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Released in 2001 near the extreme end of the Game Boy Color's lifespan, Shantae is Way Forward Technologies' love letter to the Metroidvania genre. The game stars the eponymous Shantae, a sassy half-genie who works as the guardian of the town of Scuttle Town. One day, the evil pirate captain Risky Boots raids the town with her army of Tinkerbats and steals the Steam Engine, one of the creations of Shantae's Gadgeteer Genius uncle. With it, she plans to build an enormous machine with which she can use to take over the world--but in order to do so, she needs the Four Elemental Stones. It's up to Shantae to track them down before she does. Her arsenal? Her Prehensile Hair and her magical belly-dancing. No, seriously. We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.
A sequel called Shantae: Risky's Revenge was released on Nintendo's DSiWare service for the Nintendo DSi on October 4, 2010, and was then followed by Shantae and the Pirate's Curse in 2014 for the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero in 2016 (funded though Kickstarter), and Shantae and the Seven Sirens in 2020.
- A Day in the Limelight:
- In Half Genie Hero, the Pirate Queen Quest DLC is this for Risky, as she tells the story from her own point of view, though she clearly exaggerates - or blatantly lies - about it.
- In the same game, Friends to the End DLC is this for Rotty, Bolo, and Sky, the DLC showing their attempts to free Shantae from the Demonic Possession of Nega-Shantae.
- Ability Required to Proceed: A staple in the series; Shantae will often trek through places where a barrier or lack of access makes it impossible to reach certain areas, requiring her to backtrack once she learns or gains the necessary skill, spell, or weapon.
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The Water dungeon definitely has elements of this.
- Action Girl: Shantae herself, natch. Sky and Rotty have their moments too.
- Adorable Evil Minion: Risky's Tinkerbat crewmen are kind of cute.
- Air Vent Passageway: In the final dungeon.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Gender inverted with Bolo, who despite being Shantae's friend, will actively help her Arch Enemy Risky Boots.
- All Men Are Perverts: Subverted by an NPC at the Zombie Caravan:
"All Zombie Guys are pigs, they only like girls for their brains!"
- Amazing Technicolor Population: Well, aside from a palette-glitching trick that causes NPCs to turn funny colors, Risky Boots is almost as purple as Shantae's hair.
- Ambiguously Brown: Although the games are set in an Arabian Nights-inspired world, so perhaps not so ambiguous. It's worth noting that Shantae herself gets a much deeper tan in the sequel thanks to Matt Bozon's updated art style.
- Animesque: The games' style is interestingly eclectic -- like sticking Japanese characters into Disney's version of Aladdin.
- Animorphism: Shantae can turn into animals in order to access new areas.
- Artifact of Doom: The Magic Lamp can enslave any genie and force them to become a classic, wish granting genie to whoever holds the lamp, making the genie do anything they want. Shantae was only a half-Genie, so the lamp extracted said half and tried to kill her.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign
- Awesome but Impractical:
- Your Charged Attack, while very powerful, takes a long time to charge and is difficult to control.
- Also, Storm Puffs.
- Background Boss: The boss of the Golem Mines.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Risky strips the heroine of her powers - as she had intended - in the second game, making it Shantae's goal in the third to win them back. Risky doesn't truly "lose" in that game either, although she and Shantae are partners in that game.
- Bag of Spilling: It's not explained where Shantae's equipment, items or health went between the first two games, but her lack of transformation dances is justified by her being out of practice.
- Bare Your Midriff: Every single one of the major female characters is young and cute enough to get away with this. Even some of the female mooks get into it.
- Battleship Raid: The enormous mechanical Tinkertank near the end of the game.
- Beef Gate: Going immediately
EastWest of Scuttle Town in the beginning of the game will send you headlong into the game's naga enemies--who all have a ton of health, fairly quick movements, and a homing screech attack that can kill you dead even from a distance. Since Shantae's main attack never gets stronger, you'll want to stock up on items, get a few Heart Holders, and maybe pick up some Fighter's Equipment before blazing into them (if you make it past using either brute force or Vanish Cream, you'll find a typical Broken Bridge in the form of a monkey-climbing wall).
- Belly Dancer: This is actually how Shantae casts spells. It's also her "day job".
- Best Known for the Fanservice: Shantae, most of her allies, many of her enemies, and even some Mooks are busty girls in halters and short skirts in this World of Buxom. This becomes even more prevalent in Seven Sirens, where the game has digitally animated cutscenes.
- Betting Minigame: The lizard races.
- Big Badass Bird of Prey: Sky, a falconer, trains these. Her favorite bird is Wrench (who can act as a wrench). He was at an absurd size in the GBA demo.
- Big Boo's Haunt: The third dungeon, full of zombies and creepy-crawlies.
- Big Eater: Shantae; in the third game, she blames a nightmare on the entire tub of cookie dough ice cream she ate before bed.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rottytops. Subverted at the last second.
- Bottomless Pits: All. Frigging. Over. Interestingly, the Float Muffin item actually renders them harmless to you for a short period of time--and you actually need to use it in one place to cross a long, un-jumpable Bottomless Pit to reach a Heart Container. In Risky's Revenge, they conveniently emit skulls with crossbones.
- Bottomless Pit Rescue Service: One of the items.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Squid Baron is a weird variation of this, because all instances of fourth-wall-breaking seem to happen when he's around. For instance, in the first game, Shantae questions how he could still be alive with the following statement:
"And besides, didn't you die in a giant 'Stage Clear!' explosion?"
- Brought Down to Normal: Shantae, at the end of Risky's Revenge, where she beats the hell out of her magic-half in order to prevent Risky from using it. She doesn't get better...yet.
- But Thou Must!: At the end of Risky's Revenge, you're given the choice of whether or not to trade the magic seals for Uncle Mimic. Saying no makes Shantae announce that she doesn't have a choice, and she hands the seals over anyway.
- Chain-Reaction Destruction: That happens to the Squid Baron in Risky's Revenge when he's defeated.
- Chainmail Bikini: Lampshaded in the fourth game where Shantae can buy "Bikini Armor" to reduce damage taken by half.
- Chaos Architecture: More like "Chaos Geography", as the areas surrounding Scuttle Town seem to be a different type of terrain with each game.
- Charged Attack: And yet another attack can be gotten out of that one!
- The Chick: Keeping with the game's whole "girl power" theme, Bolo serves as this.
- Clown Car Grave: Zombies endlessly spawn from the ground in the Swamp area.
- Collision Damage
- Cool Ship: Risky's Steam Powered Oceanic Tinker Tub.
- Cosplay: An NPC boy says his mom dressed up as Risky for dad. *wink*
- Cutscene Incompetence: Sometimes Shantae just stands there during cutscenes.
- Dark Action Girl: Risky Boots, Shantae's archnemesis.
- Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: Dying sends you back to the beginning of a room, while getting a Game Over sends you back to the last save point. All of your items and progress are saved, so the only penalty is time lost walking back to the last area. If you die transformed, you'll even stay in the same animal form. This only applies to the first game.
- Death Mountain: Oddly, lava-free.
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In Pirates Curse, the screen where you select Shantae's destination consists of Risky on the bow of her ship, which the player moves to point to the desired island. However, right after you clear Stage 11 (where Risky is caught by the Pirate King) the screen changes to omit Risky.
- Directionally Solid Platforms
- Doomed Hometown: Half of Scuttle Town is set on fire by marauding pirates in the first stage of the game. Risky attacks specifically because Mimic and, more importantly, his Steam Engine are both located there. Subverted because the town recovers quickly.
- Easter Egg: The Tinkerbat transformation, which is only available if you play the game on a Gameboy Advance.
- Eat the Dog: Rotty. But Shantae saves the dog to be returned to her owner in a quest.
- Enemy Mine: The whole plot of the third game involves a partnership between Shantae and Risky.
- Enemy Without: The last boss in the second game.
- Epic Flail: Bolo's weapon.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The first spell you get turns Shantae into a monkey.
- Everything's Squishier with Cephalopods:
- Warp Squids and Warp Squid-like objects are common finds in Sequin Land.
- The sequel has the Squid Baron. He has a Heel Face Turn and will help you in exchange for finding his golden babies.
- Evil Is Petty: Rottytops and her brothers kidnapped Mimic in exchange for cash, the chance to eat Shantae's brain and a lifetime supply of coffee, though that last bit is not as petty as it seems; zombies in this continuity can only retain their cognitive brain functions by drinking coffee. Still doesn't excuse Rotty selling out her best friend though.
- Exposed to the Elements: Characters won't fear cold despite being rather inappropriately dressed in icy places.
- Face Heel Turn: Rottytops and her brothers, for a ridiculous reason (Shantae's brains and lifetime supply of coffee). They are visibly regretful when Risky refuses to pay up.
- Fake Difficulty: There's plenty of it in the first game. The most obvious example being the enemies in the first real area that love to jump out of the ground directly below you, damaging you. There is absolutely no way to avoid it aside from never being close to the ground, which happens to be impossible until very late in the game. Some enemies like to use homing shockwave attacks before you can see them. Due to how little of the surrounding area the game shows, since the sprites are so big, there are a lot of Leaps of Faith. Some enemies hover just above where you can see them, so if you're unlucky and jump near them, you get an unavoidable hit. Sometimes it's impossible to tell where you can land, meaning you can hit enemies or other, instant death-inducing, hazards. Averted in Risky's Revenge, which even shows you which holes that are harmful.
- Fetch Quest: Finding baby squids and coffee.
- First Town: Scuttle Town.
- Flash of Pain: Some enemies and bosses do that when hit, others don't. In Risky's Revenge, all the enemies flash.
- Friendly Enemy: The Barons in the second game. The Squid Baron was fighting because its children were being held hostage. The Ammo Baron is never fought in the second game, and the Mayor says he'll just talk with him to reclaim the deed to the town. In the third game, Shantae does fight him, but the Trope still stands; he's even open to letting her have her job as Guardian Genie back! The third Baron may have been actively trying to warn and help Shantae.
- Fun with Acronyms: In the fourth game, Risky's new battleship (used as the first boss) is a "Part Omni-Organic, Part Titanic, Ocean-Optimal Tinkerslug". She gets upset when Shantae calls it a "P.O.O.P.T.O.O.T.".
- Gainaxing: UP THE WAZOO. It actually really shows off both games' gorgeous animation, especially considering the limits of the Game Boy Color. Shantae will even adjust her top if you stand idle for a while in Risky's Revenge.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: In Seven Sirens, Shantae is worried about being in the show's sneak-preview performance, as she hasn't yet learned the routine and has had no time to rehearse. Of course, in most games, this isn't a problem, as she can learn a new dance much like most video game protagonists learn skills, mere seconds after purchasing it.
- Game Over Woman: Risky shows up on the Game Over screen in the first game.
- Genre Savvy: In Risky's Revenge, Shantae was expecting Risky to show up and swipe the Magic Seals like last time.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- Barracuda Joe mentions he got his job by doing a saucy dance.
- This risque comment from Risky, after swiping the lamp:
Risky Boots: "Now hoist my booty into the air, and put your back into it."
- Giant Spider: Shantae herself after gaining the Spider transformation in the first game.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Uncle Mimic.
- The Goomba: Tinkerbat pirates and their variations are pretty easy to defeat. Lampshaded in the manual which describes them as pretty lousy pirates. Surprisingly, however, the Easter Egg Tinkerbat transformation is extremely powerful and versatile.
- Green Hill Zone: The areas outside Scuttle Town--at least, toward the east. Toward the West, and it's more of a Death Mountain.
- Ground Pound: The Elephant transformation gains one of these if you hunt out its super attack.
- Guide Dang It: It is a Metroidvania, after all, but it's moreso needed for the plethora of items you are looking for to get 100% rather than a complex labyrinth maze you need to navigate.
- Hailfire Peaks: The third dungeon, part Big Boo's Haunt and part Temple of Doom.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Shantae is half-human, half-genie. And all adorable!
- Happily Adopted: Shantae and her beloved Uncle Mimic.
- Heart Container: Heart Holders, actually.
- Heel Face Turn: One of the bosses in Risky's Revenge does that.
- He Knows About Timed Hits
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Every time something bad happens that Shantae was unable to prevent, she beats herself up over it because she thinks her Half-Genie powers are no good for protecting anyone.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: In Shantae's Revenge, enraged over Shantae's failure to stop the lamp heist, Mayor Scuttlebutt not only fires her from the guardian job, but starts up an aggressive public smear campaign against her.
- Hidden Elf Village: The Zombie Caravan, which is... pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
- Hollywood Night: Although this one is purple, instead of blue.
- Hostage for Macguffin: Risky captures Uncle Mimic and wagers his life for the three Magic Seals.
- Hot Wind: Seems that even the wind likes Sky.
- Hub Level: Scuttle Town in Risky's Revenge.
- Human Mom, Nonhuman Dad: Inverted. Shantae's mommy was a genie, and her daddy was human.
- Hyperactive Sprite: Shantae in Risky's Revenge.
- Idle Animation: In Shantae Advance demo videos, she would measure her waist and adjust her top. In Risky's Revenge, she just adjusts her top.
- Rottytops tends to swivel her hips whenever she stands in one place for long.
- Impossible Hourglass Figure: Most of the females.
- In-Universe Game Clock: Monsters ramp up the cheap in the night, and towns change.
- Inexplicable Treasure Chests: They're present in Risky's Revenge and for some reason, no one has opened them yet.
- Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: In dungeons.
- Interface Spoiler: The sequel averts this by having spots on your inventory screen simply not exist until you have the item that goes there. The original, however, played it straight: it was pretty obvious from the start there were twelve items, four dungeons and four other things. The dance screen also shows you all the transformations and towns ahead of time.
- Item Get: In Risky's Revenge.
- Jekyll and Hyde: Sort of. Shantae's "Mr. Hyde" is essentially herself, her Genie-Half, but only at the end of Risky's Revenge, where Risky rips it out of her and assumes control over it.
- Justified Save Point: Save Guys (yes, Save Guys) appear on the overworld in various locations, keeping track of our heroine's progress.
- Kamehame Hadoken: The Flashbolt attack and the Fireball magic family.
- Leitmotif: The first few seconds of the title theme are reused quite a bit in Risky's Revenge.
- Let's Play: On YouTube, a user named Brickroad did a 59-part Let's Play of Shantae. You can find it here. WayForward actually linked to this LP on their official site... and when they heard that Brickroad would be unable to play Risky's Revenge because he didn't have a DSi, they bought him one. Several of the LP's injokes even make it into Risky's Revenge!
- The Lost Woods: Lots of 'em one of which being Tangle Forest in Risky's Revenge.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Bolo, pretty much. He has a crush on Risky, thinks Rottytops is cute, and brags that good looks run in his family... just look at his grandmother...
- MacGuffin Delivery Service: Risky steals all the Relics from Shantae after Shantae collects them all.
- Made of Explodium: The Squid Baron in Risky's Revenge. He gets better.
- Mascot Mook: Risky's Tinkerbat pirates, though they're not so much traditionally cute as much as strange and amusing. You can even turn into one if you play the original game on the Game Boy Advance.
- Meaningful Name: Wrench the bird, as pointed out by Brickroad.
- Mercy Invincibility: Taking damage will trigger this.
- Metroidvania: The first game was one of the aspects that set the game apart from other GBC titles.
- Mirror Boss: The final battle in Risky's Revenge.
- Money Spider: Zombies in Pirate's Curse drop a gem when their heads are knocked off, then another when they explode. Defeating their bodies is also like to drop one, so farming money off of them is quite easy.
- Monster Town: The Zombie Caravan, a traveling town full of... zombies. Also Bandit village, many common enemies can be seen in its bar.
- Mook Maker: The holes in the walls that continuously drop snake enemies on you.
- Moral Dissonance: After you bring Wobble Bell back to the Chef, you can "kill" it for an easy 100 Gems.
- Multi Mook Melee: The Ammo Baron's Battle Tower.
- Must Have Caffeine: Rottytops and the other zombies keep their human intelligence with coffee.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Rottytops wasn't too keen on selling Shantae out in the first place, but when Risky refuses to keep her end of the bargain, Rotty breaks down and runs off weeping.
- Nice Hat: Risky's pirate hat can be used as a parachute or glider, although Shantae is the one using it in the third game. Risky gets to use it in the fourth game's DLC.
- Nintendo Hard: Shantae's default attack is somewhat short-range. Add in the fact that many enemies require multiple hits to beat, and that her normal attack never gets stronger.
- In the first game, Shantae did not restart the room with full health after dying , and enemies in the overworld had twice as much health at night.
- Largely alleviated in the sequel: Shantae has much more health, enemies overall have less health, magic items are much more helpful, and her basic attack can be upgraded at the store.
- Not Just a Tournament: Seven Sirens overlaps this with Busman's Holiday, as the beauty pageant included with the free vacation starts with all the contestants - except Shantae - kidnapped.
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist/Renaissance Man: Mimic, who is apparently a historian, an engineer and an archeologist -- he found Shantae's lamp while on a dig.
- One-Gender Race: Genies in this universe.
- One True Sequence
- Our Zombies Are Different: Rottytops and the other zombies are as intelligent as anyone else, and maintain their intelligence and sanity by consuming coffee. However, they are not above eating brains, or in Rottytops case, puppies.
- Palette Swap: The Scarecrows and Knights get one in Risky's Revenge. Also Dark Mimic and Shantae's genie side.
- Palmtree Panic: Polyp Bay and Mermaid Cliffs in Risky's Revenge.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Risky disguises herself like this at one point of the game. In the third game, simply taking off her hat is enough to convince the town she isn't the notorious pirate they're so afraid of.
- Rottytops does this in Seven Sirens, disguising herself as Fillin because - she thinks - Shantae doesn't want to invite her. The green skin and hairstyle kind of gives her away to anyone familiar with the game.
- Parental Abandonment: Shantae's mother was apparently raptured away into the Genie Realm; her father's absence, however, remains a mystery.
- Pirate Girl: Risky Boots, of course.
- Pirates: Shantae's most common enemy, and the profession of her Arch Enemy.
- Port Town: Scuttle Town.
- The Power of Friendship: Sky and Bolo decide to help Shantae in her job as the newfound Guardian-Human of Scuttle Town.
- Prehensile Hair: This is explicitly one of Shantae's powers. According to the rules of the 'verse, half-genie powers are almost always "quirky", such as having prehensile hair or being able to shoot milk out of your eye. Risky's Revenge suggests her prehensile hair was inherited from her father, and is not a half-genie power; her belly-dancing transformations are.
- Pyrrhic Victory: In the third game, Shantae manages to thwart Risky again, but not without the hefty cost of her half-genie magical powers, reducing her to a human. On top of that, Risky escapes, free to carry out whatever dastardly plan she has next.
- Rainbow Speak: Important items and innuendo are marked with different color in the dialogue of Risky's Revenge.
- Revenge of the Sequel: Shantae: Risky's Revenge.
- Reverse Shrapnel: The Pike Ball and Fireball items.
- Rhythm Game: The Dance Hall minigame.
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud:
Barracuda Joe: Take [this key]. It's yours.
- Scuttle Town hasn't reached steam power yet, but there's an automatic coffee machine, and the friendly neighborhood zombies have plastic explosives?!
- The 4 year old in Scuttle Town who somehow has a digital watch (editor's guess: prob'ly imported).
- One of Shantae's remarks in the recap mentions how the first labyrinth boss looks like something from her Uncle's animes.
- Secret Character: The Tinkerbat transformation.
- Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains: Shantae was rather self-conscious about her appearance during the official recap, while Risky was flat-out stated to hate modesty in the OST Trailer.
- Shifting Sand Land: The game does have a vaguely Arabian theme, so deserts are all over the place.
- Many other WayForward games pay tribute to Shantae in them somewhere; Risky's Revenge features several references to other games developed by the company.
- Thanks to Brickroad's Let's Play, there's a character in the second game called Barracuda Joe.
- If you watched BR's LP, you should remember the point where he threw a fit after realizing that Sky told him to go the wrong way. In Risky's Revenge, Sky scolds Bolo's sense of direction: "What kind of moron doesn't know EAST from WEST?"
- Several of Matt's favorite game's also show up in one way or another: Shantae's drinking animation resembles Link's from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time/The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, while her death animation follows Samus' movements from several Metroid games.
- "And grabbing the white crystal in hand, I knelt for several seconds at what appeared to be an ordinary cliff face..."
- In Risky's Revenge, the shop's description of the Flamethrower spell is "Kids love it!".
- Shy Purple Haired Girl: Hinted at in Risky's Revenge.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Ice Mountain.
- Smells Sexy: In the first game, Bolo starts following Risky, just by following her perfume scent.
- Spikes of Doom: They are in some places. Instant kill.
- Steampunk: Actually, the onset of Steampunk technology is something you're trying to prevent. Sequin Island is not ready.
- Stock Femur Bone: Some of the enemies in Risky's Revenge disintegrate into these when killed.
- Stripperiffic: Egads. There's even a stripperiffic zombie.
- Super Drowning Skills: In the first game. She has learned to swim in Risky's Revenge though.
- Talk Like a Pirate: Shantae's attempt to do this in the third game after joining Risky's crew is pretty... bad:
Shantae: Moist the main snail! Keel the port blubber!
"Heave to, boys! It's time for Risky's Revenge, so let's attack aggressively!"
- Teleport Spam: One of the bosses in Risky's Revenge can do that.
- Temple of Doom: The third dungeons of both games.
- Trap Door: Risky sends you to one to meet Tinkertank.
- Underwater Ruins: The Sunken Cavern in Risky's Revenge.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change/Unexpected Shmup Level: The Shoot 'em Up section in the Sunken Cavern in Risky's Revenge.
- The Unfought:
- The Ammo Baron, since he turns out not to be a villain at all. He gains ownership of Scuttle Town without a fight, and doesn't do much other than rename it Ammo Town.
- Risky and Shantae fight one-on-one in the first game, but not in the second.
- Unwinnable: It's possible to reach the fourth dungeon boss early, without having picked up the Harpie transformation dance. Cue Hopeless Boss Fight, as the only way to make the boss damageable is to first fly above it and smack it in the head. Dying puts you in the same room, so the only way to get out is to get a Game Over or reset, meaning you have to play the whole dungeon again.
- Video Game Flight: The Harpie transformation. You can fly anywhere, but you don't get it until the last level, and it has no attack to begin with. Finding the Harpie's Talon, however, bestows upon it the single most powerful singular attack in the game that doesn't require charging. Still hard to use, though.
- Voice Grunting: In Risky's Revenge.
- Wake-Up Call Boss: In Half-Genie Hero hardcore mode, the laughably easy P.O.O.P T.O.O.T is now harder than anything in the normal mode.
- Warp Whistle: Warp dance, actually. You learn them from a warp squid.
- A Worldwide Punomenon: Zombies communicate with each other via spiderwebs, in a manner resembling a message board or forum. Cue web, net, bug and worm jokes.
- Wrap Around: The overworld wraps around horizontally. The world is even stated to be shaped like a ring.
- Wrench Wench: Of all people, Sky. Spoiler worthy if you never played the first game.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz/Letters 2 Numbers: The Leetspeak-esque "ret-2-go". They used it again in the announcement of a release date for the sequel. In a sense, it is a sort of inside joke for WayForward; they used the same line in their lesser-known game Xtreme Sports.
- You! Get Me Coffee!: Shantae has to retrieve coffee in one quest. It turns out it's what keeps Rottytops and her brothers from becoming regular, slow and dumb zombies.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Shantae and Risky Boots (although Risky's sprite in the first game has purple skin and black hair, thanks to the GBC's limited palette) have purple hair; Rottytops has green hair.
- Younger Than They Look: Shantae is actually 15/16 years old despite what the fanbase would want you to think.