PART-GENIE. PART-PIRATE. FULL-ADVENTURE.
The flurry of 2D platform games continues to be in the forefront of numerous indie developers. Some of these games are diamonds in the rough, while others are just flat out rough. In the third Shantae game, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is happily one of those treasures for the Nintendo 3DS.
WayForward, the developer and publisher for the game, has been around for nearly 25 years and is centrally located in California. The company has diversified their games through the years with numerous genres (ranging from 2D platform games to fighting games) and systems (GameBoy Color to PlayStation 3). Some of their more notable games include Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge, Contra 4, the Adventure Time video game series, and of course, the Shantae series.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse follows the events immediately after the previous game of the series, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge. Shantae, the now former-genie, is approached once again by her old rival, Risky Boots. The two need to embark on a new adventure to help Shantae retrieve her genie powers, all the while trying to stop a massive enemy before he resurfaces, The Pirate Master. I think it’s great that the story directly takes on where the former game of the series leaves off, and luckily, does it in a smart way to ensure players who have not played them aren’t completely lost. The first scenes of the game quickly weaves in prior knowledge of the series, but doesn’t do it like players are being pandered to (which I HIGHLY appreciated). Though the “unlikely partners” storyline isn’t the most original, WayForward does it in a way that makes it fresh.
The graphics of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse aren’t revolutionary, but it is still visually beautiful. The game does a great job making vibrant areas by using scores of colors and bold lines to make it something to appreciate. In addition, each island has its own theme (Eutopia, village, zombies, etc.), so the enemies, terrain, music, and color scheme does a phenomenal job at making you believe that each island is isolated from one another. Granted, it’s a lot easier to have them isolated because, well, they’re islands and are surrounded by water. Regardless of the finer logics of having unique islands, the diversity among each can spark future conversations about favorite bosses, best sidequest, most annoying enemy, and more.
The transition of the series to the Nintendo 3DS also bode well for it. When you have the 3D aspect on, the foreground and background really shine. Enemies in the air look like they’re flying right above you, zombies’ heads fall right in front of you, and even vases right next to you protrude towards you begging to get smashed. It’s true that other games have utilized the 3D well, but Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse does it deliberately and doesn’t try to shove it down your throat every chance it gets.
Happily, the actual game mechanics were easy and fluid. Players are able to attack (with Shanta’s hair), jump, and dodge enemy attacks, while progressing through the islands. Various puzzles and challenges usually obstruct your path and you’ll need to explore the area to advance. The speed and pace of these challenges gradually increase, so players aren’t discouraged right in the beginning. There are points though that get a little annoying or have these “rolling your eyes” objectives that you’ll have to complete. But to be fair, those challenges are extremely minute in the grand scheme of the game, so it shouldn’t be a major determining factor on your opinion of the game (though I wanted to make readers aware of it either way).
Over time, you’re able to unlock and upgrade different attacks and several techniques that can increase your ability to survive and offer more strategies in fights. In addition, monsters that you defeat can drop various items that can be used both offensively or defensively. Most of these items can also be bought at the shops, but they can certainly get expensive.
The bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS is effectively used to present a map of the current area you’re playing through, item inventory, and your list of key items. You’re able to simply swipe through each to have one cluster of information presented on the bottom. The top is where the actual action happens, in addition to showing your life and currency amount.
A gripe that I had with the gameplay is that many of the monsters throughout the islands respawn once you return immediately in the screen. Some, like the zombies, regenerate almost immediately. If I was trying to grind and get a bunch of currency, then this would be great. However, when you’re trying to figure out a puzzle or just explore the island a bit, it can get terribly tedious.
Aside from this gripe, the dialogue of the characters is pure gold. There is a nice mix of comedy, innuendos, and strong writing, that makes it worth not just button-mashing through the text. Even more, there are various moments of voice actors that only enhance the gameplay and scenarios. I’m someone who often plays handheld games with the sound mute, but Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse had me listening to the dialogue along with the great score of the music.
The Verdict: 8.6 out of 10
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is an absolute delight. The great gameplay, music, and story offers players an intriguing and enjoyable experience. Though there are some hiccups with respawning monsters and certain objectives, these shouldn’t majorly deter you from the game. The third installment of the Shantae series does not disappoint, and for $19.99 on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, it is well worth the price. If you download it, you won’t be disappointed.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.