The Shantae series is effortlessly and consistently sexy.
We’ve already talked about how the titular protagonist of the series exemplifies this perfectly, but the same is also true of a number of other characters throughout — most notably primary antagonist Risky Boots. Hell, even that name is kinda hot.
Risky is also a great example of how the Shantae series as a whole populates its world with interestingly flawed characters rather than one-dimensional heroes and villains — and as such elevates herself from simply “sexy villain” to “beloved character” in her own right.
We first encounter Risky right at the outset of the original Shantae, where she invades Scuttle Town with her army of Tinkerbats. Her goal is the Steam Engine that Shantae’s adoptive uncle Mimic recently excavated, which she believes will provide her with enormous power. The world of Sequin Land in the original Shantae is presented as a pre-industrial society (or perhaps more accurately a society that has, over the years, lost access to the knowledge of steam power), so of course anyone with access to such advanced technology would be able to do pretty much what they want.
This being a magical realm, however, Risky is unable to do much with the Steam Engine without making use of four elemental stones: one to produce unlimited amounts of water, one to create endless heat, one to provide a never-ending supply of ice, and one that is, uh, gross. (Presumably that makes the smell.) Over the course of Shantae, the eponymous heroine manages to beat Risky to three out of the four stones, but is ultimately tricked by her and loses all four of them, allowing Risky to complete her “Tinkertank” war machine project.
It’s over the course of Shantae’s adventures that we get an idea of the sort of person Risky is: she’s someone who often has grand plans and ambitions — usually involving the conquest of Sequin Land — but often has a bit of difficulty carrying them through to completion. Shantae repeatedly encounters her in the depths of the first game’s labyrinths, only to see her casually knocked aside by the boss of the dungeon; as such, we come to think of Risky as something of an incompetent antagonist, with most of her failures stemming from overconfidence.
Risky’s not entirely incompetent, however — considering things a bit more deeply, we can infer that she’s actually an intelligent, talented and rather dangerous woman, particularly given how quickly she is able to harness the power of the completed Steam Engine to produce the Tinkertank. Okay, most of the heavy lifting would have been done by her army of Tinkerbats, but someone had to lead the whole project; someone had to recognise the value of the Steam Engine and how to make use of it to create something so powerful; someone had to have the ancient historical knowledge to know the Steam Engine was even a thing in the first place!
The subsequent installments of the Shantae series go some distance to humanising Risky somewhat — and they also show us that the world of Sequin Land is advancing. In Risky’s Revenge, for example, we see that certain groups have access to gunpowder and heavy machinery — suggesting that the knowledge of the Steam Engine and the science surrounding it wasn’t lost after Shantae destroyed the Tinkertank; perhaps it was even Risky who spread this knowledge after the fact. In Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, meanwhile, Shantae and Risky are thrust together in something of an uneasy alliance to deal with a series of worrying supernatural happenings.
Risky is obviously designed to be a complete contrast to Shantae in almost every way — not just in terms of their moral compass. Even their respective appearances and colour palettes complement one another — while Shantae’s outfit makes use of warm, bright colours and her skin is tanned (well, pink in the Game Boy Color original), Risky is clad in dark, cool colours — pale white skin with a black outfit in the original game; heavy use of various shades of the colour purple for both her clothing and skin in subsequent installments.
Their attitudes are different in numerous ways too, besides the obvious “good versus evil” situation. When they fail at something, for example, this difference becomes very apparent: Risky does not take failure well, tending to get rather angry and take out her aggression on things, while Shantae often reflects on her actions and dwells on the negatives a little more than she needs to.
Neither are flawless in their roles as hero and villain, either; Shantae shows herself on numerous occasions to have a rather selfish side (although in some instances, such as one memorably hilarious moment involving a rescued dog in Risky’s Revenge, allowing this to come to the forefront is down to the player’s actions rather than the pre-scripted narrative!) while the Risky of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse demonstrates herself to be a pragmatic, practical person who recognises there are times when even the most bitter rivals need to work together for the greater good.
Risky Boots is a great example of why the Shantae series as a whole is so consistently appealing to those who have taken the time to explore it. It’s a series where nobody is perfect, and where all the characters, regardless of their “alignment”, are written with care, attention and genuine affection for them. Hell, even composer Jake Kaufman went on record as being thoroughly enamoured with Risky Boots while he was creating her delightfully saucy musical theme for the original Game Boy Color game.
Here’s hoping our favourite half-genie hero and her nemesis don’t resolve their ongoing rivalry any time soon; they’ve both got many more delightful stories to tell, I’m sure!
More about Shantae
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