Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Price: $19.99 (Nintendo eShop)
(Warning: This review contains spoilers for the ending of Shantae: Risky's Revenge)
Few developers can nail the 2D platforming genre as well as Wayforward does. The studio has built up an impressive pedigree — from the Wii remake of A Boy and His Blob to Ducktales Remastered — but the latest installment in the Shantae franchise might be their best work yet.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is the third game in Wayforward's Metroidvania-style saga about the half-genie heroine. The story takes place shortly after the events of Shantae: Risky's Revenge (originally released on the Nintendo DSi). Having lost her genie powers, Shantae is forced to live a quiet life in her lighthouse home in Scuttle Town. However, things take a turn for the worse when the Ammo Baron shows up and tricks the mayor into signing the ownership of Scuttle Town over to him. The Ammo Baron turns out to be the least of Shantae's problems, though, because Shantae's nemesis — the voluptuous pirate Risky Boots — arrives and delivers a warning of an even greater evil on the horizon. The two enemies join together in an uneasy alliance in order to stop Risky's former captain, The Pirate Master, from gathering the dark magic which will result in his resurrection from the grave, thereby unleashing his evil upon the land once again.
In order to stop The Pirate Master, Shantae must travel to five different islands, clearing a Den of Evil (basically, a dungeon) and reclaiming a piece of Risky's lost pirate gear from each location. As with the previous games in the series, Shantae whips monsters with her hair as her primary mode of attack. However, in true Metroidvania fashion, each piece of Risky's pirate gear that you recover opens up new methods of traversal and/or attacking enemies, which in turn allows you to reach new areas on previously-visited islands. For example, Shantae can use Risky's pirate hat as a parachute to glide quite a distance, and her pistol can be used both to attack enemies and to hit out-of-reach switches. The backtracking involved in the game can be sped up to some degree by means of a purchasable item called a Pirate Flare. When used outside of a dungeon, the Pirate Flare allows you to warp back to your ship, allowing you to more quickly sail to another location. This solution isn't quite as effective as the fast travel found in other games like Guacamelee!, but it does alleviate some of the frustration of returning to the same island multiple times.
The dungeons themselves are well-designed, with an adequate — but not insurmountable — challenge, and plenty of secrets to find. I also found the boss battles to be fun and engaging, most of them requiring you to utilize a recently-acquired piece of equipment.
The story for the game unfolds in a way that is charming and hilarious; it's chock-full of self-aware jokes and humorous references to pop culture phenomena, such as Star Wars, He-Man, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, and the like. The graphical presentation is gorgeous, with expressive sprites during the gameplay segments and hand-drawn characters during the storytelling segments. In addition, the 3D effect is put to good use here, with layered backgrounds and foregrounds adding a sense of depth to the 2D world. The excellent soundtrack rounds out the game's presentation, replete with catchy tunes that are appropriate to each location in the game.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is an excellent title that I enjoyed immensely. It may not bring any new or exciting innovations to the Metroidvania genre, but it's a solid game all around. The gameplay is tight, the levels are well-designed, and it carries plenty of charm. If you're not a fan of Metroidvania games, then you may find it tiresome to backtrack to previous locations, but this aspect was never unwieldy or inconvenient in my eyes. I would love to see Wayforward continue making more original titles like this one.
- Hilarious story
- Fun, engaging gameplay
- Beautiful visuals
- Great music
- All good things come to an end