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Shantae and the Pirates Curse Review

Shantae and the Pirates Curse

Release: 25/12/2014
Publisher: WayForward
Developer: WayForward
Genre: Platformer, Retro
PEGI: 10+
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Excellent About Rating
           
 
10 - Gameplay
          
 
9.0 - Video
          
 
10 - Audio
          
 

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The Indie Movement is Taking Over

There has been a rather odd shift in the world of gaming recently. Major releases from triple-A developers that cost gamers $60 are consistently being released with major issues or being broken altogether. Everything from connectivity issues to game breaking bugs are running rampant in Day 1 releases, and it is becoming increasingly more alarming as many major developers are releasing games that are just not ready for the market.

It would seem that independent developers are currently leading the way in innovative gaming concepts that truly grab gamers. Because not only are they releasing unique experiences, but they are also releasing games that are polished, and more importantly work when expected. For a relatively low amount of money, ranging from .99 cents to $20, talented developers are able to craft unforgettable gameplay experiences like Shovel Knight and Resogun, which have convinced gamers that indies offer more than just whats on the surface.

It's like playing an obscure SNES classic that I missed out on back in the day

Shantae and The Pirates Curse developed by WayForward Technologies (Mighty Switch Force) is another stellar entry in not only the Shantae series but its also another outstanding indie release that soars above what many other triple-A games are currently offering. Shantae and the Pirates Curse is a 2D exploration platformer/Metroidvania experience at its heart, and its main focus is on core gameplay elements. Throughout all this, Shantae and The Pirates Curse somehow manages to define itself within the magnitude of Metroidvania platformers as a solid, and well crafted experience. The game feels great in your hands and its Christmas day console release was a true gift to Wii U owners because its one of the best games available on the eShop right now.

The Third Wish

Shantae and The Pirates Curse was announced back in the November 2012 issue of Nintendo Power, and it is the third game in the long running Shantae series that started back in 2002 on the GameBoy Color. The Pirates Curse follows the story of Shantae, the Half-Genie Hero, after her adventures in 2010s Riskys Revenge for DSI. Shantae now must team up with her scantily clad arch nemesis Risky Boots, to stop The Pirate Master that looks to return to spread a curse throughout Sequin Land. Also returning are Rottytops, Sky, Bolo and many of the other loveable characters from the Shantae universe that come to Shantaes aide in her darkest hour.

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The Shantae series is largely known for its stellar gameplay, charming style, and aesthetically alluring atmosphere that is created through the various worlds that you traverse. The Pirates Curse delivers even more of what is expected of the franchise by offering players exactly what they want from these characters and this world. Whats even more interesting about this third entry is that The Pirates Curse manages to completely reimagine the way that Shantae games have been played. In the previous two Shantae games, the player needed to find new magical abilities that transformed Shantae into various animals that helped her achieve her goals. Players were turned into wall destroying elephants, mermaid swimmers, and monkeys that would climb up and over walls. Shantae was known for capitalizing on these unique experiences, as this was all done through a dance sequence that the player would perform to completely alter Shantaes physical appearance and turn her into an animal.

WayForward decided to take a new approach to the Shantae formula by going back to the roots of what a Metroidvania game plays like. The major difference this time around is that Shantae gains her power through finding missing pieces of Pirate Gear rather than gaining magical powers. Its a lot like playing Faxanadu and Castlevania Simons Quest with a bit of Super Metroid thrown in for good measure. The Pirates Curse will have you searching for treasure chests that hold items like the Pirate Hat which gives Shantae the power to float, Riskys Cannon which allows Shantae to perform a triple jump of sorts, and Riskys Scimitar that allows Shantae to pogo bounce off of enemies and destroy blocks with a downward thrust. Its an interesting concept that allows fans to revisit this timeless franchise in an entirely new way. I recommended playing Riskys Revenge before playing The Pirates Curse which is available on the 3DS eShop so you dont miss out on the story and the new gameplay elements. Whats truly special about Shantae and The Pirates Curse is that its extremely refreshing to enjoy a third part of a franchise without suffering from exhaustion.

“I once saw a girl shoot milk out of her nose… maybe she’s a genie”

The hard difficulty of the Shantae series returns, however I do feel that The Pirates Curse is the easiest game out of the Shantae franchise. It took me roughly 10 hours to 100% the game and this is mainly because it follows the oh-so familiar get the item to advance to the new area style of Metroidvania gameplay that is deeply encoded within the DNA of gaming. The previous entries in the series entertained a more adventurous style of gameplay because once Shantae received a new dance, the player would then have to memorize the dance, learn how to use it, and then learn when to use it at the right time. It was more about remembering that your monkey abilities would allow you to jump higher and further than Shantae so you had to time your jumps differently then when you were playing as Shantae, and your elephant would make you heavier and slower so you had to account for these variances on a whim.

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Every new power gained made each level feel really unique and its what made the Shantae games a rather difficult experience. The adventure that Shantae undergoes always gets easier by the endgame because you are more equipped to take on the challenges that are in front of you and The Pirates Curse is no different in that sense. The game consists of hair whipping your way through a multitude of familiar enemies ranging from zombies to bomb throwing scarecrows to find items and Pirate Gear that will allow you to advance.

The Half-Genie Heros First Console Outing

Shantae and The Pirates Curse was also released on the 3DS in 2014 and although the Wii U version is the exact same game, it is a real experience to interact with this world on a 50 inch television. It’s like playing an obscure SNES classic that I missed out on back in the day. In saying that, my biggest compliant with Shantae and The Pirates Curse is that it is in fact a 3DS mirrored experience and the Wii U versions only difference is that its one being lived in your living room. Its no secret that Shantae and The Pirates Curse was developed as a handheld game just as its predecessors before it were. This release just makes you really notice it. Playing Shantae and The Pirates Curse feels a lot like using a GameBoy Advance adapter on your GameCube for GameBoy advanced games. Some of the characters look overly pixilated and though its charming, its still really looks like a 3DS game blown up on your television.

Its a lot like playing Faxanadu and Castlevania Simons Quest with a bit of Super Metroid thrown in for good measure

This brings about another ongoing issue with Nintendo and their inability to offer cross buy solutions. Even though it is the same game, you must buy both versions separately if you want to have a copy at home, and one for the road. There is really no need to buy this game twice if you have already experienced it in all its glory on the 3DS.  

One bonus in purchasing the Wii U version is gaining the ability to blast Jake Kaufmans (Shovel Knight) Shantae and The Pirates Curse soundtrack on your surround sound stereo. Kaufman returns to the Shantae series to craft what is possibly one of the best parts of Shantae and The Pirates Curse. The melodies that are housed within this downloadable gem are reminiscent of the franchise in its entirety, as it sounds like a blissful rendition of a 16-bit trip back into a time where the soundtrack was so much more than just background music.

Pirate Mode, Upgrades and More Ahoy!

Because Shantae must rely on physical items rather than her magic transformations this time around, upgrading her physical abilities will be of utmost importance to survive. You can upgrade your hair with Shampoo which will allow Shantae to deal more damage with her hair whip attack. Silky Cream allows Shantae to whip her hair faster and Scimitar Polish will increase the down-thrust damage. Other helpful items return like spinning Pike Balls, Bubble Shields, Potions, Monster Milk, and youll be able to purchase advanced skills like the Backdash and Power Kick that were showcased in Riskys Revenge.

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Shantae and The Pirates Curse has an optional sidequest that can be completed throughout the main story which revolves around defeating 20 Tinkerbats and collecting the Dark Magic that resides within them. If you are able to collect all 20, you will get the true ending and finding every last Tinkerbat is no easy task. Some are hidden in the tops of trees, under pyramids and other various locations that will have you checking every wall and sand pit for them. There are also 32 hidden Heart Squids that will provide Shantae more health and after collecting 4 of them your life bar will go up by one heart. Both the Tinkerbats and the Heart Squids are required for a 100% completion, however only the 20 Tinkerbats are required for the true ending.  

After beating the game a New Game + option called Pirate Mode is available where you will retain all of the Pirate Gear that you collected throughout the game which will allow for faster speed runs, and will unlock new shortcuts that will be available right from the start.  You also start with less hearts and it adds a little more difficulty to the game to offset the gear that is granted to you.

A Pirates Life For Me

Shantae and The Pirates Curse revolutionizes the way that the Shantae franchise plays as a whole. When you go back and replay the former entries, you notice how different they feel from this title and its what makes Shantae and The Pirates Curse a really exciting entry point for many new gamers and a new way to play for old fans of the franchise. Its because this trilogy (soon to be quadrilogy with the announcement of Half Genie Hero) has proven itself to gamers since the GameBoy Color era and every entry following it has been exponentially better than its predecessor. Its usually around the third entry of a franchise where you can begin to notice fatigue. However that is not the case with Shantae as this third entry is possibly the best Shantae game to date. The heart of Shantaes experience is a new and exciting venture into what makes video games fun, and reminds us of why we enjoy playing them. Shantae and The Pirates Curse is another welcomed embrace from the indie realm of gaming and its another reason why indie games will continued to be looked at as the future of gaming.

Positives

  • New Gameplay Elements for Shantae
  • Jake Kaufman Soundtrack
  • Charming Characters
  • Beautiful Hand Drawn Character Portraits
  • Pirate Mode

Negatives

  • Mirrored 3DS Game
  • Easiest Shantae Game to Date
  • No Cross Buy
 

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