Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Eric Ace 24.10.2014 1

Review for Shantae and the Pirate

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is the latest release in a relatively unknown platform series that dates back to the original Gameboy Color. The series had suffered from badly timed releases that kept the games in relative obscurity. Following on from the PC release of Shantae: Risky's Revenge - Director's Cut that was formerly on Nintendo DSiWare, the latest game is on the 3DS eShop and follows the pattern of brightly coloured platform action but has a few flaws keeping it from being really great. After a positive hands-on at the Eurogamer Expo, Cubed3 delivers the final verdict on the US release.

Shantae is an interesting mix of parts that may rub some gamers the wrong way but comes together in a decent package for those not especially put off. The single most notable thing is the graphics, namely how brightly coloured they are, and the distinct anime-style portraits that characters are drawn in. They are pretty good looking yet radiate almost a childish look to them that might make the standard Metroidvania player wary coming off the darker plot or visuals of those types of games.

The gameplay is pretty simple with the player controlling 'Shantae,' a former genie who is now just a human who platforms her way to stop an evil pirate from resurrecting, hopping and hair-whipping a route to victory. In the standard style, as the game goes on, more abilities are gained that open up previously inaccessible areas, such as getting a pistol that allows distant switches to be hit. Money can also be spent buying healing items or boosting attack power.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo 3DS

Luckily, the controls are pretty tight; there is never an issue of wishing the character responded better. Even though most of the adventure is simply jumping or whipping, it is easy enough to accomplish without the clunky or awkward feel that some games in this genre suffer from. However, a major criticism in regards to this is the colours and graphics; they are good but it becomes distracting at times. There is very little delineation between platforms that can be landed on compared to the mere background art. It is a pretty big issue at times where it simply becomes pure trial and error as to what platform is really there.

This is not always the case though, as there are certain palette swaps where the platforms are quite clearly visible, such as grey bricks against green tree backgrounds. When everything is derived from the same style, however - such as in the sewers - the bricks or platforms in the background start to blur with ones Shantae can actually land on. This is generally the worst in some forest levels where the branches that can be landed on are pure experiments in jumping and praying.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo 3DS

The story is fairly weak - there is an evil pirate leader being resurrected and Shantae must stop it. There are only few details and the plot is not touched much throughout. There are a lot of sub-stories going on, but extremely small ones. Something that sticks out is the very strange humour the game has, with characters killed and Shantae merely saying 'Oops' or cute octopuses being collected for health being smashed down for heart containers - it can be disturbing given the light-hearted aesthetics and stories.

Pirate's Curse leaves the player hungry for more on the story that has not been fully delivered. There are a lot of characters here, many of whom are from the earlier iterations of the series but are not developed much, which is considerably unfortunate. Each character is given a distinct animated sprite and, additionally, most characters are given anime portraits for their conversations, including multiple poses. It is a pretty impressive commitment to detail, however the problem comes from how there are all these excellently coloured and animated characters, yet upon delivering their couple of lines, are never heard from again. Meanwhile, there is never a core group that makes up for lack of characterisation occurring elsewhere.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo 3DS

The platforming is by far the hardest part and the bosses are surprisingly easy. There are many blind jumps and there are times when there are floods of projectiles, and there is the problem of what exactly a platform is, and generally the pure swarm of enemies that grind Shantae down simply based on their sheer numbers. In contrast, the bosses are surprisingly and disappointingly easy. They have simple attack patterns, do not take that much damage to kill, and generally provide what could be called a 'rest' over the often merciless flood of enemies while platforming.

In regards to its Metroidvania qualities, there are a few things it does right, and a major thing it does wrong. The best thing it does is there is very little backtracking required. The story and levels naturally move in one direction and the only time back-tracking is seriously required is to pick up bonuses not accessible the first time through. The excellent portraits of all the characters are really fun to see, with the only disappointing factor being how fast they leave the narrative. A large issue is the lack of progression overall; there is no 'levelling-up' and there is no constant increase of missiles as in a Metroid game. Even quite far into the game, Shantae is still just whipping straight ahead, doing only moderately more damage and not a significant difference from the beginning.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse might put off a lot of its target audience with its bright and cartoony graphics, but devoted Metroidvania/platformer fans will not want to miss this excellently animated sprite game. The controls are good, and there is a lot of interesting locations to explore as this has more of an 'adventure' feel to it than Castlevania does. The progression is slower than would be preferred, and the humour and style can be off-putting, but this is a game that is evident the people who made it actually tried, which is a rarity with games these days.

Developer

WayForward Technologies

Publisher

WayForward

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There is very little delineation between platforms that can be landed on compared to the mere background art. It is a pretty big issue at times where it simply becomes pure trial and error as to what platform is really there.

That's a problem I had in Putty Squad. No distinction between foreground and background, with the colours being too bright and colourful to distinguish which is which. Very frustrating when you are resorting to trial and error, not knowing if you're gonna drop to your death or not.

Easy bosses is a bit grim. How many are there? There were nowhere near enough in Risky's Revenge.

It sounds to me like Half-Genie Hero is gonna be the fuller Shantae game, but I'd still defo wanna get this one because RR was so lovely to play and look at. Very fun. I think I'd be guaranteed just as much a good time in PC.

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