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

By Nikola Suprak 22.11.2014

Review for Shantae and the Pirate

The Shantae series occupies sort of a peculiar corner of the gaming world. It has been around for well over a decade now and the past couple of titles both received high critical acclaim, and yet very few people seem to be aware of the series. Metroidvania style gameplay and irreverent humour seem like a perfect winning mix, but the series never really seemed to catch on with mainstream gamers. Luckily, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse marks an excellent jumping-in point for the series even without any prior experience with previous titles. Cubed3 is taking a second look (see our first review here) at one of gaming's best kept secrets, as this title proves yet again that Shantae and friends simply do not get the respect they deserve.

At the end of her last adventure, Shantae had all of her genie skills stolen by the nefarious pirate Risky Boots. While this might seem like a stupid scheme to force her to learn all of her old skills all over again, luckily this time around there is an entire new batch of tricks to learn along the way. A long dead evil and powerful pirate is about to be awoken, forcing Risky and Shantae into a shaky alliance to protect all of the various islands in the region. While it might not be the most complex of tales, the story is saved by the cheeky dialogue and memorable characters. The game is well written and genuinely funny, and while none of the lines are likely to leave the player laughing out loud, it will be impossible to not smile throughout the adventure.

Shantae starts off with only her hair whip and a sassy attitude, but along the way new moves and skills are unlocked that allow her to access previous inaccessible areas. A pistol can hit obscure targets, while a cannon blast will give extra lift to the jumps, and each new skill is quickly integrated into puzzle solving or platforming challenges that help set all the various dungeons apart. This is all fairly standard Metroidvania fare, but Shantae executes everything brilliantly. The exploration is simple, yet rewarding, and the combat is simple, but fun. The highlights are absolutely the boss fights, and while none of them are particularly challenging, they all do an excellent job of integrating Shantae's tools in some clever and entertaining way.

One of the potential shortcomings in Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is that the game is simply too easy, and a majority of the levels can be completed without even sniffing death. There is a fine line between simple and simplistic, and while the game does a great job keeping it accessible, more hardcore gaming enthusiasts might find the challenge in the game a bit lacking. There aren't too many tricks in combat and a majority of the platforming challenges can be cleared on the first go, and while it is a fun ride all the way until the end, a bit more of a challenge would have been appreciated. Luckily, the game makes up for this somewhat by throwing together a truly excellent final dungeon that will test the skills of even the most seasoned of Metroidvania enthusiasts. It does a great job of piecing together all of the skills and techniques learned throughout the game, and the entire last dungeon is such a rush that the fact the rest of the game veers on the easy side of things is quickly forgiven.

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

There are plenty of secrets to find, and by digging around the levels hidden heart containers or special enemies will be revealed. The heart containers add on to Shantae's life bar, while defeating all the special enemies in the game unlocks the best ending. The dungeons are all very well designed, giving the player the perfect mix between exploration and platforming or combat. There is a unique theme to each of the levels, and as Shantae's skills are unlocked bit-by-bit each island tends to have its own sort of challenges and enemies that give them all a very unique feel. While the main quest only lasts around six hours or so, digging around for all the secrets or participating in the encouraged speed run helps give extra incentive to additional playthroughs.

While there is much to love about Shantae and crew, there are some notable shortcomings that keep it just outside the upper echelon of Metroidvania titles. Levels are very linear and there isn't as much as an emphasis on exploration as it initially appears. Everything also feels very segmented, and rather than one cohesive world to jump into, a main hub separates out all of the levels. While neither of these things are huge issues, what is slightly more concerning is the fact that there is no real progression from the start of the adventure until the end. New abilities are unlocked, but they are mostly only used in situations to advance further in the levels. The layouts and Shantae's moves don't really become more complex as the adventure continues, and the main difference is that by the end the hair whips do slightly more damage if all of the power-ups have been purchased. As such, everything up until the final dungeon sort of blends together and the game lacks that organic growth and smooth ramp up in difficulty that is found in all the best Metroidvania titles.

The game also has this particularly annoying habit of forcing the player to backtrack in what appears to be a clumsy method to artificially extend its length. Multiple times Shantae will be sent off to a specific location, only for the game to hold up a big stop sign and tell her to go back and get the mystical item of plot lubricant before she can proceed. Not only is this sort of thing annoying, but it completely breaks the flow of an otherwise well-paced title. The areas aren't huge, so it never takes too long to go and retrieve whatever is needed, but it always feels like the game is trying to come up with some menial errand for Shantae to complete before it is willing to let her have any fun.

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

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While Shantae falls just short of reaching the top tier of Metroidvania/platforming titles available on the 3DS, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is sure to satisfy long-time fans of the series and provide a good argument to hop on board the bandwagon for anyone who has been missing out on this series. A bit more of a challenge would have been nice, as would have been a bit more variety in the actual combat, but these are minor concerns for a package that is thoroughly enjoyable. With solid gameplay, well designed dungeons, and some great boss fights, this is a title that fans of platformers would be foolish to miss out on.

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   

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