Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
- Publisher: WayForward
- Developer: WayForward / Inti Creates
- Nintendo 3DS: 23 October 2014
- Wii U: 25 December 2014
- PC: 23 April 2015
- Genre: 2D Action
- Players: 1
|New equipment like the Pirate Hat elevate|
the gameplay experience, pardon the pun.
Control ergonomics aside, this decision was a good one in the interest of making the gameplay feel fresh again. They don't offer the same abilities as the animal transformations from the first two games, but nonetheless offer new possibilities for exploring the game worlds. But it's not all different: the series' traditional attack items such as Fire Balls, Pike Balls, and Storm Puffs are back again. Whereas attack items in Risky's Revenge were fueled by a magic meter, Pirate's Curse switches them back to being consumables. However, they can be dropped by defeated enemies as well as purchased from the shop, so things even out on that front. Once again, Heart Squids may be collected to extend Shantae's maximum health, although instead of instantly taking effect as you would expect to see in most video games, you have to bring them to the "squidsmith" in Scuttle Town, who will smash them four at a time to form new heart containers. Sadistic, yes, but it also clues you in to the level of comedy you'll be dealing with in Pirate's Curse.
Instead of the singular overworld map employed in the first two Shantaes, and indeed most every Metroidvania-type game, the world of Pirate's Curse is laid out across six or so islands, one of them being the main town and the others each containing one of the games dungeon levels, and connected by a hub menu. This was also a great decision, as it cuts down on travel time quite a bit. Besides, Dust: An Elysian Tail also did this sort of thing, and that was one of the few video games I gave a perfect score to! There were still a few fetch quests which had me lost the first time around, and some of the pre-dungeon events drug on just long enough to be not fun. For example, a mid-game episode on Tan Line Island forces you into a stealth section. Still, my first play-through clocked in at about 8 hours, and if I may say so, it was 8 hours well-spent. Beating the game once unlocks the Pirate Mode, where you get all the pirate acccessories from the start of the game. If nothing else, it lets us laypeople experiment with speed-running through the game.
|The character portraits look neat in stereoscopic 3D.|
...Take my word for it. (Wii U version.)
Still, I must stress that gameplay, not graphics, is nine-tenths of the law. Apart from the new abilities and streamlined world layout, I like how the little damage point numbers that pop up like from a classic RPG, or the halfway-decent map screen, including maps for dungeons, a glaring omission in the last game. It's the little details like those which take the experience over the top, although there are other details I wish had been cleaned up. I wish that I could leave notes on the maps when I find a place to come back to later (maybe I've been spoiled by The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds). It would certainly help me keep track of the numerous, and often unintuitive, trading-game fetch quests needed to progress through the game, as it's easy to ignore places you'll need to put things later on. Then there's the smaller stuff, like how the sub-menu automatically switches pages when I find a key item or something. But smaller stuff aside, Pirate's Curse ranks up there with sequels such as The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Mega Man Legends 2, or Just Cause 2, which don't reinvent too much, but fine-tune the experiences of their predecessor whilst offering far more of it. Pirate's Curse is clearly the best game in the Shantae series thus far, offering a challengine hurdle for Half-Genie Hero to clear. But whether or not it does, the SDP and I will be all over that like black on a Tinkerbat.
(...Don't look at me like that. Risky Boots's minions aren't Arfrican, they're literally black-skinned monster thingies.)
+ More content than the first two games (combined).
+ The pirate tools offer up new abilities for exploration.
+ Tasteful introduction of voice acting.
+ Retains the series' sense of humour.
- Some of the fetch quests can leave you wandering aimlessly to solve them.
- A few sections of the game appear to drag on, if only for being less fun than the rest of the game.
- The lack of upscaled graphics in the Wii U and PC ports seem like a missed opportunity.
Controls: 5 pirate tools out of 5
Design: 4 pirate tools out of 5
Graphics: 5 pirate tools out of 5
Audio: 5 pirate tools out of 5
The Call: 90% (A-)