Matt Bozon and his merry men are fighting the good fight. In a development world hooked on soulless 3D realism they're running in the opposite direction, in search of playful 2D perfection.
In games such as A Boy And His Blob, Contra 4 and Batman: The Brave And The Bold, WayForward are applying 2011 know-how to the sprite art of yesteryear and coming up trumps.
Their latest, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, returns to the Arabia-infused Game Boy Color platformer that put them on the map - and earned them many devoted fans - in 2002.
We asked Shantae creator Matt Bozon to help us get reacquainted, and to reveal the secret behind 16-bit belly dances...
For lots of our readers this is their first meeting with Shantae. Can you give a brief introduction to her and her world?
Sure! Shantae is a little half-genie who lives in the fantasy world of Sequin Land. She protects her fishing village from evil, which includes vile sexy pirates.
Shantae's inherited genie magic expresses itself through her wild and whippy hair - which can cause death on impact - and through her sensual dancing, which makes her transform into things. Now she's off on another quest, which is again a sprawling action adventure set in a massive side-view platforming landscape, none too different from Zelda II, Metroid or Castlevania.
The characters are weird, the humour is a bit flirty and off-beat, and the action is modernised retro.
Fans have been hankering for a sequel since 2002. So why the wait? Wasn't there a Game Boy Advance version on the cards at one point?
We've been trying to come back with a sequel the entire time! It wasn't until the dawn of digital distribution that we were able to swing this seemingly insurmountable feat.
What can 2011's Shantae do that 2002's Shantae couldn't?
Well, she can now turn into a mermaid and collect jam! But on the technical level, the extra screen real estate, horsepower and colour depth has allowed us to make a game that's a true marvel.
Essentially it's an evolution of the tricks we were pulling off in Contra 4, for DS; kind of those epic visuals, animations and enemies, but in a quest presentation.
There's a scary/pervy amount of detail in Shantae's belly dances. How long would it take to animate something like that?
Our animators really are the best in the world! I don't think it was too daunting a task, though it took a high level of focus to get it right. We watched a lot of reference videos and tried to nail the basics, covering what the belly dance instructors would use as starting points for beginners.
We tried to approach it with respect and accuracy, since belly dancing is a serious art to many people, even if Shantae spins it in a light-hearted way.
The soundtrack is amazing. Who's the genius responsible and can you point us in the direction of their other work?
That man is Jake Kaufman, the guy from the original Shantae, Contra 4 and many of WayForward's other titles. You can hear more of his work at www.biglionmusic.com, and you can download the entire Risky's Revenge original soundtrack for free right now!
The game concludes with a time and item completion percentage - very Metroid. Are there any rewards for speedruns?
Yes, there are special images based on how you win. Like Metroid, the most 'revealing' is reserved for speedrunners. It's a very open, exploration-friendly map, with layers on top of each other.
How hard is it building a world that connects and holds together in this way?
Do you draw it on graph paper?