Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Action, Platformer & Adventure
Release Date: 20th of March, 2018 (EU & NA)
Time to dig up a lost treasure. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has washed up on the shores of the Nintendo Switch!
Long before the incredibly beautiful Shantae: Half-Genie Hero rolled out on consoles in 2016, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was the big dog as far as the Shantae series was concerned. When it launched back in 2014, it was the biggest adventure to date, and the most interesting one. Continuing on from where the last game left off, the purple-haired half-genie is powerless, but she’s not going to let that stop her from being Scuttle Town’s appointed Guardian.
Despite the slightly different route the game took, it was still very much the Shantae, series fans know and love, just a little revised and it went down rather well with the critics. So, it’s understandable that the game’s developers would want to let it resurface on the Nintendo Switch, as it is a game worth experiencing again, but can it hold its own?
With Shantae: Half-Genie Hero already out on Switch and supporting a breath-taking art style that has brought the series into the 21st century, by comparison, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse feels something like the retro throwback no one asked for. I know it sounds cruel, but it’s almost like going from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to A Link to the Past. Both games are classics as far as their series is concerned, as they helped to define it even more so, but one feels outdated when compared to the other and for some who have only played the newer game, it can be hard for them to adjust.
However, if you are able to look past the graphics, which at the time the game released, were fantastic for a game making use of sprite-work, you will discover an adventure platforming game that is both worth your cash and your time. But, before we shall even talk about what the original game has to offer, the Switch port does have 2 new aspects to it. The first being support for HD Rumble, and the second being a little bit larger than that. For the first time as far as Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is concerned, the game now includes the all-new mini-game Super Shantae Nab.
There really isn’t all that much to it, as it is just an arcade game you can play when at the shop, inside Scuttle Town. But for 10 gems a try, you can leap from one tree to another in the hopes of catching some loose change to raise funds. I actually lost far more than I ever won, but it was a nice touch to see nonetheless, as it was something different. But, now that we have got that out of the way, it was time to talk about Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, in its entirety.
Starting with the story, as mentioned earlier, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is set after the events of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge. No longer the naïve little thing she once was and powerless, as her genie abilities have been taken away from her, Shantae has no other choice but to live like a mere mortal. A mortal who has to awake to the terrible sound of cannon fire! Upon investigating the cause of it and having a quick battle with Ammo Baron, Shantae is soon told she’s got it all wrong.
Ammo Knight is now the legal owner of Scuttle Town and for attacking him, she must pay the price and just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse than they already are, they can. The Pirate Queen, Risky Boots is back in town, only this time around, she’s not the big bad threat as that honour belongs to her old mentor. The dreaded Pirate Master is making his return and the lovable half-genie has no other choice but to team up with an old friend, should she wish to save all of Sequin Land.
Now, in terms of gameplay and execution, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, is a lot like Shovel Knight. There is a very strong Metroidvania sense to them, they both have a similar art style, with an enjoyable upbeat soundtrack, except for me, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse feels a lot smoother. Not to mention, less frustrating. (Although this instalment still contains some challenging aspects to it, compared to the two games that came before it, it is easier in comparison.)
In platforming fashion, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, will have you venturing various landscapes, having to go high and low, to arrive at your intended destination. There are of course enemies in your path, which in the beginning you will need to whip your long hair at, and puzzles to solve that give Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse a deserved Zelda vibe, especially when a few of them are part of side-quests that allow you to carry on with your main quest.
Should you succeed the trials laid out before you, via skill or the useful items you can buy and pick up to recover life and deal damage, there are the Dens of Evil. These dungeons feel like something you would experience in a Zelda game and even come with a map. If able to successfully traverse any of the dungeons, special pirate related items that once belonged to the Pirate Master, can be collected and used however Shantae sees fit. By no means are they as great as her animal transformation powers, as seen in previous and the fourth Shantae games, but they are decent and do allow her to do things like glide, shoot targets and enemies with a pistol and even do a downward sword stab
Where they really come into their own though, is by utilising them against the bosses you can expect to encounter in the Dens of Evil, and by opening up the levels around you, so you can explore every single nook and cranny. Killing bad guys and breaking jars might earn you a pretty penny and gen that can be used in a shop to buy more life items and power-ups for faster hair whipping and more, but there’s more to just booty to be discovered. Firstly, there are Heart Squids, which when you have discovered 4 of them, can be squished together, to form a new Heart Holder. Because, you know, more life is a good thing!
In addition to helping you find more Heart Squids, with each of the game’s available locations telling you how many can be found, per location, there are also Cacklebats. Cacklebats are the result of Risky Boots’ Tinkerbats being corrupted by Dark Magic and Shantae has inherited the job of exterminating them and sucking up the residual Dark Magic, into a lamp, given to her by none other than Risky Boots. One thing that I still feel lets Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse down a bit, is the lack of warping.
I have nothing against backtracking and discovering hidden secrets, as that’s part of the fun in games like Shantae, especially when a lot of them are short and can be 100% beaten in less than 7 hours, with speedrunners doing it far quicker, but all the back and forth can be a tad tedious at times. Yes, the Pirate Boots can help you run faster, but you don’t get them until much later in the game, so why not just enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts, because while some games get a little too repetitive, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse does well enough, to just about stay under the radar.
To properly round off the experience and to try and ensure Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, lives up to the Shantae standard, it comes packed with all the typical characters such as Rottytops, Bolo, Sky and Squid Baron. But, because characters aren’t enough, it also has all the usual humour and silliness and the various references and comments to franchises like Star Wars, whilst demonstrating knowledge that Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is just a video game. The best bit about all of it though, is should you like everything Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has to offer, you can always go through it all over again, once you beat the game, thanks to a Pirate Mode. Yeah, it’s the playing the game all over again, but this time you get to do so, with all the Pirate gear right from the beginning. Oh yeah!
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse may not be the best Shantae game in the series, but without it being the breath of fresh air the series needed, we might never have got to see a fourth instalment. It is a retro-looking masterpiece that showed us a completely different side of Shantae and now thanks to a port that does feel unnecessary, as it’s really not that much of a step up from the Wii U release, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is back in our lives and is as good as the day it released, back in 2014. Also, the logo isn’t all that bad either! (Just saying.)
The Verdict: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by WayForward