Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse – PC
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Publisher: WayForward Technologies
Release Date (WW): April 23, 2015
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10 – Great
My first review for this site was Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut for the PC, a good game with some notable flaws that held it back from reaching true greatness. Today, I’d like to talk with you all about its sequel, a game that took this hidden gem series from the dying days of the Game Boy Color and polished it into a gem that shines brightly into the future. That game is Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.
After the events of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, the titular half-genie hero was robbed of her genie powers. Even so, she strives to protect the people of Scuttle Town from any outside threats, but she’s fired from her position as guardian yet again when a small subplot from the previous game comes back to bite Scuttle Town in the backside. The Ammo Baron invades the town, but when Shantae fights him off it’s revealed that he owns the town legally, landing Shantae in house arrest.
Shantae is visited by her nemesis, the dread pirate Risky Boots, who believes that she’s connected to the disappearance and kidnapping of a large number of Tinkerbats, Risky’s supernatural crewmates. When the two investigate, however, they find that dark magic is infecting the creatures, turning them into monstrous beings with bat-like wings and sharp fangs called Cacklebats, mindlessly attacking any nearby. Risky gives Shantae the magic lamp previously used to steal her magic, allowing Shantae to take the magic and prevent it from harming others.
Risky Boots reveals that the curse is likely connected to her former captain, the undead Pirate Master, who was sealed away by the sacrifice of all the whole-blooded Genies in the land. It takes some legal finagling and persuasion, but Shantae and Risky team up to gather up all the dark magic and put an end to the Pirate Master once and for all.
Without the ability to transform into different animals or use magic, Shantae’s abilities have changed significantly from previous games. They had to, as she had to adapt to using human abilities. While she doesn’t develop the martial prowess she had in the first game, with its various special attacks, she does move into a new style by borrowing the tools of former nemesis Risky Boots.
On the various islands near Scuttle Town, dungeons are hidden that house evil energy. These same dungeons now contain the various equipment that Risky Boots used to wield. A cutlass, running boots, a parachute hat, a cannon and a pistol may not sound like much, but using these tools together transforms Shantae’s playstyle into an exciting charge into fun and adventure.
That said, not everything has changed. Shantae still wields her hair as a weapon, as effective as ever. She still has access to battle items, new and old, though she has to buy them ahead of time now instead of fueling them with magic. Enemies can drop healing items or battle items, and there’s a new buffing item called Monster Milk, which gives Shantae a significant attack boost for a short time. The different items allow for a strategic approach to combat, letting players take on the game’s challenges in whatever way they prefer.
The game has multiple endings, based on how much of the dark magic you’ve taken from the Cacklebats. If you don’t have it all, you won’t be able to face the final boss and get the best ending. On top of that, you can get different backgrounds for your main menu based on how you beat the game, with rewards for beating the game, beating it with 100% completion, and beating it under two hours.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has more content than the previous entry, with numerous side quests and twice the number of dungeons and areas to visit along the way. Beating the game also unlocks Pirate Mode, which lets you start with all of Risky Boots’ equipment. It’s not as significant a change as Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut’s Magic Mode, but it can be fun to speed run the game in this fashion.
The technical issues that I had with Risky’s Revenge are largely fixed here, as well. I can’t remember any significant trouble caused by enemy scrolling, the controller set-up was altered to a more comfortable style, and with the expanded map there’s much less backtracking forced upon the player. Yes, there are more secrets to find as you get more of the pirate gear, but that’s an optional pursuit for players to find at their own pace, instead of being plot-mandated.
Many of the graphic assets from Risky’s Revenge are reused in Pirate’s Curse, but both new content and enhanced quality are present as well. New environments, objects and monsters can be found easily enough. More dramatic is the difference in portrait art; while it’s still in a style reminiscent of Japanese anime and manga, the amount of detail put into it is much higher than it was before, along with having more numerous expressions and poses for each character. In general, it feels more professional just looking at it.
The music also takes a step forward in quality and memorability here, pushing into memorable territory while still retaining the energy and tailor-fit nature present in previous efforts. Just thinking about the music of the game brought different songs to mind, much like with more popular franchises’ biggest hits.
Perhaps most importantly, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse’s atmosphere has improved. It hasn’t changed away from its happy, humorous nature, but it delivers more on the promised highs and lows of the adventure as it becomes more self-aware and pokes fun at this or that trend or trait. Shantae herself has a bit of fun with how she might not be considered a good role model by some people, due to her outfit and tendency to rush into things without thinking, but she’s never punished for being, essentially, human.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a very different game from Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, while still retaining the heart of the series that Risky’s Revenge helped establish, allowing the Shantae series to build itself up more and gather more support from the community. With the improvements in key areas without great loss, I fell in love with this game and the series as a whole. I played this game multiple times in a row, and the wait for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, the console-based sequel, is a daily struggle. I heavily recommend this game, especially at the standing price of $19.99. It’s an adventure that I consider a must-have, especially for those who love MetroidVania and platforming games.
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