News Article

WayForward Fought "Many, Many Battles" to Keep Shantae as a Lead Character

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

More back-story to be explored in Pirate's Curse and Half-Genie Hero

WayForward seems to be having a rather busy year, producing the much-anticipated DuckTales: Remastered with Capcom, while the studio's name has popped up on some licensed titles. While those projects are part of what keeps the company in business, it's best known for its own IP; Shantae is arguably the most recognisable in its library. With Shantae And The Pirate's Curse coming to the 3DS eShop and crowdfunding for HD title Shantae: Half-Genie Hero — which will come to Wii U if the campaign succeeds — past the halfway mark, the prominence of the character as the company's mascot doesn't look likely to change anytime soon.

In an industry seemingly dominated by male game characters and mascots, however, Shantae is a relative rarity. In an interview with, WayForward's Matt Bozon explained the origins of the character.

My wife Erin created Shantae in 1994 while she and I were engaged. We met at CalArts, both there to learn animation. She got a flash of inspiration from back in her camp counselor days, and named Shantae after one of the campers. I loved it and started working with her on a mythology, adding supporting characters and bad guys. Erin also liked the idea of a game character who could conjure animals or charm them with her dancing. It later became transforming into them.

Shantae's hair whip attack was inspired by the creator, meanwhile, as her hair was 9 feet long at the time. While the character has become popular in the years since her debut, Bozon did say that one reason these games are now self-published is the resistance the company faced having Shantae as the lead.

We had many, many battles early on and lost. But we stuck to our guns and never made Shantae the 2nd playable character next to a male hero (it was suggested many times). So I like to think we softened the game biz up a bit.

It seems that the upcoming games will reveal more back-story for the hero, with assurances that both the 3DS and crowdfunded HD title will reveal more about Shantae's history.

A lot of this has been building up to the question of “What exactly is a genie in this universe, and where is Shantae’s mom”? There’s a cool back story written for all of that, and we’ll be rolling it out in both Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS) and Half-Genie Hero (HD game currently on Kickstarter). I want to explain Risky Boots more, get into the character of Rottytops… all of that will happen in these two games. She’s a half-genie, and her dad is human, so there has been speculation about who he might be.

It should be a big year ahead for Shantae — Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is targeting October 2014, while Pirate's Curse is due this year — and we're rather pleased that WayForward is investing more in the character. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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User Comments (20)



Kyloctopus said:

Its really interesting that Capcom decided to publish the original Shantae at the end of it. Because the developers of Remember Me also said that publishers didn't want a female protagonist, and Capcom ended up publishing that was well. They were also, being one of the first to open the doors for female characters playable in video games with Chun Li, from Street Fighter II.



Hong said:

Thank goodness they never gave in. I am so sick of stale male protagonists.



SilentHunter382 said:

It good they kept to there guns but to me the gender of character doesn't bother me as long as their personality is well created and not one that is made out of styrofoam.



Phantom_R said:

I can't imagine anyone--especially in this day and age--wanting to replace Shantae with a male lead. She's a half-genie who fights by belly dancing and whipping her hair back and forth. If that doesn't sound awesome to you... get out.



Ralizah said:

The sexism in this industry is rampant. Good on WayForward for sticking to its guns on this matter and leaving the main character a woman.



Bensei said:

"Draw every day! Chuck Jones always said that every budding artist had 10,000 bad drawings blocking their pencil that had to come out first. Or at least something like that. It’s still the best advice I can give, because when you draw, and people see your draw, the opportunities begin to unfold. But you’ve got to keep creating and share your work, warts and all."

Inspiring, I always forget that rule xD



sinalefa said:

I hope the kickstarter campaign gets to its goal. I like Wayforward and I like Shantae.



Fuzzy said:

Good on them for sticking to their guns. Shantae is a great character.



WiiLovePeace said:

Even after all this time of knowing of the awesomeness that is the Shantae series I am still yet to play a single game in the franchise myself. I'll pick up Shantae on VC eventually, probably after I clear more of my backlog.



Yorumi said:

@Ralizah it's not really the industry so much as the consumers. Remember these large companies have focus groups and all kinds of market research to figure out how to best sell their games. Obviously it's not perfect but all the research shows that male leads sell better.

You can even see it in games that let you make your own character like MMOs. Constantly topics pop up all over almost disgusted by the idea that a male would play a female character. I'm not saying it right but that's the way it is and it's the reason companies do what they do.



Ralizah said:

I'm not saying that a rampantly misogynistic group of game developers and publishers are pushing their sexism on an unwitting public. Far from it. There is, however, a system of circular influences that implicates everyone involved, consumers, publishers, and developers alike. Did the public outcry against female protagonists scare publishers and developers from featuring women more prominently in their games, or did tropes and stereotypes created by video games help to develop a culture of misogyny? It's a chicken/egg argument, really.

Unfortunately, someone in the industry has to take the initiative to help combat this silencing of female voices and perspectives in modern video games lest we be doomed to a future of predominantly white, muscle-bound, and entirely uninteresting male leads. Even more unfortunately, this kind of initiative will never have a permanent effect unless consumers vote with their dollars and support games with more diversity in their central cast.



Yorumi said:

@Ralizah in a way I think it's only gotten worse with the modern dudebro gamers. The thing is while I'd like to see more female leads game companies just arn't where it's going to start. They're just not generally going to risk sales to do something like this.

I guess I should amend that, the explosion of small indie companies might help make the change. For better or worse the big companies simply can't afford to take a risk, but the smaller indies can. They don't need every last sale to survive so if it does hurt them a little they can tend to survive. The problem is if it keeps hurting them they're not going to keep pushing it.

The only thing I hope is that these things kind of stay quiet. One thing that's been annoying me is the increasing amount of politics in video games. Seems like every time a game is released now there's a quote or stereotype analysis done on it. "Why arn't there more blacks, why are there so many blacks, why arn't there more indians, asians, women. Sexy women, less sexy women, more gays, less gays, more sexuality, less sexuality."

I just wish all this would stop invading entertainment. It's like everything is viewed through the lens of some quote or something.



mamp said:

LOL, anyone else started thinking about the show I dream of Jeannie when they started talking about shantae's parents IDK why it popped into my head.



Bakajin said:

@mamp That had not occurred to me, but I'm glad it occurred to you and you said something. I can totally see Shantae as Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman's daughter.



GameGoddess32 said:

I LOVE Shantae..she's a cool chick
I still have Risky's Revenge when I downloaded it to my DSi and I still enjoy playing it..I'm SO excited to see a 3DS game,and if I can,I'll contribute to the kickstarter campaign..LIVE LONG AND PROSPER SHANTAE!!!

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