Interview: WayForward on Shantae's Past, Present and Future
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Some "pretty big surprises" in store for Pirate's Curse this Fall
With the release of Shantae (originally a Game Boy Color title) this week we touched base with WayForward's Creative Director and founding member, Matt Bozon, and he kindly agreed to a quick-fire interview before he jetted off to Comic-Con.
This is a series that, despite being just two games old — the first of which didn't make it to Europe until this week's 3DS Virtual Console release — has already accumulated plenty of loyal fans. Both Shantae and Shantae: Risky's Revenge combine gorgeous pixel heart with plenty of action and exploration; the first was a retail title originally published by Capcom, while the second arrived on DSiWare. While a company well-known for high-quality contract work, it's arguably its own IPs such as this that represent the studio's work at its best, which explains the anticipation ahead of Shantae and the Pirate's Curse landing on the 3DS eShop.
In this exclusive interview we're told about the process to bring Shantae to the 3DS eShop, more on the series as a whole and a few teasers for what's coming next.
Nintendo Life: Getting the original Shantae onto the Virtual Console seems to have been important to WayForward. Can you explain the process, and whether there were issues due to it previously being a Capcom published title?
Matt Bozon: Yes, before the 3DS was announced we asked Nintendo if we could be first in line – assuming their next system would have VC support. Our earliest conversations were about bringing the game to WiiWare, so we’ve been planning this for a while. Shantae was originally published by Capcom back in 2002, but WayForward retained the rights to the game. So removal of the Capcom logo is the only change you’ll see in this release… it’s otherwise identical. Collectors should still hang onto their physical copies however, since there was a bonus item that only appeared when the Game Pak was inserted into a Game Boy Advance.
NL: If developed today, would this have been an eShop title, or to put it another way, do you hope to release a Shantae retail game in the future, or do you want it to be a download based series?
MB: If made today it would be a digital title, definitely. The cost of manufacturing is the main reason this game released well into the GBA’s life cycle. At 32 MegaBits, it was the biggest Game Boy title with the largest eeprom ever manufactured. It sat in its final form with Capcom for 8 months until they brilliantly forced the game into stores by packing it in the same box as Resident Evil Gaiden, or so I was told. If a retail store wanted to order copies of RE, they had to get Shantae too. Capcom really pushed to get this unknown game into player’s hands and we’re forever grateful to them for believing in the credibility of this brand. But now that there’s the option, digital distribution is the best path for the Shantae series these days. I could see a physical collector’s edition someday if enough people want it.
NL: This is the first time that this original Shantae has arrived in Europe; how would you summarise the impact of download stores on your ability to self-publish and share your games with larger audiences than before?
MB: Without digital stores we would simply have no way to make this happen. We pushed for years to get Shantae Advance released, but it’s relegated to a hard drive somewhere, still in an unfinished state. That happened because as the GBA aged, no one wanted to risk the dollars to manufacture it. It’s even harder for a game that released to low numbers to be translated and get a 2nd run in a new territory. Digital stores reverse this problem beautifully. Any game of any art style from anywhere can get its chance to shine. Players vote with their dollars based on what’s the most fun to them. It’s a refreshingly welcome change.
NL: For those new to this first title, can they expect gameplay largely the same as in Risky’s Revenge, or is this a series where you've aimed for subtle improvements over drastic shake-ups?
MB: Risky’s Revenge is a natural evolution in the series, with magic meters replacing items and save rooms replacing 1Ups. But the base gameplay is very similar. The most jarring difference is the difficulty and scope of the original game. It is much larger than RR, with day and night swaps, 50 areas, 4 towns, 3 mini games and 4 main dungeons as opposed to 2 in Risky’s. My speed runs of Risky’s Revenge come in at roughly 2 hours, whereas Shantae still takes me around 6 hours. The Create Checkpoint options of Virtual Console actually help to modernize the game a bit, so oldschool setbacks don’t sting quite so badly. But it’s still a stiff challenge when compared to the kinder, gentler WayForward games that would follow – you know, like Contra 4 and Bloodrayne: Betrayal.
NL: Can you provide our readers with an update on Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, such as a target release window and perhaps a teaser or two about what to expect?
MB: Sure, an update is overdue isn’t it? Development on Pirate’s Curse has not slowed at all. From the start we’ve have a dedicated team working full time unlike in past years where we’d put Shantae on hold while we worked on licensed games. At our current size we can have many games in development, which has been critical to keeping this game on schedule. Currently we’re looking at a Fall release in 2013. We’ll be sure to get Nintendo Life readers more details in the next few weeks… the game looks beautiful and we’ve got some pretty big surprises to reveal. Like BIG surprises, and I’m really looking forward to sharing more! For now, please support us by picking up the original Shantae, which is currently on Virtual Console at $4.99. Think of it as a $1,995.00 off sale compared to the recent eBay price!
We'd like to thank Matt Bozon for his time. Let us know what you make of these comments, the arrival of Shantae on the 3DS VC and the upcoming Pirate's Curse in the comments below.