Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 21.03.2018

Review for Shantae and the Pirate

Directly following the events of Risky's Revenge, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse picks up with a Shantae who has no access whatsoever to magic. Stripping a main character of their powers is a bold move in any franchise, but it's even bolder coming from Shantae just three games in. Without so much of a chance to establish a consistent move-set for Shantae, WayForward has moved the genie down a different path, one that forces her out of her comfort zone. It's a clever way of ensuring Pirate's Curse isn't derivative of Risky's Revenge, but it also establishes the franchise as one where continuity sticks. It's a creative premise for a sequel, and one that pays off tremendously.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is proof that a game does not have to be story heavy to cleverly or properly utilise literary techniques. After having her powers stripped by Risky Boots, Shantae now finds and uses Risky's own equipment in her journey throughout the story. It's a nice parallel that makes a lot of sense, while generally just being well realised in execution. It is by no means an overly sophisticated premise, but it's one that serves the overarching narrative in a great way, while developing the relationship between Shantae and Risky, the franchises' two leads.

More importantly, this premise serves the gameplay magnificently. Since Shantae no longer has access to magic, her move-set can't be pasted from Risky's Revenge. On top of that, this change necessitates a grounding in how she plays, meaning her upgrades end up being all the more creative. Were her abilities still over the top without the use of magic, it would negate the entire narrative weight of removing it in the first place.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo Switch

Coming from the previous two entries in the series, it can be jarring seeing Shantae without her genie abilities. It really is a turn for the best, however. It would have been easy to centre the story round Shantae collecting her abilities back one by one, but it's more satisfying to overcome challenges without them. At its core, it's a clever way of keeping players on their toes, while giving them new goodies to play around with.

As Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is a Metroidvania, each island has its fair share of secrets to uncover. Since there's no equipment system, however, these secrets tend to fall into one of two categories: heart squids and cacklebats. Heart squids can be collected and exchanged for more hearts, while cacklebat collection ultimately leads to a new ending and final boss when all 20 are defeated. It's the level of choice involved in both collectibles that make them compelling. Heart squids aren't automatic health upgrades and need to be manually exchanged for a payout, allowing players to keep the two initial hearts in favour of a harder playthrough. Cacklebats, likewise, need to be hunted by going off the beaten path. Many games make their criteria for other endings rather obvious, so it's nice to see a scenario where the best ending actually has to be earned through exploration.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo Switch

The islands themselves are well designed and home to some great set-pieces. Sequin Land is never in need of any colour. Each island is vibrant and alive with a clear tone, aesthetically and atmospherically; large part in thanks to Jake Kaufman's outstanding score. There isn't a single track that feels out of place. More importantly, the islands just feel great to traverse. Shantae controls very smoothly, with no stiffness in her movement. Jumping is fluid and there's enough control given to her attacks where it's easy to keep a constant flow of gameplay.

It should be noted that, despite being a Metroidvania, there isn't one, single cohesive map to travel across. The islands all have their own mini-maps with secrets to find. This can be a bit disappointing since part of the fun of a Metroidvania is that interconnectivity, but this simplicity allows Pirate's Curse to flow with little-to-no padding. There are instances where Shantae will have to travel to previous islands to progress the plot, but these moments all go by fast and will be obvious to anybody paying attention to the story. More importantly, this allows the pacing to glide by. There's a constant feeling of progression thanks to virtually no filler. This does result in a main adventure that falls on the short side, but it's better than a painfully padded experience.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo Switch

Along with the story progression, Shantae has her own form of progression through the use of gems. A form of currency is to be expected in a Metroidvania, but it's used differently enough here to be worth noting. Shantae lacks a levelling system, but the lead still needs a method of improving herself. By buying upgrades at the shop, she can increase the damage output for her hair and weapons, the speed at which she whips her locks, and uncover new moves altogether. A fully upgraded Shantae makes for a very versatile half-genie with an incredibly fun set of moves.

Upon clearing the main story, Pirate Mode unlocks; a mode where Shantae begins the plot with all her new gear. This is a great addition that makes replaying Pirate's curse a vastly different experience from the first time around. Like almost every other design element, it's a clever decision that benefits the whole package.

Screenshot for Shantae and the Pirate's Curse on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While Shantae and the Pirate's Curse may fall on the simple side when it comes to Metroidvanias, its simplicity winds up being one of its biggest strengths. With little-to-no padding, and a constant feeling of progression, the main adventure flies by at an incredibly comfortable pace. Each island is made great use of in their initial visit and revisit alike, and there are more than enough heart squids and cacklebats to uncover. Gems are used wisely, allowing Shantae to purchase upgrades for her hair and weapons but, more importantly, the lack of her traditional move-set gives her some creative alternatives to what could have simply become the series' standard. The references to previous games can be a bit off-putting to any franchise newcomers, but the acknowledgement allows for Sequin Land to feel truly alive. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is creative, charming, and one of the most cleverly designed Metroidvanias on the market.

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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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