Those who follow closely with indies have likely heard of or even played one of the four Shantae title at this point. Specifically, the most recent two which have seen the widest release thus far in addition to the huge amount of attention Half-Genie Hero’s Kickstarter received. I had never played a Shantae title before receiving a copy of Pirate’s Curse for Switch, but had been interested in the past. Given my love of platformers, I decided to dive into this latest Switch release, complete with HD rumble, and where the series can hopefully keep going from here on out starting with the third entry.
The immediate reaction to starting up Pirate’s Curse was that I was missing some backstory. Shantae, the half-genie as people know her, no longer has her powers due to events in the previous title. While relationships are already established and story is tossed around like the player is supposed to know previous events, it’s never too confusing that one can’t completely enjoy it as is. A handful of previous antagonists have now turned over a new leaf in some cases, while others like the pirate Risky herself are looking to use Shantae to stop a new awakened evil. This leads to a lot of traveling to different islands, exploring dungeons and taking down bosses which appears to be the usual fanfare for the series.
Often times when one finds themselves with a copy of a game in the middle of a series, they can’t help but be interested in where it started which was especially prevalent given Pirate Curse’s constant callbacks to previous events. To no one’s surprise, the series has come a long way from its original roots as a Game Boy Color title. After curiously looking into the first Shantae title for GBC on the 3DS virtual console, it became apparent that the series was good and treading old ground in good ways. For one these titles have always made great use of the graphical capabilities of their platform. The original Shantae is still lovely to look at, with amazing use of colors and distinct character designs that have continued into the newest entries with wonderful pixels for the second and third entries and the sleek 2D cartoon feel of Half-Genie Hero.
The unique twist in Pirate’s Curse is that Shantae has become completely powerless, and instead of the previous animal transformations created by dancing, she uncovers a variety of the pirate Risky’s clothing and weapons in order to gain new abilities. These include a downward sword attack, a hat that allows floating short distances and a high-speed charging attack just to name a few. These are pretty typical abilities for most platformers and makes for a creative way to go back and discover hidden secrets or incorporate new ways to fight enemies. While I can’t speak on other Shantae titles much, the linear nature of Pirate’s Curse makes it feel like it’s lacking a true sense of exploration and isn’t sure whether it wants to be more of a puzzle or fighting platformer. For how relatively short the game is, even including gathering collectibles, it made me wish there had been longer dungeons or more puzzles along the way besides navigating enemies. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish, but I couldn’t help feel a nagging in the back of my head that it just needed a little bit more to pull it all together as an unforgettable adventure.
Having finished Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, there are definite plans to go and finish the other three titles. Perhaps if we’re lucky they’ll also get around to putting Risky’s Revenge on Switch as well so almost the entire series is available in one place. I admit my view of the series is minimal but I want to see the Shantae series expand and grow even further from here on out. There are so many wonderful clever ideas in the series and reading up on some of the canceled ideas has made me hopeful there is a ton to come from here on out. For those who like platformers and still haven’t given Shantae a try, it’s time to hop on and give it a go. Handheld fans should pick it up on Switch, but it’s available on a number of other platforms as well. Shantae started as a bit of a niche GBC title, but I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow from here