Review by Ninkobra
Best game in the series. Well worth the wait.
After a lot of waiting, Shantae and the Pirate's cure, the third game in the Shantae series, finally arrives on 3DS, and the wait was well worth it.
Shantae and the Pirate's curse picks up not too long after the events of Risky's Revenge (DSi/iOS/Steam). Without her genie powers, Shantae has to make do with her whip-like hair and several items she finds through her adventure in order to navigate areas and dungeons inspired by the 2D Metroid and Castlevania games and battle the creatures she encounters.
First off, and seriously important, this game is FUN. It is an enjoyable ride from beginning to end. For reasons I will explain in detail later in the review, this game is an absolute dream to experience. The graphics, music, controls, environments, story and other miscellaneous elements mix together to create an unforgettable experience that truly shows how well-spent those 2+ years of development were spent. The game controls like a dream. It might take a while to get used to Shantae's controls, but once it clicks, it becomes second nature. Shantae moves exactly where you want her to move, and not a millimeter more or less. Performing special moves are not too difficult, but some, like the unlockable kick, take a while to master, and some, like the kick, are not worth the time to master.
The game itself, however, can get quite difficult. It is easily the hardest of the Shantae games. As you earn power-ups and health, the enemies also get stronger and the puzzles get harder. Some enemies might surprise you with their attacks and how much damage they give, but the game never reaches the point of frustration and with enough practice and watching the enemy patterns you could get around (mostly) unscathed.
Without spoiling much (that you couldn't already figure out by watching the trailers), the story in Pirate's Curse starts with Shantae having to deal with not having her Genie powers anymore, fending off Ammo Baron, an egotistical military-minded man who wishes to turn Shantae's home town of Scuttle Town into a militarized zone, and the imminent revival of the Pirate Master, by which she teams up with former nemesis Risky Boots to stop him from returning. While it may sound simplistic (and admittedly, the main plot is not too deep), the tale remains entertaining the whole way through, with hilarious dialogue, interesting characters (both returning and new), and some surprising hidden depths found mostly in the subplots. Two characters in particular receive the attention needed to deepen their character traits and become more endearing, three-dimensional characters. Also, as opposed to Risky's Revenge, the story does not feel rushed or otherwise cut too short.
The graphics in this game are phenomenal. There are some drawbacks, however. A lot of sprite art from returning characters (like Shantae herself), enemies and places are carryovers from Risky's Revenge. Also, the character sprites are rather small, considering the 3DS is capable of way larger sprites. However, this is made up by the new characters, new animations, and the way the developers capitalized on the small sprites by making longer draw distances and bigger environments overall, giving the game an epic feel. Some enemies and bosses are simply enormous, too! Special mention goes to the 3D effect, put into particular good use in this game (and no, I'm not talking about the... ahem... well-designed character portraits) especially with particle effects and giving away little nuances for hidden secrets.
As for the music, it is simply a joy to listen to. There is not a single track wasted here. Everything fits the theme of the environment or situation given, and it has a great sense of variety, so we're not stuck with one genre of music through the game. It is sometimes funky, sometimes epic, sometimes quiet, sometimes mysterious, but always wonderful. Also, a lot of tracks are sprinkled with nostalgia from the previous Shantae games (particularly the Game Boy Color original), all to great effect.
One of the biggest complaints about Shantae: Risky's Revenge was its short length. Pirate's Curse fixes that with a meatier, longer adventure that's at least four times as long as Risky's Revenge. Even so, most people (myself included) have reportedly finished the game in under 10 hours on the first time through. However, this game being a Metroidvania-style game, there are many ways to replay the game to keep the experience fresh, some of them are officially rewarded in the game (such as playing the game as fact as possible, or finding all the collectible items). Also, upon beating the game once, you unlock Pirate Mode, in which you start the game with all the plot-relevant upgrades, heavily encouraging speedrunning and repeated playthroughs.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Some people screamed when Shantae and the Pirate's Curse was announced to cost $20. I say the experience you get is well worth the $20. If you're a Shantae fan, this game is a no-brainer. If you're new to the series, this is a great entry point, as it is the most balanced entry in the series. In short, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse was well worth the 2+ years of development and the long wait.
Product Release: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (US, 10/23/14)
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