Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has been a long awaited title from Wayforward. The first entry in the series since Shantae: Risky’s Revenge on DSiWare, fans have waited patiently for the newest iteration. If you were one of those people, don’t worry: Shantae and the PIrate’s Curse is longer, more varied, and more graphically impressive than Risky’s Revenge, and is sure to keep any fan busy until Shantae: Half Genie Hero’s release next year.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse features a new variation on the gameplay formula of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, giving the former more of a Zelda flavor than the Metroidvania themes of the later. Each island features an overworld where the player is tasked with figuring out how to reach island’s dungeon. The islands each have their own unique theme, and they are very enjoyable to explore. While some games may have these exploration segments feel like a chore, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse makes getting to the dungeons just as enjoyable as playing through them. The islands will evoke feelings of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge’s version of Sequin Land, but on a smaller scale. While some might find the islands to be a bit too small, I personally feel that they are better this way, because there is not as much tedious backtracking or mindless wandering required in order for the player to get where they want to go.
Once the player gains access to a dungeon, they must explore as much of it as possible to find all of the secrets it contains. Similar to the dungeons in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, these dungeons have unique and interesting layouts that will pose a challenge to navigate. Every dungeon has a large treasure chest for the player to find, which contains a new upgrade. Each item gives the player an exciting and fun new power, such as a gun that allows for safer, long ranged combat at the cost of attack power. Once they reach the boss of the dungeon, this new item is used to defeat the boss. However, in a different take on the Zelda formula, Shantae has players building upon the items they gain during the game. Instead of only having an item be useful against one boss in one dungeon, the player is required to use their acquired items in new and creative ways to progress. Additionally, as Shantae is no longer a genie, the player is unable to use magic. Instead, enemies will sometimes drop items that allow the player to gain a one time use of one of the spells from the original, such as the Super Pike Ball. Instead of exploring one big island, players are able to spend time away from Sequin Land (which only acts as the game’s hub this time) and go to different islands.
Once players have acquired a new item, they are able to use their hard earned gems to buy upgrades for their items. This allows every playthrough to be different, which gives a game like this even more replayability than one would normally expect. The upgrades can be bought in any order that the player chooses, and it is quite rewarding to have the ability to enhance your favorite items instead of upgrading upon a set path.
The graphics are just what you would expect from Wayforward. Although their 3D graphics can sometimes be a letdown, Wayforward never fails to impress with 2D sprites. The animation is fluid and detailed, and every character, environment, and item, will have you stopping just to take in the scenery. This is one game that made me wish the 3DS had a proper screenshot function. When characters are spoken to, a 2D portrait appears next to their dialogue, similar to Fire Emblem: Awakening. The art is quite nice, and is a welcome addition that adds extra polish to make this title worth the high price of entry.
The music is a mixed bag. Although some of the tracks are pleasant, others can become a little repetitive. However, none of them were completely terrible, but in my opinion, the graphics far exceeded the music in the presentation department. Likewise, although story is not a terribly important part of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, it does a good job of continuing the story of Risky’s Revenge. There is a good amount of dialogue, but not enough that you will be feeling tired or annoyed by the time you get back to the action. Overall, the story is non intrusive and does its job quite well.
The main problem for most potential players will be the price tag. At $20, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is quite pricey for an eShop title. However, this game has the quality of a retail title, and it is certainly worth the price that it asks for. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is at a far higher level of quality than the typical eShop game, and with its beautiful graphics and fresh, exciting gameplay, I highly recommend it to any fan of the series or the Metroidvania genre in general.