Title: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Release Date: October 23, 2014
Everyone’s favourite hair-whipping, hip-swinging half-genie heroine is back in WayForward’s new release, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Former half-genie, anyway. The purple-haired maiden made legendary in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, frequently cited as one of the best DSiWare games of all time, starts off her new adventure as a hair-whipping, hip-swinging human, still allowing for alliteration, conveniently.
What is that Dark Magic that is turning Tinkerbats into fiendish Cacklebats? How terrible could the Pirate Master be that Shantae’s arch-nemesis Risky Boots decides to team up with her? And why does the bath-water of Saliva Island feel so viscous? Shantae doesn’t know yet, but she’s going to find out, even if she has to set aside her rivalry with Risky to do it.
The game’s plot is light-hearted but doesn’t crack itself in an effort to be funny. The game is presented with lashings of humour, from Squid Baron’s knowledgeable hints of Shantae being in a video game to Sky never being able to keep a boyfriend thanks to her father’s collected relics having adverse effects. The story makes sense and eggs you on to keep playing to find out more, yet there is humour in pretty much every encounter.
As a Metroidvania-esque platformer, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse does itself proud. The game splits the map up into a collection of islands you can visit using Risky’s Boat, cutting down on the inconsequential running-around in Risky’s Revenge – but a fair amount of backtracking, both within and between the islands, is still required. Some of what seem to be side-quests at the time turn out to be necessary to progress the story but they are put together so well that I didn’t experience any frustration at all regarding the game’s story progress – just satisfying ‘aha!’ moments.
As the story progresses, you recover Risky’s equipment which you use to get to areas of the map which were inaccessible before. The level design is worthy of praise here because all too often in my experience of platformers, you can get to an area that was meant to be accessed after gaining a new item without getting it by being cheap and with some excessive jumping. Here though, the levels are put together so well that every item is needed.
The upper screen shows the main gameplay while the lower screen lets you navigate through three menus: Map, Inventory which lets you use recovery items, power-ups and the like, and Key Items, which are mostly items needed to progress the game’s story. During the game, you collect Heart Squids, four of which can be given to Scuttle Town’s squidsmith to make a new heart container, and Dark Magic from defeated Cacklebats.
Just like the game’s setting, the music is modern-sounding and sounds as if from snake-charming, belly-dancing lands at the same time. The sound effects are good (I was particularly fond of the tongue-hanging sound effect on Spiderweb Island) and for the first time, Shantae has voice acting. Not full voice acting, but voices for phrases and small dialogues are provided – and it’s pretty good and kind of matches the tones I assigned to Shantae in my mind before playing The Pirate’s Curse. Presentation-wise, the game is smooth, with non-existent loading times and simple menus that make sure all the focus is on playing the game.
The visuals are neat, with small upgrades from Risky’s Revenge for the main gameplay, but highly detailed, well-drawn (and very generous in terms of fan service) character art in the cutscenes. The 3D effect is good for differentiation between the foreground and background, and excellent for the character portraits – Scuttle Town’s Mayor’s belly popped right out of my 3DS’s screen.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, being an eShop game, provides the same enjoyment as any great retail 3DS game for half the price, and is a must-play game for 3DS owners. WayForward have outdone themselves in this hilarious, enjoyable adventure.
Overall Score: 10/10