips with how to play it effectively. Everything from its platforming to its combat is tryingly stiff, especially the latter where you'll swear you're hitting an enemy but you're apparently not close enough. Because of this, I stocked up on Pike Balls which make combat far more satisfying. They come in handy when facing the collection of bosses, too, even if they're frankly unchallenging and not that satisfying to defeat.
Shantae may be an exceptionally tricky game to play but missing jumps and taking a few extra hits is much less frustrating with this Switch version's save state functionality which I admittedly abused in the more irritating segments. There's also a fun art gallery featuring sketches, character art, sprites, and even 4 dungeon maps as well as a GBA Enhanced mode that emulates playing Shantae on a Game Boy Advance which provides some minor bonus features and improvements. Needless to say, I recommend playing that mode.
It may sound like Shantae is dated and it is but it's far from unfun thanks to its memorable game world complete with fantastic dungeons and a cast full of bubbly characters who always have something silly to say. Another feature that's great is the amount of secrets to discover. You really don't need to collect everything but if you want to, there are oodles of collectibles such as additional abilities, power-ups, items, and even a secret dance. These discoveries can add hours of gameplay in addition to the already long campaign.
It's been a long time since Shantae debuted and it did so on very limited console hardware so it's impressive how well it has held up even though its sequels are certainly much more enjoyable. Oh, and this Switch release acts as a lovely time capsule for fans, too.
- + Lengthy campaign that's filled with memorable dungeons and fun dialogue
- + Includes decent modernizations
- + Plenty of secrets to discover
- - Game world is confusing to navigate
- - Core gameplay is quite stiff
- - Boss fights are a bit too easy