Smash 4 DLC: The Case for Shantae


After a long hiatus, the “Case For” third party DLC series is making its (hopefully long awaited) return. While previous entries in this series have focused on big name third party characters, I will be shifting focus to examine characters that originate from an ever growing segment of the third party market, that being independent (or “indie) game studios. Several indie game characters have found themselves “on the radar” with fans voting in the on-going Smash Ballot. This article will be examining one of the more popular choices amongst the Smash Bros. community, Wayforward’s Shantae.    

Character Background:   The half-genie protector of the coastal city of Scuttle Town, Shantae is a stalwart defender of justice that uses a myriad of magical abilities (including animal transformations, super strong whipping hair,and teleportation) to defend all of Sequin Land from the nefarious pirate Risky Boots as well as whomever else dares threaten the safety of her friends. She’s also one heck of a dancer.   

Artsy Omni’s Smashified makes picking headlining images easy!

Many fans know Shantae as one of the most prominent faces of Nintendo’s digital platforms (most recently the E-Shop) but her roots actually lay within a more primitive piece of Nintendo hardware: the Gameboy Color. Shantae debuted in a title of the same name on Nintendo’s first color handheld back in 2002 to good reviews  but somewhat lack luster sales. The reason for this was likely that Shantae was a Game Boy Color game that released over a year after the Gameboy Advance hit the market. Despite this, the game became a bit of a cult hit and helped pave the way for the franchises revival with 2010’s Shantae: Risky’s Revenge for the Nintendo DS.

We can always just pretend that she’s another Capcom rep

Shantae has since become the face of WayForward Technologies, the independent game development studio that has brought games such as DuckTales: Remastered, Contra 4, Mighty Switch Force!, and A Boy and his Blob (Wii) to Nintendo platforms in recent years. Shantae herself has starred in three games (Shantae, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse) with a fourth on the way.

Reasons for inclusion: If we are to be completely honest, characters such as Shantae (niche, smaller franchise third party characters) received a massive surge in popularity due to the nature of the Smash Ballot. For the first time in Smash history, Smash fans worldwide could vote for whomever they wanted to be in Smash. If popularity becomes a deciding factor in Sakurai’s choice for DLC, and if Shantae can garner enough interest, than perhaps she has a legitimate chance of making it in. This being the case, let us see what makes Shantae stand out from her indie gaming sisters and brethren.

Shantae can turn into a monkey and can attack with her hair. I hear that’s pretty popular with Smash fans. #FreeDixie

Shantae has a long history on Nintendo platforms. She debuted on the Game Boy Color in 2002, having her creation predate the indie boom of the mid 2000s, and everyone of her subsequent games has debuted on a Nintendo system. She has become a cornerstone of Nintendo’s E-Shop platform, with Nintendo themselves using Shantae in general advertising for their online service. Shantae will also soon appear on the Wii U for the second time in Shantae: Half Genie Hero, a game that almost doubled its initial Kickstarter goal. The series has appeared on a variety of non-Nintendo platforms, such as the Playstation 3, PC, and iPAD, which has increased her visibility beyond Nintendo fans. Still, Wayforward releases the majority of their software on Nintendo Platforms. Technologies creative director at Wayford and creator of Shantae, Mat Bozon, probably put it best “Nintendo fans got us here which is why we go the extra mile to serve them.” 

Very subtle, Matt.

It should also be mentioned that Matt Bozon seems to really want Shantae in Smash and is himself a big fan of the series and of Nintendo in general. His first mention of Shantae in Smash predates the Smash poll itself, and can be found in a Destructiod interview conducted in December of 2014 :

“Yes, I would love to play as her in Smash and I want a Shantae amiibo. Her move set aligns nicely, since she dances to charge up her bigger moves, can get extra jumps by way of Cannon or Harpy Transformation. And she brings more girl power, and has been Nintendo exclusive since back on Game Boy. So yeah, Shantae.”

His support has only increased since the launch of the Smash ballot, with tweets regularly asking fans to “vote for Shantae.”

Reasons for exclusion:

Image drawn by Wario Ware character designer Ko Takeuchi…. well at least we know ONE Japanese person knows who she is

Shantae suffers from many of the same issues that will adversely affect most indie characters. The very nature of independent game development means that Shantae’s games aren’t massive undertakings. A smaller studio like Wayforward simply does not have the manpower or marketing muscle to push and produce a game in the same manner a Capcom or a Sega would. Consequently, Shantae remains a niche character from a niche series. Her visibility is simply not on par with someone like Megaman or even Bayonetta (whom I have previously made a case against.)

Shantae’s sales numbers most likely reflect this as well, although numbers are difficult to find as her newer games are exclusively distributed digitally. Still, it is highly doubtful that her game sales can compare favorably with the third party characters currently in the game. Here are sales numbers (once again from my Bayonetta article) for comparison:

Total Series Sales
Metal Gear: 33,000,000
Sonic the Hedgehog: 150,000,000
Mega Man: 30,000,000
Pacman: 43,000,000
Street Fighter: 36,000,000

All “guest characters” currently in the game are iconic characters that debuted in the 80s or 90s and have a lasting legacy with 10s of millions of games sold in their series. Shantae is none of those things.

Shantae must also contend with the fact that she was created by an American developer. Let us remember that the only non-Japanese created character to have ever been playable in Smash Bros. as of now is Diddy Kong.  Shantae is not only not Japanese, but her fan base seems to be based mostly in the West. It should be noted, however, that her more recent games have at least been released in Japan.

Personally, I feel like all “indie” characters lack the inherent “icon” status that we have seen from previous third party guests in the Smash Bros. series. If Nintendo and Sakurai were ever to look for a character to act as an “ambassador” for the indie gaming movement, however, Shantae would be a perfect fit.

What is Smash Bros. without music? Here are a few tracks you can look forward to if Shantae makes it in.


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  1. I don’t think I’ve seen any third-party or indie character receive such a surge in popularity since the ballot started as Shantae. Fanart, both Smash-related and not, has been flooding Miiverse and internet drawing sites like DeviantArt nonstop. Several videos saying why Shantae should be in Smash have been put up, some even from Eastern sources. And there are indeed Shantae fans in the East, a major one of which is Pokemon creator Ken Sugimori. It’s actually amazing how much support the half-genie has gained since the ballot started, and it’s still growing and probably will continue growing until the ballot ends.

    Though with that said, I’m not delusional enough to think she’s a shoe-in. She has a lot of competition to overcome, not the least of which are Nintendo’s first-party K. Rool and the third-party juggernauts Rayman and Banjo & Kazooie. Mind you I’d be perfectly happy if Shantae made it in, but I’ll just remain cautiously optimistic for her until we learn more about the ballot winner selection (number of characters chosen, criteria for choosing, how much fan following matters, etc.).

  2. We can see her being a good choice to represent the surge of indies, which have become an important part of Nintendo similar to how duckhunt represents old games and game and watch stands for the super old games

    her moveset can be a problem though, her biggest gimmick is transforming and sakurai removed transformations from the game so it would be odd to see her bring those back unless they’re toned down somehow, like if up b turns her into a harpy to recover but then she goes back to normal right away, nothing like a full fledged form with its own moveset as before

  3. The major issue that I see for Shantae being in Sm4sh is the fact that her popularity in Japan is really low. I never considered a characters’ region of birth since Nintendo takes all votes into consideration, not to mention that Fire Emblem would’ve never been released internationally if it wasn’t for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Advance Wars.

    The second major issue is that Shantae’s popularity on a global scale is as low as any other popular indie game. As a matter of fact, I thought that she was some DeviantArtist’s OC when I first saw her (don’t ask which one), so that might hurt her chances.

    The minor issue that I have is Shantae’s appearance; It’s the resemblance of a stereotypical female Genie that looks like a belly dancer. Samus went down the same road as her, but this is due to Samus being a first party character. Shulk’s the same way, but shows more skin than any other character out there.

    Her level of uniqueness is smack down into the middle, along with the ability to work on the 3DS. Her transformation abilities would have to be temporary and her trademark belly dancing techniques takes a toll on her gameplay since it requires time to do so. Teleportation and healing can be added as a technique, but requires her to belly dance like the transformation skills. Unless if Nintendo decides to take the dancing features away in order for her to use her spells (Kind of like how Robin cannot use Nosferatu while he’s/she’s in his/her tactician class), then we could see some progress. She can, however, use items and spells to increase her gameplay and I don’t mind if she makes into the game, so it would be interesting to see.

    It has also been rumored twice that Shantae was going to be in Sm4sh as DLC. The first one was click bait by a low level video game journalist company, and the second one came from a report that the name of her voice actress, Cristina Valenzuela, was found in the credits on the IMDB list. The second one can be easily be dismissed because it would be like saying that Goku would be in the game because Sean Schemmel (who was the voice actor for both Goku in most DragonBall titles and Lucario in the Pokemon movie and in Sm4sh) has his name in the credits. It should also be noted that Cristina Valenzuela (her stage name) is the voice actress for Riven the Exile (a League of Legends character) and various anime characters including Sailor Mars from the Sailor Moon series. It sould also be noted again that the voice actresses for Palutena and Robin(female) are different than the ones in their previous respective titles.

    I would find Shantae to be a very lucky character if she does make it into Sm4sh, for the cards are not in her favor at this moment. And I doubt Nintendo would go by popularity if the character does not look like they would/could fit into the game. I wish this character good luck on her campaign to enter the new world of Smash, but I did not, or will not, vote for her because I have never played any of the Shantae games in my life. I only vote for characters that I am familiar with, and I am not familiar with this one.

  4. I’d say Shantae’s chances are pretty low. Aside from being a 3rd party character, she’s an INDIE 3rd party character. She simply does not have the exposure other third party characters like Rayman, Snake, or even Final Fantasy’s Black Mage have. If the ballot will improve anyone’s chances of getting in as DLC, Shantae’s going to have some tough competition from first party characters and more well-known 3rd parties.

    Heck, I’m pretty knowledgeable about games and I barely even know who Shanate is (only heard of her because I happen to also be a Capcom nerd.)

    Plus, isn’t she a bit… umm… scantily-clad for an E-rated game? Even Samus’ orange bikini alt isn’t THAT revealing on the top.


      Shantae’s actual games are rated E for everybody, so no, she is not too scantily clad for an E-Rated game.

      I don’t really disagree with you on anything else, but it’s really just the nature of being a character from an Indie game. Speaking of Snake and Rayman, I had previously done write ups for both of them for Source Gaming…check them out if you haven’t already.

  5. Ooh, a Shantae case when here on Smashboards we’re RTCing Shantae tomorrow! How convenient! xd

    But what is this “Indie rep” BS coming from anyway? They are no way iconic like the 3rd Parties we had so far, and… what does that have to do with a Nintendo All Star game anyway? They’ve no way affected the history of Nintendo, and is just somehow overrated despite low supposed popularity (Can be reflected in Japan. They’re popularity is as low as Goku, who is still a valid choice there) Why does indie “deserve” a rep anyway?

    1. While I agree that indie game characters aren’t nearly as iconic as other 3rd parties, indie games are a current thing that’s going on in the world of video games, and current events end up becoming history down the line.

      The indie scene hasn’t breached Nintendo’s consoles quite as much as Microsoft’s or even Sony’s has, so I agree that an “indie rep” probably doesn’t have much of a place in Smash.

  6. I’m gonna start this by saying I’m an avid supporter of Shantae for Smash, so I’ll probably sound a little biased. That being said, if there was going to be an indie rep for Smash, Shantae is easily the number one choice – she debuted 2 years prior to Cave Story, which most people seem to treat as the first indie game, and on a Nintendo console no less. While I do agree that she, or any other indie rep, is a longshot to make it in, it seems plausible. After all, Ninty’s really starting to take an interest in the indie scene as of late, and it would make SOME sense to add more representation than just Commander Video. Her biggest issue is easily the fact that her first game was GBC title in the GBA era. If it had released just 2-5 years prior, she’d probably be an iconic figure in the industry today.

    It should also be noted that she’s actually been fairly well received in the East. Not only does Ko Takeuchi draw her, and Ken Sugimori imported a western 3DS just to play some of her games, but I seem to recall 2ch posts about her being far more accepting than ones for, say, Shovel Knight. Some were the expected “Wait, who?” type of post, but most of them were followed with “I’m actually starting to really like her” and such. Shovel Knight…was worse received than Little Mac, as far as I remember. That’s the defining difference between them on this front – Shantae has a design that would appeal to the Japanese base, which is important as DLC because it means they’ll be more likely to purchase her even if they don’t know her. Shovel Knight just doesn’t resonate with them – he’s an extremely Western character and it hurts his image there. It’s not like I dislike Shovel Knight – I backed the Kickstarter with quite a bit of money. I just don’t think he has any place in Smash yet, especially not when Shantae deserves the spot more right now.

    1. I should also make a note here that another issue hindering her is how the transformation mechanic is a huge part of her gameplay. I feel like that would be relegated to her Final Smash in some way, or to her taunts – heck, she could even be the only character whose side taunts function differently. Or, they could make a nice easter egg with her taunts – if you input certain sequences of up/down/left/right she momentarily transforms into different creatures, with each direction being a different dance move.

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