Before I even start the review, I feel compelled to explain the reasons why I’ve chose this one and why now, so with that, I’ll begin. When I first heard about Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse releasing in the eShop last year, I wasn’t all that interested, I was too busy playing the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD for the first time, but then came last week. The week where we learned Humble Bundle were doing another bundle, the Friends of Nintendo bundle, where buy donating a certain amount of US dollars to charity, you can will receive codes to games on the eShop and after getting mine, I felt it was only right I reviewed one of the games. Now I could have very easily picked any of them, but I felt like playing a game on my Wii U, so after reducing the choices, it became a simple of matter of picking one I have never played before. Although it did become easier when I remembered that the Shantae games are the Shovel Knight before there was a Shovel Knight, a modern series that follows in the steps of Castlevania and Metroid. Just like that, my choice was made.
So for those of us who don’t know, what are the Shantae games and just who is this titular character? Well Shantae the game series, is a series of 2D platform games developed by WayForward technologies, a series in which saw its first title release in 2002 and is set for the fourth game to come out this Summer. As for Shante the character, she is a half-genie resident of Scuttle Town, a place she calls home and serves as the town’s Guardian. As the Genie Guardian, the role sees her battling all those who wish to harm Scuttle Town, which includes the likes of Risky Boots, a pirate with something of a past. As for Shantae’s personality, it has changed a bit over the course of the game series, as she’s gone from a young naïve little thing, to someone more confident, even though in this current installment, she no longer possess her magical abilities. So with that, it’s time to move on to the story itself.
Set after the events of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, Shantae no longer possess her genie abilities, so after living as a mere mortal human like the rest of us, she awakes to a terrible sound, cannon fire! Leaving the lighthouse she calls home quickly, she sets off to find out what is going on. First to see her are friends Sky and Bolo who are quick to fill her in, the Ammo Baron has come for Scuttle Town. Although Shantae is successful in beating him, it’s revealed the Ammo Baron is legal owner of the town, after getting the mayor to sell it to him. (Bad mayor!) From there on it would only get worse.
Ordered to go home and stay there, the protagonist does as she is told and she enjoys a nice little bath, a trap is sprung. With Shantae contained, Risky Boots reveals herself and accuses Shantae of stealing her items and crew members. At once Shantae denies all of it, but with Risky not believing her, she takes half-genie to her Shantae’s uncle’s place and there they find one of Risky’s Cacklebats, locked up and effected by dark magic. Risky knows full well what this means, the former boss, the Pirate Master is making his return from the grave and at once she sets out to stop it. At first Risky has no desire to work with Shantae on this but she soon proves herself and before you know it, the adventure is underway. You’ll be visiting islands, collecting pirate treasure and using that winsome purple hair of yours to whip any and all enemies into shape!
Now that the story is out of the way, I can truly dive into detail on what is an absolutely brilliant game! Are the graphics the greatest in the world? Who the hell cares? Of course they’re not, they never are with platform games and that’s the point. What this game does have though is some of the best sublime 2D visuals seen in a game of this type and when playing on a 3DS with the 3DS effect on, it looks even better. Or if 3D is not your cup of tea, you can play it on the Wii U where 3D is replaced by HD during dialogue. That side, it is essentially the same as what we see on the 3DS version of the game, just more magnified to fit on a TV screen and does in fact look sharper on the GamePad.
But before you do write off the Wii U, as someone who has played on a large TV, I didn’t actually have a problem with it, in fact I could actually see more because I had a bigger surrounding to focus on and able to react to enemy attacks better. So although there is some dispute on the 3DS or Wii U argument, it honestly doesn’t matter because the game looks and plays great either way, so if you haven’t played it and you want to, you’re better off ignoring the argument and just choosing the gaming format you use most, Wii U or 3DS. Also let us not forget that it is a series that follows the legacy of Castlevania and Metroid, (aka Metroidvania.) As far as it goes visually, it IS very similar to Shovel Knight, and it plays a lot like it too, except Shantae has been around for much longer and although both games are fun, I found Shantae to be less frustrating and more of a smoother experience.
Another game it strongly reminds me of is Zelda: The Adventure of Link, aka Zelda 2, as I found both to be visually similar, whilst at the same time, Shantae is full of side-quests that play into the main story and is no stranger to puzzles lurking in dungeons just waiting to test our intelligence, the same thing you can expect from a Zelda title. And just like a Zelda title, each dungeons has a new item for Shantae to collect to help her not only reach the boss, but also to continue even further with her adventure. Admittedly this version of game progression may not compare that much to her last escapade, where she still had her magic and could belly dance to use spells and turn into animals, a monkey for instance, but it works just as well.
The Pirate items may not be as cool as Shantae’s transformation skills from the last game, something gamers loved a lot about Risky’s Revenge, but Shantae no longer has her genie powers, so WayForward needed to implement something new to balance it and do story progression the right way and honestly I think the items worked great! There’s a Pirate’s Hat for gliding over long distances, Pirate’s Boots for running at high speeds that are great for smashing through large blocks, then there’s also a pistol for shooting, a scimitar that works like something out of Shovel Knight, which I’m sure you can guess. And there’s also a cannon because the pistol is lacking a little something firepower wise, although this can only shoot downwards, but it does enable you to jump again whilst in mid-air, making those hard to reach places even easier.
Some places this game does fail in is with regards too easy to defeat enemies constantly respawning on the later levels (later islands,) and there’s the fact that there are no warp zones, meaning every time you want to leave the current island, you need to backtrack all the way to the beginning, passing all the enemies and more unless of course you stock up on a certain item in the shop that allows you to travel back to Risky’s ship. It also means should you return much later on, now equipped with the items you need to reach/find the remaining heart squids and Cacklebats on each location, you’ll have to traverse the whole island all over again, which is one of the things that make this a larger game.
Although as much of a larger game this is, with plenty of nods towards modern culture and the likes of Star Wars, this playful and funny written story will have you playing for longer than Risky’s Revenge did, then when you’re done, you can play it all over again in Pirate Mode. (Pretty much playing the game all over again exactly as you did the first time round, except now you have all the Pirate weapons that you collected throughout the game during your first play-through, which makes speedrunning this game a whole lot easier and should you manage to complete this game on 100% percent and under two hours you’ll unlock a very special achievement.)
Long story short, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is testament to what 2D games can be great addition to the series, even if Risky’s Revenge does still best it in a few areas, so with that it’s Pros & Cons time:
- Interesting dungeon layout.
- Some of the best 2D sprite art seen in a platform game.
- More content to keep you playing longer.
- The Pirate’s cannon is a very handy item/weapon.
- Smooth animation and graphics.
- The 3D aspect to the game did add to the graphics.
- Something of a wide variety of side-quests and puzzles to partake in.
- No hand holding!
- A lot of backtracking.
- Underwhelming boss battles.
- Sometimes the game can jump from being funny, to just plain daft, which actually comes across as being intentional.
As far as games of this calibre go, it’s great! (Especially since when it came out in 2002, it was on the Game Boy Color and not the Game Boy Advanced, a fact which saw the game vanish from sight and never get a sequel until eight years later.) But given everything I have said about the graphics with regards to this game, for anyone who is thinking of playing this and perhaps an earlier title, go right ahead, just bear in mind the fourth game will be coming out later this year, and it is certainly the most modern looking title thanks to being HD and certainly a title to check out, despite Shantae’s skin tone becoming a lot lighter. (White.) So it’s time for the final score and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse comes in at 8.7/10.0 evil Cacklebats. It doesn’t matter this game is a couple of years old already, it’s a great series and certainly one worth playing.
But as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of my own and it is encouraged for you to make your own.