Bits & Bytes: Half-Genie

WayForward’s purple-haired heroine has come a long way since 2001!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/08/2021 23:59 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

About a year ago I placed an order for Limited Run Games’ rush of Shantae games. All of it! The original Game Boy Color Shantae (all three variants), Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut, and the special sleeve to house all of the steelbook cases. Finally, they arrived on my doorstep this past Friday in all their half-genie glory. I definitely geek out about stuff like video games, but there was something extra special about this particular delivery.

Explaining why I found it special is tricky. WayForward is a developer I have a lot of respect for. Founded by Voldi Way back in 1991, the studio has come to be known for producing modern games with an old school edge. Shantae launched in 2001 for Game Boy Color and flew under most people’s radars at the time. However, in the years since, WayForward has continued to grow, both in terms of its scope as a developer and prominence among fans.

Lots of projects have come and gone, with many licensed deals mixed in alongside WayForward’s original offerings, but it doesn’t seem to matter what the project is—the studio nearly never releases an outright dud. Of course, whether working on big time games like DuckTales: Remastered or random licensed efforts like The Mummy: Demastered, percolating in the background is always the Bozons’ darling Shantae. There was so much hype when Shantae: Risky’s Revenge came to DSiWare. The service felt full of possibilities at the time, and when word came that the sequel to the much-beloved but under-sold Shantae was on its way, for many Nintendo fans it was a big deal. This was my first Shantae game and I was massively pumped for it. I went to a local coffee shop to download Risky’s Revenge—I still didn’t have WiFi in my home, so it was the only way to get a hold of the game. It was worth the wait and the effort.

From there, Shantae has simply kept growing. Now, Shantae is a Funko POP! figurine and I have five steelbook cases in a sleeve sitting on a shelf in a place of prominence among all of my Switch games. Shantae is always fun, always well made, and taps into the spirit of what makes video games special. My impression of Matt and Erin Bozon is that they genuinely love this character and it shines through in each project. I can’t help but root for WayForward because the studio seems to have a legitimate passion for making games. In an industry full of disappointing stories about studio closures and inappropriate conduct, success stories like WayForward’s are a breath of fresh air.

So, I guess the reason I was so happy with my box of Shantae on Friday was because it felt like a major victory for WayForward and its spunky heroine. The little guy can still come out on top sometimes. That’s a good thing.

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