The history of Shantae is a very interesting subject. A very late release on the Game Boy Color, the original Shantae pushed the handheld harder than any other game did, and could have easily passed as an early Game Boy Advance title. The game became a cult classic, and turned Shantae from a one hit wonder like Sparkster, to a franchise with a memorable face. After another Shantae game on the DSi, we hadn’t seen much of her lately. That changed with Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse came out on the 3DS back in late October, and now the Wii U version of the game is finally here. So how does the big screen version fair?
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a 2D side-scrolling Metroidvania-style adventure. You, naturally, play as Shantae, who has lost her magical powers as a genie and is now a pirate. You go through various areas defeating enemies while teaming up with your once arch nemesis to restore Sequin Land from evil, and attempt to attain Shantae’s magic back. It’s a standard story that’s reminiscent of the 16-bit days, and while it won’t win any awards, it’s suitable for this style of game.
The main focus of the game is the gameplay itself, which is done very well. WayForward crafted a game that feels very tight and well done. Shantae jumps, crawls, and attacks very fluidly. Your main attacks are your hair whip (I assume Willow Smith is a big Shantae fan) and a gun you acquire a little later into the game. Each of these can be upgraded by purchasing things in order to make them stronger or have a different effect. You can also acquire a few more moves to enhance your arsenal and keep things fresh throughout the game. The GamePad serves as a quick way to check your map, use items, or see what key items you have in your arsenal. The game also supports Off-TV play, which is a nice touch.
The game has solid variety too. Each level is large and while fundamentally similar to other levels, manages to feel different and fresh by adding a few different elements. I really enjoyed one mission where you had to “carry” someone, allowing you to not attack, and go through various hazards without getting hit. It broke up the gameplay nicely so it wasn’t just strictly jump, attack enemy, rinse and repeat. There are several collectibles as well, which help extend the life of an already rather long game. On top of that, there are multiple endings and tons of secrets that are littered throughout the game, which helps further extend everything into a very nice package.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is visually appealing as well. The game runs at a smooth 60FPS, and the sprite work and character art are all very well done. Faces are animated, movements are fluid, and everything just has a high level of detail, even though at its roots it looks like a Game Boy Advance game. The Wii U version features HD character artwork for “cutscenes” that was not in the 3DS version of the game, and although at first it looks a little out of place, it still a welcome addition. The game has a phenominal soundtrack as well, that reminded me a lot of Aladdinon the Sega Genesis.
While mostly everything is superb on the game, there are a few gripes that detract from the experience somewhat. The first issue I had with the game is something simple: pausing it. In order to pause the game, you use “select” instead of “start”. It may seem like a very simple and trivial thing, but even after knowing that pause was “select”, I couldn’t program my brain to do it when I needed to.
Another problem is within the world itself. As Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a “Metroidvania” game, that means you will have a lot of back tracking to do. While that itself is fine, sometimes you have to do a little too much back tracking for it’s own good, fighting through the same enemies over and over. Since Shantae doesn’t level up or anything, it becomes more of a chore than fun at times. While you can purchase items to quickly get back to your ship, it feels like a cheap cop out. Finally, if you already own the 3DS version, there is no real incentive to buy both versions. While that’s not a downfall really, it is worth noting.
At the end of the day, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a very enjoyable game. Fans of Shovel Knight and 16-bit platformers like Aladdin will find a lot of enjoyment with this game. Although the price tag is a bit hefty at $19.99, I feel it’s worth the investment if you are a fan of this genre of games. It won’t turn you into a fan of 2-D platformers if you aren’t already one, but Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a very welcome addition to the Wii U eShop and a fun experience.