Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Review: A Risky Reward

October 20th, 2014 -

With sequels to games coming out on a yearly or bi-yearly schedule, it’s weird to say a trilogy is coming to an end after twelve years. However, that is the case with the release of Pirate’s Curse. Obviously it’s not the last game with Shantae, as Half-Genie Hero is due out in the near future. However, it does bring a close to the story that’s been spanning over the past decade. It’s not necessary that you’ve played the previous entries, but it is definitely recommended. So, let’s get into this – I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but I will be discussing a few from the previous entries – you’ve been warned.

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While Shantae has been a half-genie in the previous two games, the ending of Risky’s Revenge resulted in her losing her magic powers. While she was able to defeat the embodiment of her own magic, like energy, magic can’t just disappear. Shantae finds this out when Risky Boots accuses her of stealing her minions, and then seeing one transform before her eyes through the use of dark magic. This leads to the two rivals teaming up to take down this evil force: the Pirate Master. And without her magic abilities, you must help Shantae become a masterful pirate herself, acquiring gear that once belonged to ol’ Risky herself.

Assuming you’ve played the previous titles, you can expect the same basic gameplay: 2D platforming; busting up enemies with that sweet, violet hair; the acquisition of some radical new abilities. You’ll be exploring areas that are recognizable, seeing familiar faces, and be up against an all new set of challenges. That’s not to say you won’t see anything new though! There are plenty of new locations, and an assortment of new characters to make you laugh. Old enemies that you should know well, and new ones that will make you want to throw your 3DS/Wii U controller if you don’t mind your surroundings. And while it’s nice being able to have your key items or usable items up on the lower screen, you’ll most likely be keeping the map open for the majority of the game. If you’ve played 2D Metroid or Castlevania titles, it’ll look familiar. Of course, don’t rely too heavily on it – you’ll miss secrets laid out for you if you do.

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Now, assuming you haven’t played a Shantae game, let me lay out a few things for you. These games are highly addictive, so only play them if you have the time to dedicate. They aren’t long, but they will consume your thoughts. You may throw it under the Metroidvania moniker, with its maps that require backtracking as new abilities are acquired. In addition to abilities you gain from story progression, you can also buy abilities at the shop in town. These include things like a backdash, a powerful kick (your hair’s whip attack starts at 5 damage, the kick does 10), and recovering from a hit with a backflip. Don’t care about that stuff? Good, because you’re going to need a lot of money to purchase upgrades for attack damage on your hair and other equipment you pick up, as well as the amount you can use it in a given time. If you’ve purchased all of those goodies, there are still the consumable items to pick up to lighten the load of your journey, such as offensive weapons, potions, and stat buffs. Money is earned from enemy drops, which can also include special items you’ll use for side quests (which will either give you more money or other items). Each chapter contains making your way to a dungeon, wrestling with the puzzles within said dungeon, sometimes finding a new item, and then fighting a boss (if a new item is found, that weapon will most likely be used). The difficulty of the game is determined by you – do you upgrade your health and weaponry, or do you stick with the base stats you are given? The game comes off easy for the first half, but it ramps up pretty fast after that.

The new layout for level design is refreshing. As much as I enjoyed the warp system of Risky’s Revenge, I do enjoy a central hub for choosing where you want to go. With the amount of backtracking you’ll be doing (by no means a nuisance), it’s nice seeing each island’s characteristic while figuring out what you need to do. Sometimes characters at a new destination will give you a hint about something you need to progress, whereas others will blatantly tell you where to go. It also helps if you know the characters of the game world, which is where playing the previous entries really comes in handy. Of course, you can always follow the rule of talking to everyone in the village each chapter. For the most part, they actually will change their dialogue, give you hints/items, and progress the story in some instances. And even if you know what you’re doing, you should talk to the townsfolk anyhow. The writing in these games is either a love it/hate it tone, and I laugh like a giddy school girl when I play this series. It’s part of the charm.

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The controls for the game are tight and responsive. While there is one level in particular that really got me fuming, it wasn’t because the game didn’t recognize the inputs. I wouldn’t even say it’s unfair, but rather punishing to those that want to rush through it. I’ll admit that I still haven’t found the right way to hold my 3DS, and my hand cramps needing to use the R button so much, but that is user error. Dungeons are as fun as ever, with the minor puzzle solving and hidden secrets to explore. They also serve as great tutorials for the new items you get. The art feels improved from the previous entries, while still staying true to itself. And the music is, as always, the perfect complement thanks to Kaufman. I’d say the most off-putting thing about this game is the difficulty ramps it hits at various parts of the game. However, these are welcome as the game seems overly easy without them. In many cases, the bosses are easier than the stage leading up to them – and I’m not even talking about the dungeon! The bosses are fun though, despite being really easy to read. I never died on a boss or even used a potion, yet I managed to use an auto-potion on a battle room against a couple scorpion ladies. And to be honest, I still have no idea what determines if I do damage to them or not.

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So here we are, at the end of a whole lot of praise and a few minor complaints that were really my own fault. I wish I could tell you there is more wrong with it, but I can’t. I really wanted to save you some money, but that just isn’t going to happen. Not because I’m being held against my will or being bought off, but I can’t find any other faults with it. Am I wearing rose tinted glasses? I highly doubt it, since I don’t wear spectacles yet. Don’t just buy this game for yourself, but get your friend a copy. Buy your brother or sister a copy. This game is a joy to play, and I can’t recommend it enough.

BUY

Pros

  • Become a Pirate
  • World Layout
  • The Non-combative Gameplay
  • All them Aesthetics

Cons

  • Crazy Difficulty Spikes
  • Easy Bosses

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was created and published by WayForward. It is available on the Nintendo eShop for $20 on either the 3DS or Wii U as of October 23, 2014. The 3DS version we reviewed was provided for us. If you’d like to see more on the game, visit the official site.

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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