With the release of Risky's Revenge on PC I finally realized something that I've been pondering for awhile now.
I think Wayforward’s Shantae might be my most favorite character design of all time and one of the best female character designs I’ve ever seen
Now both of her games, Shantae on the Game Boy Color and Risky’s Revenge are pretty rad. They’re metroidvania style platformer-adventure games in which you explore, find loot, use your special abilities to beat bosses and find treasures. It’s good stuff. There’s some annoying aspects to them but all around they’re pretty solid games.
But yes, the titular heroine. Out of all the comic books, cartoons, anime, manga, etc. I’ve ever seen I think she is one of the best designed characters I’ve ever come across.
For starters, she’s probably one of the only female characters I’ve ever seen who manages to perfectly mold cuteness and sexiness without going overboard on either front.
Ya see, in all official art she kind of got a bit of an anime thing going on; a small body with a slender frame, but with a big head and big expressive eyes with big eye lashes that give the character a lot of expressiveness.
Then you’ve got her sexy side.
A lot of the times in various artistic mediums like sequential art, animation, or video games artists will attempt to draw character with sex appeal through details of their cloth, or lack there of, in most cases.
Often times it can get pretty nonsensical due to a disconnect between the way the character is written, how the scenario she’s engaged in is written or just real life sense.
I’m not going to be one of those puritan types who says something like, oh say, bikini armor is bad because it’s unrealistic, and nobody would wear that. I know it’s completely idiotic, even if the writer tries to lampshade it in some clownish way. Cheesecake can be fine if you aren’t willing to take everything so seriously.
Yet that can be damaging to your narrative if you feel the need to forcibly include cheesecake to pander to a specific audience.
As for Shantae on the other hand, she totally gets away with it. I can really believe she runs around in basically a bra and poofy pants.
Because it all coincides with her character and that’s the big thing, everything about a character that we see and don’t have to end up reading on some wiki or something should all mesh together.
She looks like a genie (which she is) and a stereotypical Arabian Belly Dancer (which she also kind of is).
Going back to the whole cuteness thing for a minute, I always thought it was adorable when she crouches and wiggles her butt like a cat.
Anyway, my point is that even though she looks sexy, it’s not overpowering. It’s not the one thing I could use to describe her, and it’s not even the first thing I could use.
Probably because her design is so open with her sex appeal, and she moves around freely with no real reference to it that I don’t pay that much attention to that aspect of her character, particularly when I know she has other facets.
Besides, how could your attention be drawn away from this face?
Wayforward seem to have a knack for making female characters who can be both cute and sexy.
Moving away from heavily opinionated reasons over why I love Shantae’s character design, lets look at some technical aspects of why her design is the best.
Now, when you look at Shantae, what would you say are her primary colors?
Red, Purple, Brown, and Gold.
There are 2 things that are very important when designing a character; color and iconography.
In video games, when you think of a color, usually certain characters come to mind.
When you think of Red, you think of Mario.
when you think of Blue, you think of Sonic the Hedgehog or Mega Man
when you think of Green, you think of Luigi or the Master Chief
When you think of Pink, you think of Kirby.
Color is extremely important. It’s also important to have a good balance of color so the character is visually appealing.
Shantae’s balance of color is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Even better that the colors are all placed in a way that help you to remember aspects about her character.
The red is on her clothes, dancer’s clothes.
The gold is on her bangles, hair tie, ear rings, and headband; this part is interesting because it infers a number of uses. Not only is gold considered to be a symbol of richness but it’s also a symbol of magic, and can also serve to remind of the bondage that comes with the territory of genies as well as her primary role as a guardian of the town she watches over.
Her brown skin, again, it lends to her sex appeal as girls with bronzed skin look ravishing but it also serves to remind us that she is from a tropical/desert region.
And finally, purple which is a highly dominant color for her because it’s the color of her most dominant and iconic feature, her hair.
As I was saying about iconography, it’s also important to give your character a recognizable icon or symbol that people can associate with them.
Superman has the S, his Kryptonian family symbol.
and Batman has the Bat symbol
If there’s one thing you’re probably drawn to when it comes to Shantae’s design, it’s her hair, something that also serves as her primary attack. Wayforward always seems to go to great lengths to make her hair stand out
and in fact, way back during her conception that was what they mainly wanted to focus on most.
Even fan art and fan animations focus most on her hair
In the end, that is all why I believe Shantae is one of the best designed characters ever made.
She has the perfect balance of cute and sexy that few female characters have obtained. The most likable features she has all mold well together and make sense for her character, her actions, and the setting she’s in. She has a superb and well balanced color scheme. And she has dominant characteristics and features that are unique to her and no other character.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed