I dream of Shantae.
Less than a year ago I reviewed Shantae: Risky’s Revenge. It was my first experience with the franchise despite having interest in it since its debut on the GBA. The latest console release is actually a port of the same game that released on Wii U and 3DS back in 2014. This side-scrolling adventure mixes elements of classic Super Nintendo-style games, as well as the excellent platforming developer WayForward has become known for.
Players take on the role of Shantae, the genie who has now lost her powers. In order to discover what has happened she has to team up with her former nemesis Risky Boots. The Shantae games are known for their whimsical humor and colorful characters. The writing is genuinely entertaining, while the artwork of the main characters is a little suggestive at times. Still, even with its paper-thin plot, I found myself genuinely amused by the back-and-forth between characters.
Platforms: XB1, 3DS, Wii U, PC
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
Pirate’s Curse retains the same formula from previous Shantae games. Precise platforming mixed with a hint of exploration and gated content. Shantae uses her hair as a whip to attack enemies, as well as a set of purchasable moves throughout the game. Players can upgrade the speed and damage her hair delivers, as well as using the gems collected in each area to purchase new attack and evasion moves. Gems are rare, so testing the waters and seeing what upgrades best fit a play style is recommended.
Shantae games are not known for handholding. There is little explanation of what to do, or where to go. I admit I got stuck several times, mostly due to modern gaming spoiling me with giant blinking arrows. Exploration is key, as is talking to everyone I ran into. Sometimes characters would deliver pertinent information to advance, or even have an item that I needed. It is wise to converse with the locals.
The platforming here is pitch-perfect. Controlling Shantae feels great. Enemies are varied, and taking them down is not a challenge on their own, but figuring out their patterns and dealing with their numbers is where the challenge comes in. This is not an easy game, and I found myself on the short end of the death stick often. It helps to collect the squid hearts and turn them in for more heart containers, which also involves a hilariously-sad sequence of the shopkeeper smashing them with a giant hammer to give me more health. I felt bad, but I needed that health.
Unlike its PS4 predecessor, Pirate’s Curse features full 16×9 support, but with the same pixelated look. The style is what really sticks out though, as character animations and varied environments really make it pop. Character portraits are beautifully drawn on the screen, albeit a little bit suggestive. The music is also extremely infectious. I found myself humming several tunes, although the voice acting can start to grate on player’s nerves quickly.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a gem of a game that deserves to get more attention on its second time around. Those that have nostalgia for platformers from the 16-bit era owe it to themselves to check out this quirky experience. There is a lot to love about the half-genie, and certainly not enough of these types of games currently available on home consoles.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.