Shantae (GBC, Prototype)

This is an early prototype for the original Game Boy Color version of Shantae, presumably used by developer WayForward while pitching the game to publishers. The ROM was found on a DVD backup used by Interplay Entertainment, eventually sold to researcher Gerry Martin in a private auction. Looking to preserve what was found, Martin has sent the ROM to several preservation groups for release: Twitter account Forest of Illusion, YouTube channel Hard4Games, and us!

As shown off in the video below, the prototype contains many differences compared to the final release. Only three levels are playable. All of them are without music and sound effects and even lack some enemies. The prototype also includes many graphics that ultimately went unused, such as an early title screen and scrapped sprites for Shantae and other characters.

The ROM can be downloaded here.

Special thanks to Gerry Martin, Hard4Games, and togemet2 for providing help in researching these materials.

Game Details

The development of Shantae goes back as far as 1994 when animator Erin Bozon designed the character while studying at CalArts. The character, then a brown-haired genie, was later reused as a game concept by Erin’s husband Matt, a fellow CalArts student and a designer at WayForward Technologies. “Erin created her character, and I fleshed out the details,” Matt told “We pitched her around a lot with [programmer] Jimmy Huey back in the SNES days, but nothing much came of it.”

By 2000, Erin and Matt had begun work on bringing Shantae to the Game Boy Color. Using a powerful graphics engine developed for WayForward’s Xtreme Sports, the game they created achieved many things not normally seen in a Game Boy Color game: parallax scrolling, transparency, and night/day transitions.

The demo’s title screen.

But these features came at a cost. The technical wizardry Shantae provided meant it would require a 32MB battery backup cartridge to work an add-on that was expensive to produce. Many publishers didn’t want to spend money on a cartridge of that size and opted not to publish the game. Despite many rejections from many publishers, WayForward continued on pitching their expensive little game with a brief demo they created.

The demo (labeled as “” in the file list) begins with a debug menu that presents the player with four options. The first option (“Intro”) takes one to the opening level where Shantae avoids cannonballs while running through the Scuttle Town bridge. The cannonball code has not been implemented yet, so most of the ones fired will pass by and not explode. None of the dialogue between Shantae and Risky Boots in the retail intro has been implemented yet either, so all of the characters are silent.

The second option (“Laby1”) brings the player to the temple inside Dribble Fountain. It begins with another cutscene between Shantae and Risky Boots that, while present in the retail version, uses slightly different dialogue.

Here’s the dialogue in the retail version:

Shantae: There you are!! Hold it you rat!

Risky Boots: Huh? It’s that silly girl again! Try if you like, but you’ll never keep up with me! Ta-ta!

And here’s the dialogue in the demo:

Shantae: Hold it you rat!

Risky Boots: What?!? Oh, it’s you. You’re a silly little girl if you think you can stop me from wrecking this demo! Ta-ta!

What follows is the Dribble Fountain labyrinth. There are many notable differences in this section — an absence of Warp Squids, a small empty room that was completely cut in the final game, an unused crab enemy design, among many other minor changes. Just like the rest of the demo, there are no music or sound effects. The labyrinth is dead quiet.

The final two options are not as notable as the previous ones but still deserve to be mentioned. The third option (“TS1”) is a shorter, unfinished version of Scarecrow Fields with a good portion of enemies not added in yet. The fourth option (“Title”) brings you to the demo’s title screen, which can be seen above. This demo was created years before Capcom became the game’s publisher, so many differences are to be expected. If you spot any that we missed, feel free to let us know. Please enjoy!

About Dylan Mansfield

Dylan Mansfield has been a writer and historian for Gaming Alexandria since 2018. For preservation inquiries, contact Dylan at @thatdylanfellow on Twitter

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