I had thought I would try adding a new little segment to my blog highlighting people in the industry I think have been producing memorable work. For the next couple posts I’ll be posting reviews of projects by those featured in the spotlight. To kick this off I thought I’d cover a developer that has been occupying a lot of my gaming time lately: WayForward.

WayForward is a for hire game developer situated in Valencia, California. The company formed in 1990 developing licensed titles for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, TV games and educational software for the PC market. The majority of their titles from the early 90s and on were licensed properties for the education software market and mainly for the home computer. It wasn’t until 1997 that the company decided to re-shift its focus to creating entertainment based games and offering their services to publishers.

From that time on the company rarely did any internal development until in 1998 they started work on the brainchild of their Creative Director, Matt Bozon’s Shantae which was released for the Game Boy Color handheld console in 2001 with Capcom as publisher. The title while a great game became a sleeper hit, having not sold as well due to the dwindling interest in the GBC what with the newly released Game Boy Advance taking its place as the next heir to the Game Boy mantle. Regardless of its lack of sales the character would later prove popular enough to be used as a testing ground for new technologies on hardware as it came out, however their focus continued to remain on producing high quality titles for their clients.

The mid 2000s to the present, Wayforward developed many licensed titles for properties such as The Scorpion King, Nickelodeon properties such as Spongebob Squarepants and Tak, the remake of A Boy and His Blob, Sigma Star Story, Contra 4, Aliens and many handheld ports. The thing that has always struck me as a problem with licensed properties is a total lack of care involved in their production and quality. The one aspect of this developer that has totally stood out to me is that this same trend doesn’t generally apply to the licensed titles they have produced. I’ve found most if not all to be very well done or at the least genuinely playable. This is saying a lot when what most other for hire developers pump out is pure garbage.

While they still mainly do business as a for hire developer, with the rise of digital distribution venues and online markets tailored for the console market, it has given them the opportunity to produce more original properties including the Mighty series. They first tested the idea of producing internal projects with the DSiWare title Mighty Flip Champs in 2010. Which sold well enough that it paved the way for 2 additonal Mighty titles including Mighty Milky Way and their first 3DS digital game, Mighty Switch Force. What really excited fans though was it also allowed the team to finally give Shantae fans the sequel they had been hinting at with the release of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge on DSiWare in 2010 which went on to win awards for Best Visuals and Best DS Game of 2010 from IGN.

Its been a real pleasure getting to know this developer through the great games they’ve created I’ve picked up and played through in the past couple months and I can honestly say if you have never played a Wayforward game, you are really missing out.