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.
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.
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 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.”
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:
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
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.