Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse review
Warning: May contain some spoilers at the end!
Nintendo Power doesn’t exist in the UK. So I didn’t hear about Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse until mid-to-late 2013. I can’t remember if at that point I tried the original Shantae games on the Game Boy Colour and the DSi at that point. Maybe I at least got the GBC game because it was at the time I heard about Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. I remember enjoying both games though and so I waited for Pirate’s Curse to come out and we’d get news on the Half-Genie Hero updates on their Kickstarter… rarely. The game was meant to come out Winter 2013, but never did and I waited for any news over Pirate’s Curse during 2014, but nothing really came up.
At last, the game got a release date… for US gamers. It was released in October and I still waited for any release date to come for the UK. January 2015, we got a release date. February. It seemed so far! But I had to wait just a little longer and when the game came out… there was a Bus Strike and I didn’t have enough money to get the game off the 3DS eShop yet. Got it the next day though and then started to play it.
Now during the few months of waiting, I did spoil the game to myself, and by that, I mean the story. I kept the level design and Dens of Evil layouts out of my sight. I just wanted to know how the story went. For this story analysis, I won’t spoil anything, but I there’ll be a short spoiler section at the end of this review.
This game takes place sometime after the events of Risky’s Revenge, but I’m not sure how long. Shantae is now a Human and has coped with her new life style, but unfortunately, she keeps getting nightmares of this… ghostly creature, who says he’s return from his grave to wreck havoc to Sequin Land and the world. One morning, she wakes up to another attack on Scuttle Town lead by who? Ammo Baron and the Ammonian Army. Players of Risky’s Revenge will probably recognise them as they actually planned their attack in that game. I don’t know why they took so long, but better late then never I suppose.
Mayor Scuttlebutt gave the town to Ammo Baron (Why!?) and when Shantae destroys one of Ammo Baron’s tanks, some soldiers of a nearby Palace threaten to cut Shantae’s hair off for violating the laws of Ammo’s Scuttle Town. In the mean time, Shantae goes home to find Risky Boots. Turns out, her Tinkerbats are missing and she thinks Shantae has something to do with it due to the fact it’s in Uncle Mimic’s workshop. Moments later, Dark Magic infects the trapped Tinkerbat and transforms into a Cracklebat. A more powerful form of the Tinkerbat. Look a bit creepier to be honest; where do their eyes go!? Risky realises that yeah, Shantae doesn’t know anything about the situation and leaves the workshop to try and solve the issue by herself, but she can’t because she doesn’t know where to start. With Shantae’s help though, she does. From there, you get maps from each island, get more Dark Magic, find the last island, face him, and then the game ends. There’s a bit more to it than that, but this intro is quite the long one. In between islands, you get a bit more info of this Pirate Master and Risky’s relation to him. That’s about it. The story isn’t bad by any means; I think it’s good, and it’s peppered funny moments.
One thing I also love about the talking scenes are the character expressions you see. Being an artist, I just love the art style and was done by Makoto Yabe (aka. KOU) of Inti Creates. To me, they honestly kinda make the character expressions from the previous game look like crap… which they aren’t, but you know. Another thing I like about them is the expressions themselves. To me, they highlight the characters personalities and it’s better than Risky’s Revenge too since there were only so many for each character. Enough about the artsy-fartsy stuff. Lets get the gameplay.
If you’ve played the previous entries in the Shantae series, you should be able to jump right in. This game is a Metroidvania. A side-scrolling, platform game with exploration. The main gimmicks of this game include the islands instead of towns or the entire game taking place in one world. Furthermore, because you’re no longer a Half-Genie, you don’t have your animal powers. To take its place, you collect Pirate Gear that initially belonged to Risky Boots and I think they all work rather well.
The movement for the game is natural for a Metroidvania and everything’s stiff, but one thing this game removes is walking. Before playing this, I thought it wouldn’t be an issue, but there are a few tight sections in the game where I wished we could slow down. In Risky’s Revenge, there was a run button, or you could press Select to have the normal movement be walking. I never set it to that because there was never any need. I this game, I sometimes wished the Circle Pad could control your walking speed, but you can’t. To accentuate the issue, you can use the D-Pad for movement too, but I’d prefer to just use the Circle Pad since I can then reach the L button easier and all. Having played Kid Icarus: Uprising, I kinda wished that the D-Pad was instead used to control the bottom screen. The control scheme is no where near as bad as I make it sound, but it’s something I kinda wished was in the game in case.
The bottom screen contains the Key Items, the… Items, and the Map of your current area which all work well, although in tight situations, I do sometimes end up using the wrong item because I tried tapping the bottom screen quickly and using the wrong item or it doesn’t react at all. For the Key Items… well it contains the important stuff that you can’t sell or something… even though there’s no selling option to begin with. The two main things you’ll want to get for the Key Items are Heart Squids and Dark Magic. The Heart Containers no longer exist in this game. This game still goes Legend of Zelda on it though; now you must find 4 Heart Squids and then give them to this person in Scuttle Town to extend your health. I would say something negative about having to travel back to Scuttle Town to extend your health, but since the islands aren’t that large and not extremely hard, I can’t really complain too much about it. There’s 20 Dark Magics in total and are found by the Cracklebats which are in each Island. Getting all 20 merely gives you the good ending.
The Islands aren’t that big to be honest. Some are definitely longer than others, but if you know what you’re doing, you could potentially beat the island in less than 30 minutes. In fact, the speed run time is 2 hours. Islands usually start out straight with a few enemies in your way before going up and down and all-around. Once the small mission is complete in each Island, you can access the Den of Evil which are the Labyrinths of this game. They have quite a bit of challenge and it’s also in these places where you score your Pirate Gear and the one you get in the Den typically has some significance at the boss. So if you don’t know what to do at some point, just use the weapon at an appropriate time and you’ll beat it in no time.
Islands don’t usually suffer from this, but there’s quite a bit of backtracking. Especially with Tan Line Island having to travel to 2 other locations in order to solve this one puzzle. Maybe better if you actually did need to explore that certain Island anyway for some reason. Fortunately, going back to Risky Boots is easier since you have the ability to buy Pirate Flares to return. I’d like to know how they work though. I thought Flares are support to tell people where YOU are.
The bosses for the most part look intimidating, but they’re quite easy. Especially if you end up using the Monster Milk or the Super variation. The only boss I had trouble with was the Mug Bog Island boss because I wasn’t sure how to approach him and I took quite a beating, but with the help of Auto-Potions, Super Monster Milk, and the Super Pike Ball, I eventually beat it. I’m pretty sure I’m fighting the boss incorrectly, but I couldn’t seem to beat it easily.
Gameplay is otherwise super smooth and in 60fps and most of the sprite animations also look very smooth. Just what I expected to come from a WayForward game. Along with that comes with an excellent Soundtrack which you can download on Jake Kaufman’s Bandcamp page. Tons of remixes and original compositions with that Arabian feel with some Chip Tune thrown in. The sound effects in the game are also fine. Nothing I can complain about and I’m glad the block-breaking effect is better too; actually breaking instead of shrinking into the abyss. I don’t know why the breaking sounds like that though.
[Some spoilers ahead]
Now the game generally isn’t long. Again, the speed run time is 2 hours and even then, all it unlocks is a wallpaper for the Save Icon screen. My first play through (which was also an 100% run), I beat it within 10 hours. That’s because I explored and tried searching for everything.
Getting 100% requires you to get all the 20 Dark Magics too to access the final boss. To be honest, I find that the bad and good ending aren’t too different in terms of dialogue. One thing I do find disappointing is the point of getting your Light Magic back. Your Hair Whip becomes much more powerful… which doesn’t really matter in terms of the battle. It’s just large numbers, which I suppose people like to see in these kinds of games. During this final battle though, you lose your Pirate Gear that allows the Pirate Master to grow more powerful. I kinda wished that when you get your Light Magic, you can use your animal powers to replace your Pirate Gear. Like… I don’t know. Elephant Stomp as the Scimitar, Money Bullet as the Boots, etc. I know Shantae has to dance in order to transform, but… well really, I feel like there’s not much point to the Light Magic in a gameplay perspective.
Overall the game is very fun to play and is filled with humour and a lot to explore. Graphically beautiful and has wonderful music. There’s a bit of backtracking unfortunately, but at least the Islands aren’t too big. I’d say the £15.99 is worth it for this game and I highly recommend it.
Final Score: [9/10]
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