Interviews: WayForward - Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Posted by Corbie Dillard
Matt Bozon talks about his long-awaited sequel
After an eight year absence, WayForward's half-genie has finally come out of the bottle for her brand new sequel just released on Nintendo's DSiWare service. Shantae: Risky's Revenge captures all of the unique gameplay of the original and expands upon it with all new magical powers and animal transformations.
With so much anticpation and excitement surrounding the recent release, we thought it would be a good time to get in touch with the folks at WayForward in order to find out a little more about the game, not to mention sneak a few classic Shantae questions in for good measure.
Matt Bozon, lead designer of the Shantae titles, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions. You can find out what he had to say to Nintendo Life in the full interview below.
Nintendo Life: How did you come up with the idea for the original Shantae release in the first place?
Matt: Our circle of CalArts animator friends used to sit around the apartment designing characters for games, TV, or comic pitches. We loved doing it, and it was good practice for our future careers. My wife Erin designed the first version of Shantae – she had this idea for hair whipping, magical dancing, and animals…I kind of adopted it and continued developing it.
SNES was brand new during our college years, so when we weren’t animating our films we were playing Nintendo stuff. But we also enjoyed watching bad movies, going to conventions, having Star Trek TNG nights, X-Files marathons, etc, etc. Then the one day when Voldi Way started up WayForward, we knew that it was much more than a hunch that this group must somehow form a family. That’s the way we all became the “Shantae: Distributed by Capcom” Bunch.
NL: Does it surprise you that the game has remained such a cult favorite among fans over the years?
Matt: The really good games stick, even if they were somehow missed the first time around. I’ve heard that many people passed it by due to it having “kiddie graphics”. But for those who’d played a lot of Capcom games, they took a chance. Shantae looks like an Oreo…, but when you bite in… fire ants! Unexpected, daring, delicious! Hopefully without any strange side effects.
NL: Shantae for the Game Boy Color has become well known for featuring some of the best animation and visuals to appear on the system. How difficult was it to achieve this with the limited visual capabilities of the Game Boy Color system?
Matt: Phooo. Pretty tough. We set a high quality bar and just stuck to it. Back then we saw Neo Pocket Colour and figured we could top it. With that as our lofty goal, Jimmy Huey came up with a boatload of smoke and mirror programmer tricks. He just kept kicking the box until it all fit. But it was never simple or easy. If you dissect the game carefully, you’ll see that a Scarecrow’s head juts out 1 block, just enough to allow a smaller character to nestle beneath it, with a bat hovering just above… it’s all packed together to avoid overloading scanlines and blowing sprite limits.
We worked hard to make the harsh restrictions invisible to the player. As entertainers, that’s our job… we want the audience to take our hard work for granted. Jimmy says that all of this close-to-the-board machine code is what makes Shantae hard to emulate… probably why the resale value is so high for original copies.
NL: Why has it taken so long to do a sequel?
Matt: We tried many times to make a sequel, but for one reason or another, the window of opportunity always slammed shut on our fingers. But our president slash Tyrannical Overlord Voldi Way was always willing to support my attempts at another swing and a miss, and that’s why we eventually got the sequel done. Lots of swinging. Whoosh! Swoosh! Then one day – a homerun! I suppose there’s a fine line between the “homerun” analogy and the “moron touching the hot stove” analogy.
NL: Why the decision to go with a DSiWare release rather than retail?
Matt: DSiWare gave use the opportunity to finally publish the game, and that’s pretty much the reason. So, thank Nintendo for the shop, and Mighty Flip Champs buyers for the cash. I’ve heard that some people really want a box for this game and I can’t blame them… I keep all my boxes all the way back to Atari 2600. Something about a really cool box…
NL: It's been said that a sequel was originally crafted and nearly completed on the Game Boy Advance system. Why was this game never released and is Risky's Revenge based on this game in any way?
Matt: Shantae Advance was pretty far along, but the GBA market was seriously flooded and we had to quit development. Risky’s Revenge does share a few minor elements from Shantae Advance, but it’s an entirely different game. The DSi and GBA games both kick off with Shantae at home, training for her next adventure, followed by Risky Boots returning to wreak havoc. But from there the games split off in different directions.
NL: What can gamers expect as far as new game play mechanics in Risky's Revenge?
Matt: There’s a good mix of old and new. The magic from the original game is back, now powered by a magic meter rather than one time use, which I stole from Zelda without permission. We’ve got swimming, dashes, rope climbing… basically more movement options all around. And Shantae herself has variable speed hair whips, and much greater range than before. With less reaction time needed, we were able to speed up the entire experience. It’s a much more aggressive, fast action game. Less floaty, and more snappy than the original.
NL: Will there be any touch screen controls used in the game?
Matt: Yes, but just for functional stuff like inventory, accessing the map, and minor menu selections. It’s not much of a “touch” game.
NL: What does having two screens to work with bring to the table from a development standpoint?
Matt: Well sir it gives us more options. On Contra 4, we used it to open up the playfield and show impossibly tall enemies. On Duck Amuck, we used the touch screen to annoy Daffy. In Shantae its there as a convenience, not a main attraction. But it does help keep HUD elements off the playfield.
NL: The first game is famous for its high level of difficulty. Will Risky's Revenge feature this same level of difficulty?
Matt: It’s not Contra 4 hard, but you will get sweaty all over. We really want the player to improve as they go – not just bank hours – so there is a steady difficulty curve at work. Also this game promotes discovery through exploration. So if you’re one of today’s younger, gentler gamers, then please know where your mum’s pant leg is so you can cling to it as you cry sissy tears.
NL: Originally this was to be the first release in a three part episodic series. What’s up?
Matt: When we started out there were three episodes planned, like a three act story. But, but by the time we were shoulder deep in development, it became clear that this game was taking on a life of its own. So we had a roundtable and decided to pool all of our efforts into a single bona fide sequel, and drop the episodic approach. The resulting game is equal in length as our intended three episodes combined, though the content has radically changed for the better.
NL: Have you had a chance to see Nintendo's 3DS system in person and if so, what did you think of it and do you have any desire to develop for it?
Matt: We love the 3DS! And I’m happy to say that we’re working on multiple titles as we speak. I can’t describe how incredibly cool this system is. Unlike Virtual Boy (which I love by the way), the Nintendo 3DS displays the third dimension beautifully without compromising comfort, graphics, or portability.
In the Nintendogs and Cats demo, when the dog gets all licky on the glass you can actually stick your face into the dog’s face and go nuts. And that is every man’s dream. If they include a “Virtual Virtual Boy” so I can play VB Wario Land again, I’ll be super stoked!
NL: Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some of our questions. We very much appreciate it.
Matt: Thank you! And on behalf of the Risky team and WayForward, thank you for giving our game so much love and attention. See you guys in Sequin Land!