Wayforward is known for taking a great franchise to the next level, with games like Contra 4, Adventure Time, Silent Hill: Book of Memories and just released, Duck Tales Remastered.
The biggest question they get from fans is, “Why don’t you make more original games?” Well, their great success with publishers keeps them busy, but they’re always looking for new ways to entertain and tell new stories. So…
Wayforward needs to raise at least $400,000 to make this game a reality, with backer rewards ranging from desktop wallpapers, the soundtrack, digital art book and a copy of the game all the way up to hanging out with the developers to have them sign your ULTRA-RARE, factory-sealed copy of Shantae on Gameboy Color! (These are highly sought after at the moment, going for upwards of $300 at auction.)
GirlGamer: The Kickstarter for Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero is off to a strong start, congratulations! What made you decide to go with crowd sourcing instead of a publisher?
Matt Bozon: Thank you! The original Shantae game for Game Boy Color was published by Capcom. It took a long time to find a publisher who would take a chance on it, and we weren’t so lucky with the Game Boy Advance sequel. So once digital distribution came on the scene we decided to self-publish. Publishers offer us distribution, but also funding. So crowd-sourcing fills in the blank nicely, and helps us get players the game they’re asking for even though it’s too expensive to make on our own.
GG: Shantae made her video game debut in 2002 and in a way, has become the cover girl of WayForward. What inspired her creation?
MB: 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.
GG: How has she grown as a character in the last decade?
MB: For the first 10 years, I kept her as a sort of “blank slate” character like Link in the Zelda series. But in the last several years it’s become more important to flesh out her personality. She’s kind of a loner, without a place in the world but is fiercely loyal to the town and friends that have served as her family. She has a simple view of right and wrong, and still has a lot to learn about life. I like that she’s an earnest, trusting, but quick-tempered and combustible character and we try to bring that out a lot in the situations and dialogue.
GG: Our 1/2 Genie Hero has had many stories to tell (and we’ve had lots of talk over the years of sequels), but not all of them have been brought to life. Has there been an adventure or specific scenario that you wanted to create but never got to? (At least not yet)
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.
GG: Every girl knows the importance of a great head of hair; Shantae’s is actually used as a weapon, which is an interesting choice. Tell us about the origins of her battle style.
MB: Erin had very long hair at the time (had to be 9 feet long), and I’d frequently take a blow to the face when she’d turn around… so I immediately think of that. It hurt.
GG: I have really long hair like Shantae. Do you think that with some practice, I could beat people up with my pony tail? Because that looks awesome and strangely therapeutic. And I have a list of potential victims. Just sayin’.
MB: If you’ve just been in the pool, yes you could do some damage. Start with Styrofoam plates and work your way up to clay pigeons.
GG: If you could do a magic dance and turn into any creature, what would it be? (And what kind of dance would you do?)
MB: Uh… I’m awkward in every way. So it’s gonna have to be the T-Rex, which is where I lumber about with my arms tucked in. I also can perform a pretty great punching elephant dance. To do this, grab your entire face with one hand, and thread the other arm through the opening between your elbow and neck. Then you start the music and punch at anyone that comes close. Keeping the hand locked on your face is key. Erin’s a great dancer (Shantae can’t hold a candle)… she’s probably turn into a Dolphin and go for a swim.
GG: You have a very distinct drawing style; who or what has inspired your artistic direction?
MB: I’m heavily inspired by Ranma ½. Even the name of our new game is inspired by that. Also Miyazaki, and lots of 80’s cartoons like Ducktales and Transformers. There’s a lot of G1 Pokemon in there too.
GG: Games have sure come a long way since Shantae on the Gameboy Advance and here you are developing this game for next-gen consoles. What sort of challenges (or advantages) do you anticipate while developing for such a wide variety of platforms?
MB: The challenges are that it’s much more complex. The GBC game was must me and Jimmy Huey, with a few people (Erin specifically) coming on to help at certain points. We could build entire areas of the game in a single day. Now the teams are very large and communication is difficult to coordinate. But you have access to so many talented people that can do much more… so it’s a huge advantage, but is also more work to get everyone on the same page.
GG: WayForward has always featured strong, likeable female characters. How do you think Shantae has helped promote this idea in video games?
MB: 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.
GG: Your career has humble beginnings; from drawing caricatures at Six Flags to seeing your own creation span a decade in her own game titles. For artists trying to break into the video game industry, what advice would you give?
MB: 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.
GG: Thanks so much for your time and we look forward to seeing more of Shantae!
MB: Thanks for having me!
1/2 Genie Hero, Capcom, Gameboy Color, GirlGamer, Kickstarter, Matt Bozon, Shantae, Wayforward, creator, interview, rare, soundtrack