Back in 2014, Shantae And The Pirate's Curse graced Wii U and 3DS, and many hailed it as the best Shantae release yet. Since then, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero saw a release, and while that was met with similar acclaim, some fans were displeased with the slightly more linear direction taken by the gameplay. Now, WayForward has opted to port Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse to the Switch eShop, throwing in a few little extras to sweeten the deal. By and large, this is the same game that released four years ago, but we can confidently say that it hasn’t aged a day.
The story picks up right where Shantae: Risky’s Revenge left off. Our titular hero has found herself robbed of her genie powers and is doing her best to fulfill the role of town guardian in the wake of this. It doesn’t take long for Shantae’s nemesis, Risky Boots, to show up, though this time she isn’t the main villain. The evil Pirate Master - Risky’s old boss - is utilising dark magic in a nefarious plot to return from the dead, so Shantae and Risky make an uneasy alliance to take down this common enemy.
Though the plot is just about as thin as you’d expect, the humor and charm present in the writing throughout the story are top notch. Whether it be a group of spring breakers unwittingly bathing in a dragon’s spit, or Shantae and her friends being kidnapped by a bizarre cult who have mistaken all of them for a missing princess, this is a story that’s as whimsical as it is nonsensical. Each new island will bring with it plenty of new surprises, and you can be sure that this game will seldom take itself too seriously. This lighthearted tone works wonderfully, though, and helps to build a world that organically draws you in.
SATPC is a Metroidvania first and foremost, though WayForward demonstrates its characteristic mastery of 2D action games in nearly every aspect of this game. Shantae primarily attacks her enemies by whipping them with her long, purple hair, but there’s a slew of consumable weapons - such rotating pike balls - that help to supplement this, along with all the upgrades you pick up along the way. The Metroidvania formula is subverted a bit in SATPC, eschewing a single, interconnected world for a series of self-contained islands that can be accessed from a map screen. Fortunately, this hardly makes the game feel any more linear, as you’ll be running between all the islands quite frequently over the campaign.
Though exploration is dialed back a bit by the partitioning of the world, there’s no shortage of things to see and do on each island. Heart squids - such as the pieces of heart in Zelda games - are scattered about the world in hidden and hard to reach places, necessitating a keen eye and a thorough search if you wish to find them all. On top of that, possessed Tinkerbats are scattered about, which have dark magic that you can gather for later use in the endgame.
While searching for these things and solving the various environmental puzzles, you’ll be collecting gems from jars and felled enemies that can be exchanged for upgrades to your various offensive options or healing items for tougher levels. It seems like there’s always something more you can be doing in SATPC; the pace is masterfully crafted to always keep your eyes set on the next thing to collect.
In lieu of Shantae’s genie powers from the other games, our hero wields various bits of pirate gear to get around the map. In all the Zelda-like dungeons on each island, you can find a new weapon, like a flintlock pistol or a scimitar, that will unlock new pathways for you. Longtime fans of the series may feel a little awkward coming to grips with this new style of using powers, but it honestly feels like a better fit for the gameplay than the various transformations of the other entries. Each new upgrade is mapped to a different button and they all fit perfectly in with the tight controls; it’s never felt easier to move Shantae around.
From a presentation perspective, SATPC proves itself to be a shining example of excellence in both visual and audio production, setting a standard for all other retro games to be judged against. The environments of are as diverse as they are colorful, whether it be the bright and lively shores of Scuttle Town or the gloomy and dark crypts of Spiderweb Island.
Spritework for the characters and enemies is extremely high quality, with an amazing attention to detail that imbues nearly everything with a charm and energy that you seldom see in 2D pixel art. Similarly, the soundtrack features some loads of catchy Arabic chiptunes that carry plenty of swagger and style. It all matches the lighthearted look and tone quite well, bearing a kind of quality that goes above and beyond what a typical soundtrack may add.
For this Switch release, WayForward added in a couple minor features that scarcely justify double-dipping on their own but are nonetheless welcome inclusions. Following in the footsteps of Half-Genie Hero, it makes full usage of HD Rumble, and the effect shows up in many clever and cool ways throughout the adventure. It’s little things, like a barely perceptible bump that passes through the controller when Shantae’s feet hit the ground after jumping, that shows a close attention to detail and a real care on the developers’ behalf for that extra immersion factor.
In addition to this, there’s also now a fun arcade mini-game in the upgrade store that costs ten gems per play. The game sees you play as an 8-bit monkey Shantae, and you press one button to time a jump between the two sides of the screen to grab a gem that falls from the sky. If you miss the gem, you die, but if you get enough gems before missing one, the game will pay out the price of admission and more. It’s a minor inclusion to be sure, but it can be a great way of topping off your wallet to snag that upgrade that’s just a few gems too expensive.
If you haven’t gotten around to it by now, this is certainly the best way to play Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse. Tight gameplay, detailed visuals, and charming writing combine to make this a Metroidvania that is a must play for any fans of this genre. We’d give this game a strong recommendation to anybody who hasn’t played it yet and would still encourage veterans to consider double dipping. Though there’s nothing groundbreaking about this re-release, it’s still the same great game that it was before, and the few minor additions are a nice bonus.