International Women’s Day: Shantae Edition

Apparently it’s International Women’s Day, which I honestly didn’t know was a thing until it came up all over my social media today. And since I follow a lot of fellow gamers, I saw a lot of posts about everyone’s favorite female protagonists in video games. Well, that got me thinking about what mine would be. Sure, there are plenty of overly sexualized ladies in gaming, not to mention men for that matter. And there are also female characters that go completely in the opposite direction and avoid any trace of being female outside of their pronouns. This is to say nothing of gender non-specific characters. However, when thinking about this I surprisingly came to a shocking revelation about my opinion of Shantae. Suddenly it hit me… Shantae is the perfect female video game character! Well… at least for me. Let me try to explain.

See, Shantae may be a bit cartoonish along with also being half human and half genie. So right from the start she’s clearly not trying to be realistic like movie character or something, and that’s quite fitting for the kinds of adventures she gets into in the world of the Shantae series. She’s even the namesake of the series like any good gaming icon.

She’s also not solely defined by the fact that she is female. She has her own goals and motivations and even a personality that goes beyond the fact of her gender. Yet the games aren’t designed as though her gender is meaningless. Sometimes characters will drool over her, but she’ll either ignore or acknowledge these things according to the situation. Maybe she’ll react for some humor, but usually she’ll ignore gawking NPCs because she has more important things to focus on. At the same time, she often dresses is very revealing outfits that clearly aren’t just there for the sake of practicality. She’s not afraid to be cutesy or even sexy at times. And that’s GREAT because she’s able to be a female without being either a positive or a negative stereotype. It can be a detail and not a complete definition.

It’s also important to remember that we’re talking about a video game character here. We’re not talking about a movie or TV show or something. Game characters can be silent as the night and blank as a slate yet still become absolutely iconic. Mario isn’t exactly a dream date just as Pac Man isn’t the pinnacle of complex character art. Do you think Link is going to be giving any great speeches? The thing is, these characters all have traits that make them stand out. Link has that iconic look. Pac Man is a universal flag for retro gaming. Hell, even Mario is the absolute king of mascots! Every great character has something memorable about them. Shantae may not be the most amazing role-model, but she works excellently for the medium.

Shantae is a nice piece of eye candy for sure, which is great for a visually-based medium. Her design is very colorful, her animations are lively, and well… she’s quite the babe. The designers weren’t afraid to put her into a variety of delightfully revealing outfits either. Nothing over the top but certainly pleasing to see. On top of that, her personality only serves to make her even more adorable at times, but shows that she’s very passionate about protecting the town, helping her friends, and making the mother she never really knew proud. Allowing her to talk also opens her up for more depth of character as well as comic relief. She isn’t some perfect protagonist without faults and shortcomings, but she also isn’t the damsel in distress by any means. She’s your relatable hero-type that’s a person… just… a quite attractive one at that.

This is, of course, all an amazing bonus to have on top of the gameplay of the series, which is excellent to start with. The metroidvania 2D platforming adventures would be plenty fun regardless, but having such a lively, lovely character to be and observe along the way makes it all that much more enjoyable. There are only four games in the series so far and the art style has shifted a bit over the years, but the character is as lovable and engaging as ever. This all boils down to having some damn delicious icing on top of a scrumptious cake.

So that’s why Shantae is getting my personal pick for the best female protagonist in video games. Or… at least my favorite one. This is a series I found out of nowhere and fell in love with it so fast. If appreciating beauty in the process of enjoying great games is wrong, then I’m incredibly incorrect quite frequently. I’m not a sexist or anything… I hope. I’m just a lonely pervert at best, but I DO genuinely appreciate beauty regardless of the women real or drawn. I’m flexible.

Hopefully this whole thing wasn’t as big of a mess as it seemed. What do you think of Shantae? Who is YOUR favorite female video game character? Why? I’d love to hear what you have to say and I’m more than willing to use this an excuse to drool over more lovely ladies in the process. Also… sorry for my general attitude on this. I’m harmless with good intentions, but I do have a nasty habit of being unintentionally offensive. Anyway, if nothing else, I hope you have a happy International Women’s Day!

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