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Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Review

by Zachary Miller - October 21, 2014, 8:17 pm PDT
Total comments: 13

9

A fitting finale to the Shantae trilogy.

WayForward has created some of my favorite games of the last decade. They developed the excellent A Boy & His Blob, the Mighty Switch Force games, and DuckTales: Remastered. These are talented people with real passion for their craft. I liked Shantae on the GBC and I really liked its DSiWare sequel, Risky’s Revenge. Both of those games, however, have their share of problems. The original features an inverted difficulty curve and an overzealous map. The sequel has a pared-back map, but a confusing cave system, impractical warp system, and a short length. I had high hopes for Pirate’s Curse, the wrap-up to the Shantae trilogy, but its many delays and persistent lack of a release date worried me. Well, after finishing it up on 3DS, it’s clear that the lengthy development time did wonders for Pirate’s Curse. This isn’t just the best Shantae game; it may be WayForward’s greatest achievement to date.

Without getting into the plot details, Shantae must deal with the consequences of the last game: the mayor sold Scuttle Town to the Ammo Baron and Risky Boots stole Shantae’s magical powers away. There will be no belly-dancing or animal transforming in this game. When Risky Boots comes around asking for Shantae’s help to defeat an ancient evil, Shantae must do so as a pirate. The story is charming, the writing is wonderful, and the character portraits—by IntiCreates—fit the game extremely well.

Pirate's Curse features numerous improvements to the usual Shantae formula. Rather than traveling across one enormous horizontal world, Shantae travels from island to island, each of which features a Metroid-esque level design. You’ll want to visit most islands more than once after your moveset improves to collect Heart Squid (aka Pieces of Heart) and defeat specific plot-related enemies. Most stages have specific challenges, like carrying zombie friend Rottytops through an undead obstacle course, or escaping a desert palace while hiding from guards. I was constantly surprised by the unique qualities of each island. You’ll also run a number of quests for NPCs on all of the islands in order to move along in the game.

Shantae’s attacks have also broadened. She can upgrade both the speed at which she can whip her hair and the amount of damage she deals. She can also upgrade the damage-dealing potential of two of her pirate weapons as well as learn a variety of new abilities. Additionally, subweapons are a finite resource this time around, but can be purchased or dropped by enemies.

Each island also hides a dungeon, which itself contains a new item. It’s all pirate gear; the first thing you find is a flintlock pistol that can be used to attack enemies but also to hit far-away switches. Most items have a dual role in both combat and level traversal. The dungeons are shorter than they were in Risky’s Revenge, but they’re also tighter and more focused. You’ll rarely get lost because the map system in Pirate’s Curse is actually useful—it’s straight out of Super Metroid. I was disappointed by the bosses, who are all ridiculously easy, especially if you make use of the easy-to-collect power-boosting items.

Pirate’s Curse looks great, basically a better-looking version of Risky’s Revenge with more detailed environments and some cool-looking bosses. You’ll want to play with the 3D turned all the way up, too. Layering is done to great effect, and even the character art during cut scenes is somehow in 3D. It’s an interesting effect that I certainly got a kick out of.

The music, composed by WayForward’s usual composer Jake Kaufman (aka virt) is astounding. My wife, who can’t be bothered to listen to video game music, was actually dancing in the kitchen when I had the zombie island music turned up. There are brand-new tracks and excellent remixes of old themes from both Risky’s Revenge and the original Shantae. I was delighted to hear a modernized version of the dungeon theme from the GBC game in here. But let me give special kudos to the music in the “robot” dungeon. I’m not gonna lie—I got a little misty-eyed. I can only compare it to the music during the final fight with Ganon at the end of Ocarina of Time: it is perfect for the situation and conveys a certain weight that’s extremely hard to pull off.

Once you beat the game, you unlock a sort of New Game Plus mode that should give speed runners something to do. Plus, beating the game under certain conditions unlocks new title screen wallpapers. It’s fun to try and collect them all.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a must-play game. If you’ve enjoyed the previous Shantae games at all, or you just like well-designed platforming action games, this is something special.

Summary

Pros
  • Graphics are bright, colorful, and very 3D
  • Mind-blowing musical score
  • Unlockable bonus mode is great for speed runners
  • Wonderful level design
Cons
  • Desert stealth dungeon is needlessly confusing
  • The amount of "boobage" (if you will) may be a turn-off
  • Very easy bosses

Talkback

videoanimeOctober 21, 2014

So is the amount of boobage big or little?

AdrockOctober 21, 2014

Excellent review. I'm looking forward to this though I've decided on the Wii U version. I didn't know there were no transformations in the game (I figured there would be a mix between pirate items and magic). That's going to be weird. I'm excited that I don't have the same expectations for the game now.

ClexYoshiOctober 22, 2014

I am so darned jazzed for this...! Shantae happens to be my second favorite game of all time, and... honestly, I was worried about this game. Long development period, multiple Shantae Projects on the back burner , and the formation of Yacht Club Games all happened during this game's dev cycle...

Shovel Knight's pure focus on fun factor also worried me just a bit; Had some of the folks who make Wayforward as awesome of a developer left the company for the Yacht club? Would Shantae games be the same flawed but incredibly beautiful gems I fell in love with? I have to play Pirate's Curse myself to make my own assessment, but I am VERY enthusiastic to hear about how awesome this game is in the eyes of somebody who shares my interest for dinosaurs and mammary glands. (thatdoesn'tsoundawkwardatall)

Honestly, what you've described here actually reminds me of something between... say, Metroid Prime 3 and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. I'm also curious if the folks at Wayforward intend to work the innovations of Pirate's curse into Half-Genie Hero, or if the crowd funded project will feel like a strange half-step back in pacing from going back from pirate items to the traditional dances? Yes, I realize that there will be the Risky Boots mode in that game that will probably involve the use of the abilities thought up for Pirate's Curse, but I imagine there will be a core Shantae mode required before the Sky, Rottytops, Bolo, and Risky Modes are available.

IgeljägerOctober 22, 2014

The amount of "boobage" (if you will) may be a turn-off
How can this be a turn-off? That's a plus in my book!

Oh, I love it. But I know that some people thought it was overdone in Risky's Revenge, so...fair warning.

ClexYoshiOctober 22, 2014

Quote from: Halbred

Oh, I love it. But I know that some people thought it was overdone in Risky's Revenge, so...fair warning.

That's hilarious considering Risky's Revenge cut down on the number of anthropomorphic enemies and really only featured two new female characters in the form of the Chef who wants her dog back before Rotty dines on it's brains and the Squid baron, who's gender is more ambiguous than anything.

I suppose you did have the genie fountains, that had a little sideboob because of the detailed sprite of Shantae nude in the fetal position, but that's just... I dunno. As someone who just recently went through and played quite a few of indie dev Anna Anthropy's games (Fair warning, quite a few of them have a NSFW theme to them), I feel that the level of sexuality on display should be one of the last things one looks for when they seek strong female protagonists.

Marche100October 22, 2014

So here's a question for you (haven't seen a review yet that directly addresses this). Just how long is this Shantae compared to the original/Risky's Revenge? How many dungeons does it have (if you're willing to spoil that bit of information)?


I'm going to buy it tomorrow regardless of the answer to either of those questions, I'm just curious after hearing that Risky's Revenge is fairly short and doing a little digging to confirm that. (I own the original and Risky's Revenge on 3DS but never got around to playing them. ) The more Shantae the better, because I'm about ready to binge on all three of them. And I do like a game with some meat on its bones.  ;D

It took me just over eight hours to get 100% item completion my first time through Pirate's Curse. Other people are reporting ten hours. By comparison, my first trip through Risky's Revenge was probably in the neighborhood of four-five hours, but that's because the map and warp points in Risky's Revenge are impractical/useless. I won't say how many dungeons are in Pirate's Curse, but you'll figure it out very quickly once you get into the story.
Also, I was able to speed-run Risky's Revenge down to 1:50. And it doesn't have an unlockable speedrun-encouraging bonus mode. Speed running in Pirate's Curse takes longer but is FAR more enjoyable.

Marche100October 22, 2014

Eight to ten hours for 100% completion sounds fantastic to me (I always go for 100% in games like this)! Thanks for the reply!

Manthony ChopkinsOctober 24, 2014

Soundtack is great. I really enjoy Kaufman's work!

PhilPhillip Stortzum, October 24, 2014

The $20 price tag sort of makes me hesitant to buy this until a sale in a year or so. I'd be much more comfortable with $15 like Shovel Knight was.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterOctober 28, 2014

Quote from: Phil

The $20 price tag sort of makes me hesitant to buy this until a sale in a year or so. I'd be much more comfortable with $15 like Shovel Knight was.

DDP will be my friend here.

PhilPhillip Stortzum, October 28, 2014

Quote from: pokepal148

Quote from: Phil

The $20 price tag sort of makes me hesitant to buy this until a sale in a year or so. I'd be much more comfortable with $15 like Shovel Knight was.

DDP will be my friend here.

I gotta check mine to see what I'm at. Thank you for the reminder, pokepal!

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Genre Action
Developer WayForward Technologies
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Release Oct 23, 2014
PublisherWayForward Technologies
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Shantae: Kaizoku no Noroi
Release Nov 19, 2015
PublisherIntergrow Inc.
Rating12+
eu: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Release Feb 05, 2015
PublisherWayForward Technologies
Rating12+
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