WayForward has built up quite a reputation for fun, colorful games featuring female protagonists, and I've been meaning to play through one of their earliest games, Shantae for Game Boy Color. The game was one of the last releases on GBC and has the distinction of being one of the system's most expensive cartridges (Video Games Price Charting currently has it sitting at $255). It's also the first of a series that would see two more sequels, with a fourth entry on the way later this year.
The game appeared on the 3DS Virtual Console a couple of years ago, and it's just as well because without save states the game becomes quite tedious. The game's world feels very lively and Shantae (our heroic half-genie), her various animal transformations, and the supporting characters are all memorable, but the way that towns and dungeons are linked together is somewhat problematic. Those areas are supposed to be challenging platform sections, but the platforming is unremarkable and generally consists of the most basic jumping from platform to platform, with an instant death if you fall into a pit. The sections are overlong, and falling causes you to have to return to the beginning of them. The enemies are annoying because they tend to be overpowered and take too many hits to defeat, and in most cases it's easier to just avoid them altogether. Shantae can collect baby octopi in each dungeon to add the ability to warp to each town, but if you somehow weren't able to create a warp point, having to traverse through these areas more than once gets to be really boring. There are items you can buy to help alleviate some of the tedium, but the items in the game aren't super helpful in general and you'd have to grind a bit to earn enough money to buy them anyway.
Dungeons are pretty fun in general. Each of them introduces new ideas, although each starts to feel a bit repetitive about halfway through. There are some minigames in the towns, although there's one required racing sequence that's frustrating and kills the game's momentum because it requires numerous trials in order to completely memorize it and execute it perfectly.
All in all this was an entertaining start to a series. The amount of detail and the full-fledged world is very impressive, especially considering it's a GBC title. I'm looking forward more to the other entries, which I suspect will smooth out some of the rough edges of Shantae's debut. I've already started in on the next entry, Risky's Revenge, so I expect to be reporting on that before too long.