WayForward Technologies, despite their indie gleam nowadays, has actually been around for quite some time. Founded in 1990, works from the California-based software developer leaned closer towards the edutainment and licensed genres until the turn of the 21st century. In 2002 came a unique Game Boy Color title named Shantae, starring the eponymous half-genie heroine guarding the seaside Scuttle Town. Despite lackluster sales, Shantae became a critical hit; the series has stuck around since then with two more titles under its belt and a fourth game on its way.
Matt Bozon, WayForward’s Creative Director and
Shantae co-creator alongside his wife Erin, spoke up about Shantae’s origins in a recent interview with The Mary Sue. Chris Isaac of TMS asked Bozon why WayForward went ahead with an unapologetically girly female lead, then followed with another question regarding why belly-dancing was made such an important part of her character. Matt responded with how Shantae ultimately came to be, thanks to Erin:
“Shantae was created by my wife, and it began when I asked her what she would make given the opportunity to design a video game character. We were just making conversation. She disappeared, and I found her later working on drawings of Shantae in dance poses and hair whip poses. I asked her a bunch of questions about the character, what was going on in the drawings, what the game might play like. I suppose it matters that I didn’t create Shantae, I was introduced to her, and that makes her feel very real. I developed the cast and world around the character to create a contrast… as though Erin’s character is trapped in a world of my weird humor and imagination. Shantae’s personality has developed a lot since then, but she’s still the same in many ways… sweet, innocent, willful, and also fallible.
“Erin’s idea was to have two main moves. One was whipping with her hair, and the other was dancing to either charm creatures, or transform into them. Music and dance were not big parts of gaming in the early ’90s, so we thought we could introduce something new. Everything was sprite art back then, and it looked very cute – that was our intent anyway. We wanted to make something delightfully different that would surprise and challenge player’s ideas of what could be a “super power”.”
Shantae’s character and the world around her are also an amalgamation of a number of influences, and her inception was also an answer to gaming’s lack of female mascots, as Bozon explained.
“Castlevania, Mega Man, and Zelda inspired her gameplay. But Erin, who designed the character in the early ’90s, was inspired by I Dream of Jeanie. The poses, dance sequences, and hair flip when performing magic had something to do with it. We were at CalArts at the time, and a lot of us were also discovering shows from Japan like Nadia, Ranma ½, and the films of Hayao Miyazaki which were not well known in the US back then. Many of these shows featured female lead characters, and it seemed natural that gaming could stand to have another female mascot in addition to Alisia Dragoon, the Guardian Legend, and Athena! So, there was a lot happening in the world of entertainment, and Shantae was a product of many inspirations!” — Matt Bozon, Creative Director
The interview also touches on the series’ future, Bozon’s thoughts on Shantae as a fan favorite for the
Super Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot, and the impending PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases for Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.
In addition, Matt noted how the two non-funded chapters from the Kickstarter for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, “A Dish Served Cold!” and “Clockwork Night!”, could be later developed as DLC for the game if there is enough demand.
Source: The Mary Sue