and the Pirate's Curse
Reviewed by Philip "Pocket
Squirrel" Wesley (Deluxe Version Review 10/23/2014)
Size: 2315 BLOCKS on the eShop. (Verified
by our Download Guide)
Save: SD Card Backup/3 Slots
Works with: All 3DS Models.
ESRB Rated: E10+
Rating Descriptions: Suggestive Themes, Comic Mischief
Discloser: A review code was
provided by Wayforward, before the launch of this title, to aid in this
Review has been updated to reflect Additional Software Update!
first Shantae title started life as a Super Nintendo concept back in
but was never developed further on that system. Many
changes to the concept, most of them drastic, evolved the game until
the very first Shantae title was finally born on the Nintendo Game Boy
Color, published by Capcom, in 2002. The title was pretty hard to find
and there was a limited amount of the game produced. This forced
obscurity did not stop Wayforward's little Half-Genie that could from
gaining a following of fans. Wayforward continued to explore the idea
of putting out a sequel to Shantae. In 2010, a sequel to the original
game was finally released on the Nintendo DSi Ware service, published
by Wayforward themselves. When the Nintendo 3DS arrived, the very first
Game Boy Color game was released on the Virtual Console service. It has
been four years since the second game and twelve years since the first
game. During that time from when the first game came out and today,
Wayforward has continued to produce quality side scrolling games for
portables, consoles, and mobile systems with a wide variety of
interesting mechanics. Wayforward has developed extremely acclaimed
titles like Contra 4, Ducktales Remastered, and Mighty Switch Force.
Every good video game company has a character that embodies and
represents their craft. Nintendo has Mario, UBI Soft has Rayman, Sega
has Sonic, Capcom has Mega Man, and Wayforward has Shantae. Every
single one of her adventures is always filled to the brim with the
blood, sweat, and tears of her creators. That may be why it takes so
long between her each of her games.
Before we go into the new game,
it might be a good idea to take a look back
at the previous two
games in the series and the game mechanics they used. We will also be
diving straight into story spoilers for the previous two titles and I
am warning you of this now. Turn back if you have not beaten the
previous two games! Turn your eyes away and go purchase those two
games, finish them, and get back over here once you are done.
This game introduced us to the
world of Sequin Land
and revolves around the discovery of Steam
Technology. We are introduced to Shantae, the Guardian Genie of Scuttle
Town. We meet Risky Boots, the Lovely Lady Looter of the High
Seas. We meet Rottytops, a Zesty Zombie who just wants to have
her friends over for lunch. We also meet Mimic, Skye, and Bolo, any one
of those three people could be important for some reason. The trouble
begins when Shantae's caretaker, a Relic Hunter whom she calls "Uncle
Mimic," discovers an ancient (Hmm..
buried blueprint for a Steam Engine. The rapacious rascal Risky right
robs him of the "new "technology. Risky then goes in search of magic
stones to make it more powerful in a bid for power. We are also
introduced to the idea of the "Genie Realm," a place where only full
genies can live, which will probably not be important for any of the
other games until Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Of course, Shantae wins the
day, but that does not stop the proliferation of Steam Engine
This game features three
animal transformations based on button inputs while
dancing, a day and night cycle, and enemies that take a zillion hits to
kill. The game also has a "life system" and you lose a life when you
fall into a bottomless pit or get hit too much and lose all of your
hearts. The constant death by bottomless pits got to be a bit
irritating in my opinion. When you were in towns, the game had a behind
the hero look where you navigated a panorama view of the town. There
were also a distinct lack of proper maps in the game.
Risky's Revenge (2010)
The second Shantae game briefly acknowledges a few jokes from the first
game and then sets up much more of a story focus. Since Shantae
defeated Risky Boots in the explosive finale of the previous game, all
of the monsters in Sequin Land have been out to get her! Despite the
constant harassment of our leading lady, Shantae is pretty happy. But
all of that changes when Shantae's "Uncle" Mimic finds a lamp on one of
his gut-clenching adventures. Never reformed rapscallion Risky steals
the lamp and begins looking for Magic Seals that may unlock some power
that the lamp has inside. Mimic tells Shantae that the Magic Seals are
in the hands of other Relic Hunters, who refer to themselves as
"Barons" and there are three Barons in Sequin Land. Shantae sets out to
recover those Magic Seals and prevent Risky from using the lamp. This adventure does not end well for
If you have not played this title, I suggest that you
do so before reading onwards as I have to spoil part of the ending of
that game in order to explain the mechanics of this game. It is
available on the Nintendo eShop, on the PC on STEAM, and the Apple iOS
store as an extremely well done application that controls quite well,
despite the lack of buttons.
This game ditches the day and
has an easier to traverse world, lowers the amount
of hits that enemies take, removes the life system, removes the instant
death by bottomless pits, and presents a map for the overworld.
Although dungeons still lack a map. This game includes the ability to
jump back and forth between layers of the screen at certain areas
giving the game a feel similar to Wario Land on the Virtual Boy. There
are even more dialog moments and there are a lot of "fetch quests" to
open up areas in the game. All of it takes place on the island that
Scuttle Town is on. Shantae now has the ability to swim and there is a
visual cue to let you know when a pit will hurt you if you fall in it.
There is more of a "speed run"
feel to the game, there is a hidden shooting section, and the panorama
town navigation is gone.
Risky's Revenge also ends on a
Shantae ends up as a normal human girl with no
magical ability, other than her ability to hit things with her hair.
That lamp holds a dark secret ability of being able to absorb magic and
you can kind of
guess what happened when our magical girl ends up facing off against a
villain with such an item at their disposal.
It took four years of delays and
development to get to this game
and it will be the "final" game
in the portable "trilogy" of Shantae, Shantae: Risky's Revenge, and
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. We have been waiting to see what
happens next after the tragic blow dealt to Shantae at the end of
Was the four year wait worth it?
is being tormented by dark dreams of a lonely grave calling out to her.
She has been having these dreams ever since Risky Boots used a magic
stealing lamp to turn Shantae into a human. These dreams are becoming
more and frequent and this worries Shantae greatly. Her friends are
doing their best to help her when the Ammo Baron attacks Scuttle Town.
Shantae fights him off and ends up in an awful situation that threatens
to ruin her life. Suddenly, Risky Boots shows up, captures Shantae, and
demands the return of her troops and weapons. Of course, Shantae has no
idea what she is talking about, but a quick trip to Mimic's lab reveals
that Risky's Tinkerbats are becoming "Cacklebats" due to a terrible
amount of dispersed dark magic swelling around the grave of the Pirate
Master. That grave is the same one that has been haunting Shantae's
every repose. Teaming up with Risky, against her better judgment,
Shantae is tasked with finding and destroying the pits of dark energy
that the Pirate Master is gathering power from before it is too late.
She must also find maps for the islands around Scuttle Town, collect
treasure, rescue (sort of) adorable Heart Squids, and cleanse 20 hidden
Cacklebats by using the lamp to capture the Dark Magic inside of those
Cacklebats. Along the way, Shantae will find pirate equipment that
allows her to access new areas and traverse the various obstacles in
The majority of the game is a
side scrolling, exploration based platformer with an emphasis on collection. The
gameplay is occasionally broken up with a few sections like an
impromptu stealth section, and an area where you run
through a gauntlet of obstacles that you can not fight against. The
world is broken up into different themed islands that you can freely
visit once you have found a map to them. Each island has a set amount
of hidden Heart Squids (which you can collect to increase your health),
Cacklebats, and a few mini dungeons, bosses, and so forth. There are
instances where you need take objects to other characters on other
islands to advance the plot as well.
The basic flow of the game
follows this formula: You arrive on a new island, discover an
event on the island, then find the main dungeon of the island. Each
main dungeon contains a map of the dungeon, keys, and various obstacles
to overcome before taking on a screen filling boss character in order
to get another map to find the next island. In between these sections,
you will collect money to upgrade your weapons, discover hidden
dungeons, and partake in mostly funny, often slightly dark, story sequences. The
inclusion of a map inside of each dungeon is a huge deal for this game,
although I did find a fairly large hidden dungeon modeled after the
Game Boy Color levels that did not contain a map. I will not tell you
where that one is, you have to discover it yourself.
There are quite a few sections
of the game that are tough because of spikes, pits, and other
obstacles. Once you get the hang of it, you may be able to just soar
through a lot of the game very quickly. I played through the game
multiple times before doing this review and some areas are pretty
frustrating the first time through, but once you learn their rhythm,
you can blaze through them and look impressive doing it. This is a sign
of excellent level design and a fair sense of balance. You are only as
good as the skills you have developed through playing the game.
There are a few complaints that
will have to get addressed in the Gameplay and Play Control section of
this review. I would like to state that I did enjoy the story of
the game a lot. It feels great to revisit these characters and see how
they have progressed since the very first game. Although the story of
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse requires you to have some knowledge of
the events from the second game to fully appreciate the story, you
could use the paragraphs at the beginning of this review to catch up to
speed. You will mostly understand the story, but it really helps to at
least play through the second game. Story elements aside, the game
stands on its own as a challenging, entertaining, and worthwhile
Liked: I love the little
references to the previous titles, the new powers and areas were
superb. The platforming sections were great, each of the power ups are
useful, and the bosses have interesting patterns designed to make it
possible to take them down with out getting hit. The story is charming
and full of the same, slightly off, undertone of franchises like Bone
or Adventure Time. Seriously, the world that Shantae inhabits is built
on the remains of technology, which would make the setting of Shantae a
I love those kinds of stories a lot, so that just casts a smile on my
face, and a little tear in my eye. Please consider the fact that
Shantae seems to be the only Half-Genie as well. This would make her
the adorable Vampire Hunter D of Sequin Land. There are hints through
out the series that something catastrophic happened to prevent full
Genies from living in the same dimension as the "people" of Sequin
Land. If you read more in to the game, you are going to get some
interesting hints and insight into the pasts of Risky Boots, Shantae,
Rottytops (Poor Rottytops),
and many of the other characters in this game. (Rottytops is my
favorite character in the whole series.)
Hated: There is a stealth
section and a "running" section in the game that I feel were, by far,
the weakest parts in the game. There are some issues with the play
control/game design of the game as well. From a socially concerned
perspective, this game has a little bit of fan service in the character
design that some people may feel uncomfortable with. If you are a
person who was shocked and appalled by the costume Princess Leia had in
Return of the Jedi, than you will probably feel the same way about the
character designs in this game. (You
also have my pity.)
There is not enough nope for what is happening here.
expanded resolution of the Nintendo 3DS is used to give more space
for Shantae and this factors into the game play by allowing screen
filling enemies and lush locales. Each island has a distinct theme to
it: A lush tropical paradise, a graveyard, a frozen wasteland, a
Hellish underworld of Lost Souls, and more! The character animation is
smooth and everything moves at an excellent frame rate even in 3D. I
have to comment on the 3D in this game because it is some of the best
subtle 3D I have seen in a while. Areas are layered and detailed with
surprising use of 3D elements to liven up the landscapes. When in a
conversation with other main characters, there are superb character
portraits with varied emotions and some visually creative character
designs. There is also some, slightly questionable application of 3D to
these character portraits. The game has a very realized art style and
world that works incredibly well for it. The enemies are all very
animated and there is very little reuse of enemy assets. That said,
some enemies have only evolved just slightly from their appearances in
Risky's Revenge and that seems a little unfortunate.
Another day in paradise ruined by these things.
I wonder if he dislikes smoke?
Shantae beats up a Blue Meanie with the power of head banging.
Liked: Excellent use of 3D in the environments and the little
animations. For example, in the first area you play through, Shantae
kicks up bits of dust when she jumps on stairs in the area. The dust
clouds are on what appears to be two different layers giving them a
three dimensional feel when the 3D is on. The particle effects in this
game are superb. Another example would be the subtle moving in and out
of layers that the floating, transparent skulls over bottomless pits do
in the game. I loved the island navigation graphics with Risky, which
is a call back to the town navigation in the first game. Everything
seems so vibrant and alive...
This looks like a job for IKEA.
Hated: Except that the close up character sprite portraits do not move.
I still want them to move, blink, or otherwise animate. Some of the
enemies that are reused from previous games appear to be barely
upgraded from their Risky's Revenge incarnations.
newest addition to the game are small sound clips with Cristina Vee, the voice actor
While that is pretty great, it would be even
better if there were full voice acting or some sort of Banjo-Kazooie
esque chatter with some of the characters. The voice acting is limited
to a few phrases here and there from Shantae, but it would also help to
have that limited voice acting on other characters as well. Even if it
means that Matt Bozon would have to voice Mayor Scuttlebutt or they
make Tomm Hulett voice Bolo. Just a little more voice acting would be
some pretty great icing on an otherwise superb audio cake. The folly
and sound effects are appropriate and have a good weight to them. When
you hit something like a wall, it sounds like hit a wall, and not
something else. I have to say that the sound made when speeding through
enemies with your sword is satisfying since it has that same feel,
sound wise, as breaking through walls in the original Sonic The
Hedgehog on the Sega Genesis.
Now let us talk about the music in this game.
There are some
subtle dub step drops mixed into some of the music, but it works a lot
better than that sentence sounds. The slow and moody compositions are
superb, the action music and boss music is suitably intense, and there
is not a bad track in the entire game. Some of it is not very memorable
though, but it is incredibly good. Let us face the awful truth here, Jake
makes excellent music that fits the games he
composes the music for and this is no exception.
Liked: When companies
hire Virt for their game, the music is always a high point in that
game, and there are some awesome tracks in Shantae and the Pirate's
Curse. Jake Kaufman is the Shoji Meguro of the West. His compositions are always
appropriate, feel epic, and are always top tier. Get a good pair of
headphones and crank it up. I also loved Cristina Vee's vocals for
Shantae, even though her voice acting was limited in use.
Hated: That limited
voice acting that feels more like a tease than anything else. Only have
vocalizations and statements from Shantae makes the other characters
seem a bit flat. I want to hear the sultry sounds of Risky Boots (who
should totally be voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn), the playfully
hungry voice of Rottytops, the "Paris from Gilmore Girls"-Esque
complaints of Skye, and the general awkwardness of Bolo. I hate that I
am denied the audio pleasure of hearing these characters vocally come
game feels like a natural evolution from Risky's Revenge in terms of
size, scope, and content. The introduction and inclusion of the
Pirate Weapons is an inspired choice. The level design allows for a lot
of creative exploration and the ability to choose how you upgrade
allows people to make the game tougher or easier depending on how much
time they put into it. When you beat the game the first time, there is
a mode that is ready made for sequence breaking and speed running. The
levels are designed in a way that starting in that special mode means
you can access the bosses in each main dungeon fairly quickly. You can
choose to upgrade your weapons and health in a way that feels natural,
but the game is more challenging if you choose to forgo those upgrades.
It almost feels like there is not enough save points for all of the
different ways to play through this game. Do you want to try and beat
it with just two hearts? Try beating it in less than three hours? Go
for it! The game is designed to be flexible and encourage multiple play
through sessions. The ability to skip through dialogue with the START
button and do some fairly clever sequence breaking means that this game
will make speed runners extremely happy.
The navigation between islands is easy and it keeps track of the
Heart Squids and Cacklebats that you have found on each island. The
back and forth nature of finding items is entirely up to you in certain
instances, although you will need to deliver some items to certain
characters to progress the plot. This takes up a lot less time than it
did in Risky's Revenge. The inclusion of items that warp you back to
your boat are also appreciated.
However, the navigation between items in the bottom screen menu is
dreadful. You have to tap left or right on the
touch screen to move between the Inventory, Key Items, and Map. In
order to use an item in your inventory, you need to tap it once and
then tap it again to activate it. This is actually quite difficult to
do in the heat of combat, especially when trying to do a two heart run
on the game. On the original 3DS and 3DS XL, the movement to tap that
item can also break the 3D effect. The lack being able to conveniently
select, cue up, and use an item is troubling.
As of the 02.02 Update: Circle Pad Pro support has been added to the
game that allows Bottom Screen Menu navigation with the second stick
and activation by taping ZR+ZL at the same time. This is much easier to
Liked: Flexible game
design means that there is plenty of replayability to this game. The
play control is responsive and fairly precise, which allows you to make
some truly stunning moves to get past some of the trickier areas. Hit
detection is also forgiving and there is an item to prevent "fall back"
deaths. There is an item that allows you to float and an item that
allows a kind of special jump. If you have the fall back item, hitting
the button at the right time in a hard damage animation will pop you
back up right and you can tap into any of those jump moves to escape.
There is also a dodge move that you can purchase that can be used,
along with creative damage taking, to force Shantae into areas of the
screen she should not be able to reach yet. You can sequence break with
the special mode, or inside of the main game by taking advantage of
some of the animation hit boxes. You can think of these exploits as
kind of like Monster Hunter or Dark Souls. Also, the Bubble Shield,
Monster Milk, Auto-Potion, and Pike Balls are so good. There are bosses
that fill the screen with bullets that the Bubble Shield can
temporarily block. Keep that in mind if you are trying to do a two
heart run through the game.
inventory via the touch screen is awkward in a bad way.
(Free Ideas For Game Designers!)
addition of blinking or slight moving animation in the close up
character portraits and the inclusion of more voice acting would
improve the story presentation in this game greatly and my headphones
would be so grateful.
But the biggest improvement would be to use the Circle Pad Pro
attachment or the additions that the newest revision to the
Nintendo 3DS adds. Mainly the ZL, ZR, and second slide pad/camera
stick. It would be pretty simple to add too. Just let ZL and ZR allow
you to switch between the Map, Inventory, and Key Items screen. You
select items with the second slide pad/camera stick and then you push
ZR and ZL together to activate the selected item in your Inventory.
even better use would be to move the Map screen to the SELECT button.
Just tap the select button to display the map on the bottom screen and
then tap SELECT again to hide the map. Tap ZL to switch between
Inventory and Key Items. Select an Inventory item with the second slide
pad/camera stick and tap ZR to use the item.
UPDATE: As of the 02.02
update, the game adds the features mentioned in this review! I have
bolded what was added. Both Select and Start still just bring up the
continue/quit option. Maybe for 03.03? Also, blinking needs to happen!
I would like to talk a bit about the tone of the narrative in this
game. Some of the dialogue hints and teases at darker things
under the surface of this bright colorful world. I play through these
games waiting for that gut punch moment where some of the darker
elements just click into place. The characters are there, the music is
there, the graphics (especially later in the game) are there, and the
narrative just continues to poke at the edges of what could be some
pretty heart breaking revelations. This game came so close in spots and
just seems to "dance" around obviously dark material. Shantae is a
bundle of insecurities behind an otherwise young, hopeful, and trusting
personality. When she hits the low point at the end of the second game,
I was expecting her to grow more as a character in this game. Does she
do that? Yes, but I feel that the story has earned a chance to make
very bold character choices. If anything, it makes me all the more
excited to see what Shantae's next adventure will hold for her and her
friends. (Especially Rottytops.)
Another missed opportunity would be that there were not enough dungeon
specific obstacles or hazards. In some levels, there are weird
plant monsters that shoot your character around at high speed ala
certain levels of Mighty Switch Force. I would have really loved to see
a level with the circle gravity from Mighty Milky Way, the gravity
shifting of Wendy's Every Witch Way, or an area with the plane jumping
from Risky's Revenge. I feel that the "stealth" level would have been
improved by having the level revolve around a set of dual switches that
opens the doors. In that level, there could have been one more
character to control and you could have been able to switch between the
characters to find and hit the switches without getting caught. That
would have been an interesting mechanic. Of course, I am saying all of
this after it has taken the team at Wayforward about four years to
produce this game. If people listened to me, they would never be able
to release a game, ever!
(Recommended If You Like...)
easy answer would be Castlevania or Metroid. This game certainly
has a narrative feel similar to Metroid Fusion or Metroid Zero Mission.
But I would never call it a MetroidVania. If anything, I would call the
Shantae series of titles a BouncyVania because the mood of the game is
light, fun, and adorably bouncy with levity.
If you enjoyed the previous Shantae games, you will love this game. The
honest answer is that you will love this game if you enjoyed the Mega
Man Zero or Mega Man ZX series of games. The feel of the Mega Man Zero
series, in particular, stands out to me as a series that was not afraid
to take bold steps with the characters in that series.
hope that some day, Wayforward takes the risk and breaks our hearts
with a narrative choice. They have earned it in their story
place setting to be able to do that kind of thing. Besides, we have so
much we still want to know about our characters. What were they like as
kids? Why are they the way they are now? You have this brilliant world
these charming characters inside of it who are one of the main reasons
I love this series. The other reason I keep looking forward to new
installments in this franchise is that the game always has fantastic
platforming action with a lot of challenge and heart to it.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
does justice to the games that came before it, while expanding
the characters in its world in terms of depth. The only issues I have
with the game are that it still has a bit of room to grow in
presentation and the inventory management is just awkward in this game
due to the increased speed and fluidity of the game play. The
navigation between levels on the boat was a wonderful call back to the
town navigation and pleased me greatly. I thoroughly enjoyed this game
and I feel that it is worth your time and hard earned gold to dive back
into Sequin Land for this jaunty romp of a game.
The bottom menu navigation has been improved as of update 02.02, but I
still feel that my original score for the game is fair. I love that
companies go back and improve their released work and I look forward to
adding those updates to these reviews in the future.
Play Control/Game Design: ****
Star Total: 69
Personal Opinion Merit: 21
Final Score Tally: 91%