Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse Review

Let me take you back to ten years ago when I played American Dragon: Jake Long – Rise of the Huntsclan for Game Boy Advance and American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon for the Nintendo DS.

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Figure 1: The cast in clockwise order: Cursed Cacklebats, Risky Boots, Shantae, Ammo Baron, Uncle Mimic, Bolo, Sky, Rottytops and her zombie brothers and Tinkerbats.

Review of Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse Review (Nintendo 3DS version) - By Wing See Li (xflowerstarx from Twitter)

This is when I first discovered WayForward’s potential. Fast forward to this year, everything comes full circle as I play Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse for the Nintendo 3DS.

To be honest, I knew next to nothing about the Shantae series back then until I heard a lot of optimistic things about the upcoming instalment, Shantae: Half Genie Hero, via word of mouth on the internet, social media and Kickstarter a couple of years ago. Since then, curiosity got the best of me that spurred me to gather research on the aforementioned series. That’s when I eventually learned it existed in the same year (2002) as the Ratchet & Clank series, Girls Aloud, VBirds, Sly Cooper and Super Mario Sunshine, to name a few. Unfortunately, high school, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Mario, Kirby, Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Cartoon Network (back when Cartoon Network is still in its golden age) etc caught most of my attention at the time and completely overshadowed the series. It isn’t until this year (2016) I finally got the opportunity to try out one of the Shantae games when one of my internet friends told me he’d offer me the download code of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse if I handed him a £15 Nintendo e-shop card. After I traded the £15 Nintendo e-shop card for the download code, I wasted no time in downloading the game from the Nintendo e-shop. I haven’t regretted it ever since.

You know a video game is extremely astounding when the gameplay is insanely addictive with bouncy, infectious tunes with Bollywood undertones to complement the main heroine, Shantae, if the soundtrack is anything to come by. In fact, I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.

Speaking of her, she is a purple-haired half genie, half human who is the Guardian Genie of her homeworld, Sequin Land. She does everything in her power to protect it at all costs on a daily basis from her arch nemesis and the main antagonist of the Shantae series, Risky Boots, who is the scourge of the seven seas.

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Figure 2: Risky Boots, the self-proclaimed Queen Pirate of the Seven Seas and the main antagonist of the Shantae series.

Shantae And The Pirate’s Curse is the third instalment in the Shantae series and is released for Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 4 etc, following the obscure video game title, Shantae, for the Game Boy Colour and the critically acclaimed sequel, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, which is originally released for Nintendo DSi. The director’s cut version of this game is later ported to the Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS and most recently, physical copies of the aforesaid game from Limited Run Games will come out only for PlayStation 4 this year.

Following the events of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, Shantae wakes up from her dream. Ever since she lost her magical powers, she’s been experiencing the same dream repeatedly. Suddenly, a deafening noise boomed outside of her lighthouse, resulting in her exiting it only to discover Scuttle Town is under attack once again. When she arrives on the scene, at first she assumed the pirates (most specifically, Risky Boots and her Tinkerbat crew) were behind the attack but her friends, Sky and Bolo, informed her that Ammo Baron and his Ammonian army are the ones who wrecked havoc instead. She then sets out to track down Ammo Baron whilst wiping the pavement floor with his army. After making short work of the Ammonian army, she encounters Ammo Baron before they engaged in battle. Despite emerging victorious from the scuffle, she lost in a sense since Scuttle Town is now under her enemy’s control and the royal guards from the Sequin Land Palace have given her a court summons scroll and ordered her to stay at her home. After her friends and her uncle, Mimic, returned to their homes, she returned to her lighthouse and complained about her current situation, all thanks to Risky stealing her magic and her genie lamp for her evil purposes earlier. Noticing a (suspiciously placed) bathtub, Shantae decided to take a bath to relax only to realise she doesn’t own a bathtub later on. Apparently, it’s the work of Risky Boots as she leaped from the roof and landed on the floor of the room where the aforementioned bathtub is located at before laughing evilly. With a gloat and a smug expression plastered on her face, she revealed to the former half-genie the bathtub is in fact a boobietrap. However, the aforesaid ex-half genie isn’t having any of it. During their conversation, Risky threatened Shantae she’ll kill her right there and now as well as accusing her of stealing her Tinkerbat squadron and her pirate armoury.

Proving Shantae is “exacting her revenge on her” or so she assumed, Risky somehow towed the bathtub with her in it to Mimic’s workshop to find a Tinkerbat locked in a glass tube of a contraption. After the nefarious pirate demanded the return of her weaponry and her Tinkerbat posse, she and her arch nemesis spotted a combination of purple and black substance mysteriously floating around the pipe of the machine before consuming the Tinkerbat, transforming it into a Cursed Cacklebat. After it escaped from the machine, a short skirmish ensued. Once the former half-genie trounced the Cacklebat, Risky handed her adversary the magic lamp with the purpose of absorbing the dark magic into it. When this is taken care of, Shantae is surprised that her arch foe didn’t bother to steal the magic lamp back, seeing as she told her she had bigger fish to fry, in other words the Pirate Master. Without saying goodbye, the dreaded pirate departed from the workshop, leaving a confused Shantae behind. When she exited the abovementioned workshop, she approached Risky, who is standing in front of her pirate ship, asking about the Pirate Master. She soon learned that back then the Pirate Master is the greatest threat Sequin Land have ever known and long ago it took the combined powers of all of the genies to seal him away in the depths of the grave or the netherworld. Unfortunately, the absence of a map of the forbidden isles prevented Shantae and Risky from setting off. Fortunately for the pirate, the hair-whipping heroine knew the location of the map, which just so happened to be at the library in the Sequin Land Palace. So, in the meantime, they formed a truce and a temporary partnership to boot. Donning a pirate bandana, she and Risky Boots set sail for a swashbuckling adventure, spanning across a multitude of islands whilst sailing the seven seas in a bid to put an end to the dreaded curse and stamping out the Pirate Master once and for all.

On that note, you start out the quest with Shantae’s signature ability of whipping her purple-hued long hair which is tied in a ponytail as if you’re using a whip but as you progress through the game you unlock Risky Boot’s pirate weaponry and equipment by means of opening treasure chests that are normally scattered in numerous, cavernous dungeons.

The pirate weapons and equipment that used to belong to Risky Boots (which she stole from the Pirate Master in the past) makes up for the lack of a double jump, a triple jump and a long jump. Thus, making Shantae stand out from the ever-increasing line-up of 2D and 3D platforming mascots. Without her magic, Risky Boot’s arsenal of pirate artillery replaces it for the time being.

These are the following weapons Shantae will take advantage of during her voyage across the seven seas below in order:

• Flintlock Pistol

• Pirate Hat

• Scimitar

• Risky’s Boots

• Cannon

Touching the left or right arrow icons on the touch screen allows me to gain access to the inventory (where I store items), key items and the map. If a highlighted shape on the abovementioned map is shining, this shows my current location in a level, area or dungeon. Speaking of the map, a map of an island, a map of a dungeon or the Forbidden Isles can be hidden in locked treasure chests, dropped by a Tinkerbat after vanquishing a boss or secured in a globe within the Sequin Land Palace library respectively.

Speaking of the dungeons and the items (in other words, the pirate gear), the pirate weapons Shantae finds in treasure chests in the dungeons will aid her to traverse through them, overcome obstacles, trounce bosses and so on, similar to The Legend of Zelda series. Take the Flintlock Pistol she retrieved in the Ancient Aquifers (Spittle Maze) for instance, it helps her to activate switches from afar and shoot at foes that posed little threat to her from a safe distance.

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Figure 3: Each location, level and dungeon have a map.

The game is a 2D, 16-bit side-scrolling platformer but it’s also open-world since collecting objects encourages exploration and backtracking. Not to mention, there are light RPG elements in terms of the storyline, how much hit points you, the bosses and the enemies can take, how many hit points the adversary takes before they’re trounced, accumulating Heart Squids to forge more Heart Holders, upgrading the attack power of the weapons, purchasing items from a shop and so forth.

Concerning hearts, they are usually dropped by defeated enemies, found in small and fairly large vases that are littered in a variety of spots in every locale, sometimes there are slightly bigger hearts which refills some of Shantae’s health and there are Heart Squids to collect. Bring them over to the Scuttle Town Squidsmith and she’ll forge them into Heart Holders. Though, she can only forge four Heart Squids at a time. One important thing to mention is at the Bath House in Scuttle Town, there is an herbal spring that Shantae can bathe in to gradually replenish her health one heart point at a time and vigour. Finally after emerging victorious from a boss showdown, she jumps into the air and she twirls on the spot while floating above the ground, she recovers her some of her health.

Oddly enough, Shantae doesn’t have any lives just like most video game heroes in this game in contrast to the first Shantae game. The instant she loses all of her hearts, it’s game over. During the game over screen, it shows the main antagonist, the Pirate Master, in his ghoulish, inhuman form and the player is given the opportunity to choose between continuing from the last save point or return to the title screen.

The gameplay at its core consists mostly of Shantae hopping from platform to platform all the while combating monsters by whipping her hair at them, taking full advantage of her newly-equipped pirate arsenal or protecting herself with pike balls, super pike balls and bubble shields or evading their attacks and leaping over bottomless pits. There are times when she occasionally plunges into pits on purpose to uncover secrets, unseen items and hidden passageways. The game controls and Shantae’s abilities are all part of the gameplay. Best of all, the gameplay is insanely addictive! It’s so addictive, I almost lost track of time! I invested a lot of my time and a lorry full of hours into this game, I seriously don’t know when to stop playing! This got to the point where I’ve wasted my life away for numerous days or weeks straight! I haven’t played a highly addictive game since Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Whenever a monster is defeated, they drop a variety of items but they vary from Flesh Pops to Monies (the currency of this game).

At Scuttle Town which serves as the hub of the game, there are many activities to do such as talking to the inhabitants, visiting the Bath House, Bird House (where Sky lives at), Save Room, Mimic’s Workshop, item shop and the Scuttle Town Squidsmith shop and boarding the Steam Powered Oceanic Tinker Tub Mark 2.

Within the item shop, there are items and upgrades to purchase such as Potions, Auto-Potions, Pirate Flares, Pike Balls, Super Pike Balls, Bubble Shields, Monster Milks, Super Monster Milks, Shampoo, Silky Cream, Pistol Tune-Up, Scimitar Polish, Learn Backdash, Learn Recover and Learn Power Kick. The prices of these items can vary; depending on which and how many items you buy. Shantae can carry up to twelve slots in her inventory. Throughout the adventure, there are heaps of secrets that are cleverly hidden. Sometimes, they aren’t compulsory but you’ll never know what you’ll uncover in your travels. These secrets can be discovered by whipping your ponytail at a seemingly fishy spot or a random wall, dashing at the speed of light as if her life depends on it by using the Scimitar and Risky’s Boots at once until you crash into a suspicious-looking wall or spot or using another method by means of making use of the weapon of your choosing. For example… Spoilers Alert! There is a Dribble Fountain hidden within the dungeon (the first dungeon of the game) at Saliva Island. If you want to search for every secret, you must find them in every nook and cranny unless you have a lot of motivation and loads of spare time to do so.

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Figure 4: The Dribble Fountain is a throwback to the first Shantae game.

The other secret I uncovered is the enemy gauntlet, which is hidden within the Ye Royal Sewers. Once inside, Shantae confronts almost every single monster of this game except for the tiny annoyances such as the spiders while Risky Boot’s theme (“Do You Even Whip?”, according to the name of this music track in the game’s original soundtrack) is being played. This reminds me of the Pit of 100 Trials from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.

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Figure 5: This enemy gauntlet pits Shantae against nearly every monster of the game.

Unlike American Dragon: Jake Long – Rise of the Huntsclan and American Dragon: Jake Long – Attack of the Dark Dragon, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse can’t be saved automatically. In order to save, Shantae must find a save room or save point in each area. Therefore, you must save a save file manually. This can be exasperatingly bothersome, especially if you’ve lost track of time so much to where it gets to the point of you forgetting to save your game. I can’t stress this enough, every time you buy an item, obtained dark magic by sucking it into your magic lamp, completed a dungeon, gained a new pirate weapon etc, you must save your progress under no circumstances. Though, it’s mandatory to save your game manually in most video games. There are also checkpoints but they only occur if you fell into bottomless pits that are now marked with numerous skulls with crossbones so you know you mustn’t drop into them. Even if you tumble into them, you lose one heart point from a single heart and you start at the beginning of the same area where you plummet into a bottomless pit.

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Figure 6: The green-clothed, elderly save guy saves your progress if you approach him.

The sprites of the characters provide the game a sense of nostalgia and an old-school feel as if you’re playing a game from yesteryear. The animation of the sprites is animated very well and I loved the attention to detail in the background and foreground. For instance, the Middle East-based buildings are being demolished in the background while I’m making short work of Ammo Baron’s army in the foreground at Scuttle Town during the beginning of the game.

The script and dialogue are top-notch, a joy to read and they’re well written and the aforesaid dialogue is always accompanied with a detailed artwork of a character, showing their current emotion. The artwork is obviously in an anime-inspired style and is noticeably drawn in a sexualised fashion when it comes to the female characters and the dialogue or script is laced with innuendos and dirty jokes just like the scripts in each Ratchet & Clank game and within the Ratchet & Clank comic book series. The execution in the humour rivals with the Ratchet & Clank series, the first three Paper Mario games (Paper Mario, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Super Paper Mario), Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and the Mario & Luigi series.

There are times when I’ve been chuckling and laughing a bit or laughing my head off, it depends on whether I understand the joke or not or if I find the dialogue humorous or not and this is coming from someone who doesn’t get amused easily most of the time.

Speaking of the dialogue, it can be beneficial especially if some of the words are highlighted in yellow and are in capital letters. These important words indicate an item a non-playable character either lost or you must retrieve it from an island or someone else. For example, the words “enchanted blade” and “desert” are in capital letters and are highlighted in yellow. This means you must recover Bran-Son’s enchanted blade from the Tan Line Island, which is later revealed to be a desert-themed isle. Aside from gathering all of the dark magic (there are 20 in total, according to the Key Items stash which you can gain access to by the touch screen. In order to gathering them, you must defeat all of the Cursed Cacklebats) by means of a magical lamp and the main objective of the game, there are other mini side-quests to keep you occupied and entertained such as collecting all of the Squid Hearts (there are 32 Squid Hearts altogether) and embarking on countless fetch quests.

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Figure 7: This is one of the many dialogues laced with innuendos throughout the game.

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Figure 8: Brandon a.k.a. Bran-Son is parody of He-Man.He also reminds me of Captain Qwark from the Ratchet & Clank series.

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Figure 9: Don’t we all? I’m sure we all love to blow up a villain’s hideout to kingdom come.

Here are the controls of the game, Shantae’s wide range of aptitudes, her inventory and her Key Items stash (including Risky Boot’s pirate arsenal) as follows below:

Game Controls and Shantae’s Abilities

• Y button – When pushing the Y button, Shantae whips her ponytail as her main method of attack. Therefore, it’s her signature melee attack. She can also lash out her ponytail while she’s crouching. • A button – Firing Risky’s Flintlock Pistol, talking to non-playable characters or confirming chosen options. • B button – Jump. Also pressing the B button will allow Shantae to fire Risky’s cannon in the direction she is facing. However, she can only shoot herself upwards three times. • Circle Pad/D-Pad – Moving the circle pad/d-pad to choose between options. Moving the circle pad or the d-pad will let Shantae to run in any direction, depending on which way the aforementioned circle pad/d-pad is pointing. Also, shifting the circle pad/d-pad in any direction will cause her to build up speed. If she is glowing, press the Y button to release the energy. With the Scimitar in one of her hands, she is capable of running at breakneck speeds. • Down direction on Circle Pad/D-Pad – holding down on the d-pad or circle pad while pointing left or right will cause Shantae to crawl. • R button – Holding the R button while airborne will enable Shantae to deploy Risky’s hat to hover over hazards and obstacles whilst defying gravity and soaring to new heights. • L button – Press the L button while standing will result in Shantae to perform her back dash ability. Additionally, pressing this button while she is in the air to perform a downward thrust with the Scimitar which is useful for breaking blocks beneath her or bouncing over hindrances. • X button – Holding the X button will cause Shantae to withdraw her magic lamp from her Key Items stash in order to suck dark magic, scent etc. • Holding circle pad or the d-pad upwards while pressing A will result in Shantae to execute her Heavy Kick move. • If Shantae is knocked off her feet, pressing the B button will result in her back flipping with the intention of recovering. • Start button – Skip conversations or pause the game. • Select button – Pause the game. • Home button – Suspend the game or resume suspended game.

Inventory

• Potion – Downing this red-coloured liquid recovers most of Shantae’s hearts. • Auto-Potion – As the name implies, it automatically restores all of Shantae’s health. • Monster Milk – Drinking this milk will boost up Shantae’s attack power for a short period of time. • Super Monster Milk – One swig of the milk will increase Shantae’s attack power for a limited amount of time. • Pirate Flare – Lighting this flare outside of a dungeon will transport its user to the port. • Bubble Shield – Upon utilising it, a light blue-tinted bubble forms temporarily around Shantae like a force field that defends her from most projectiles. • Pike Ball – Once equipped, a handful of grey spiked balls orbit around Shantae to protect her from harm and touching her foes upon contact. • Super Pike Ball – A souped-up version of the Pike Ball. Once arming her with the aforesaid Super Pike Ball, three bladed balls whirl around Shantae at a blindingly fast pace. • Flesh Pop – Foul tasting food that restores a bit of health. • Meat Chunklet – Savoury meat still fresh on the bone! Restores a fair amount of health. • Bento Box – A delicious assortment of highly nourishing edibles. Restores a lot of health. • Lobster Tail – A five star feast that restores tons of health!

Key Items

• Magic Lamp – The golden magical lamp is used to suck up dark magic released from the Cursed Cacklebats as well as scents. • Squid Hearts – Forge them into new Heart Holders. • Door Combo – the door combination for the Tan Line Temple. • Flintlock Pistol – This single gun with unlimited ammunition can be fired at distant enemies and switches. • Hat – Deploying this hat will allow Shantae to float above hazards and land on platforms that are out of her reach. • Scimitar – Utilising this weapon in the air will destroy blocks, enemies and obstacles with a down thrust. • Risky’s Boots – Wearing Risky’s Boots and wielding the Scimitar simultaneously will cause Shantae to skim across lava, spikes or water in a blinding blur, knocking out enemies one after the other in succession like dominoes in the process. While both items are in effect, she is invulnerable. • Cannon – This is used to blast Shantae into the air up to three times in any direction she is facing. It can also be used to attack ground and airborne enemies. • Shampoo (x 3) – The shampoo increases the attack power of her hair. • Cream (x 3) – The cream removes the tangles in her hair for much quicker hair-whipping. • Pistol Up! (x 3) – an upgrade for the Flintlock Pistol. Just like the shampoo and cream, the pistol can only be upgraded thrice. • Polish – the polish is for sharpening the Scimitar weapon. • Back Dash – The Back Dash ability allows Shantae to avoid attacks from monsters and her opponents. • Heavy Kick – Press the A button while holding the circle pad or the d-pad upwards will result Shantae to deliver a heavy kick to her adversaries. • Recover – If Shantae is knocked off her feet, pressing the B button will cause Shantae to perform a backflip in order to recover from an overwhelming assault. • (Along the way during the swashbuckling escapade, Shantae will collect other items such as Court Summons, Royal Gate Key, Library Card, Forbidden Isles Map etc which will be temporarily stored in the Key Items stash. They must be returned to their rightful owners or given to the correct non-playable character).

The main area of the Shantae series, Sequin Land, is split into seven islands which are known as Scuttle Town, Saliva Island, Spiderweb Island, Tan Line Island, Mud Bog Island, Frostbite Island and Lonely Grave. During the game, Scuttle Town acts as a hub and Risky Boot’s pirate ship, Steam Powered Oceanic Tinker Tub Mark 2 (apparently, Shantae blew up the first pirate ship to kingdom come, according to Risky Boots), acts as a method of transportation. Each of these Forbidden Isles have in-between areas, levels and dungeons like for instance, the Scarecrow Fields, Tangle Forest and the Ye Royal Sewers.

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Figure 10: There’s just something about Mud Bog Island that gives me the heebee-jeebies.

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Figure 11: The Hexer is one of the characters in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse.

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Figure 12: Wrench is a weird name for a bird but I’ve heard stranger names or surnames.

Just like the numerous games before it throughout the years, this game is without its faults.

My first criticism is the backtracking. Fortunately, backtracking have toned down in this game. Too much backtracking can cause the player to forget which non-playable character needs the retrieved item in terms of fetch quests or it can result in said player to forget some of the locations of the Squid Hearts and the Cursed Cacklebats. However, it can be helpful when the situation calls for it occasionally like for example, making use of the pirate flare to return to the port. However, I couldn’t backtrack to the entrance of the palace even if I wanted to just in case I’ve come unprepared (in terms of not stocking up on enough items properly), which is ridiculously unfair where as in the Palace of Shadow from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Fawful’s Castle from Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, I’m able to backtrack to the entrance and then return to these dungeons later after restocking on important provisions.

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Figure 13: Backtracking can be useful sometimes, especially if you haven’t stocked up on enough items properly.

My second nitpick is the difficulty spike. It can range from easy to difficult or brutally challenging, depending on which island or area you’re at. Plus, the difficulty spike can occur when you least expect it and it’s all over the place. Thereby, catching you off guard. In addition, there are times when I’ve been cursing up a storm. One of the examples are when I first stepped into the Tan Line Temple, I instantly got mistaken for a princess. Before I knew it, I’ve been locked in a room fit for royalty until the coronation. Similar to the Princess Peach interludes from Paper Mario and Secret Agent Clank, I’ve been tasked with sneaking around the temple in a stealthy manner whilst trying to escape, all the while attempting to avoid being spotted by using the environment to my advantage by means of hiding in the shadows even as the guards are patrolling around their posts. If I get caught by one of the guards, they usher me back to the confines of my room.

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Figure 14: Similar to Paper Mario, one little mistake and you get sent back to your room.

Another example is the final dungeon of this game known as the Pirate Master’s Palace. Near the climax of the quest (or as the gamers call it, “Endgame”), I didn’t expect the Sequin Land Palace as the final dungeon to deal with. As far as video games are concerned, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a megalomaniac dictator taking over someone else’s castle or palace and giving it a makeover to their liking in any way they see fit. When I arrived at the entrance of the palace after the nightmarish journey through a hoard of hellish foes, I barely noticed the newly-transformed exterior due to the ominous storm raging outside which is pulsing with evilness that prevented me to see its appearance. Little did I know what I’m in for? Upon entering the first room, the only sentence that popped into my head is, “He may have redecorated a little…”, referring to the Pirate Master as I allowed my eyes to wander all over the gruesome surroundings. This final dungeon takes no prisoners and there’s no room for error. Not only that, but also this dungeon isn’t for the faint hearted in terms of the insane difficulty spike. Each room is more frustratingly tougher than the last. I’ve experienced a lorry full of final dungeons throughout my gaming life but the Pirate Master’s Palace really takes the cake. Furthermore, it’s going to be the death of me for the umpteenth time.

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Figure 15: The Pirate Master may have redecorated a little…

In addition, this said dungeon is the first hardest final dungeon I tackled in a very long time. I can’t even remember the last time a final dungeon that gave me so much trouble to where it gets to the point of me nearly throwing my game controller (or video game handheld console, in this game’s case) out the window. Probably the previous final dungeon with an identical difficulty level I experienced is the Palace of Shadow or the Pit of 100 Trials from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door or Fawful’s Castle from Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story.

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Figure 16: Utilising Risky’s Boots and the Scimitar simultaneously will cause Shantae to dash at a breakneck speed.

If there is one thing video games and my father have taught me throughout the years is to never, ever give up, even when things seemed daunting and hopeless for me. At first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Here’s my tip: aside from the important essentials regarding the inventory and the key items, what you need are nerves of steel, willpower and the constant refusal of surrendering. Stubbornness can be another thing to list down. No matter how many times I failed miserably or how many things the dungeon can throw at me, the difficulty spike didn’t deter me from venturing deep into the palace.

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Figure 17: It’s understandable final dungeons are meant to be difficult but the unexpected difficulty spike is unfairly unforgivable.

To put it simply, if you reach near the finale of the game, don’t expect this godforsaken dungeon (with a sudden, unforgivable difficulty spike) to hold your hand. It’s like an unrelenting gauntlet of never-ending torture and doom that will put all of your skills, abilities and endurance to the test.

My third complaint is the sense of getting lost and not knowing what to do, resulting in the player wandering around an area, level or dungeon aimlessly and willy-nilly. Usually this is a result of an excessive (and unnecessary) amount of backtracking which I pointed out earlier. The layout of the map can be another reason.

Beside the aforementioned criticisms, there are other minor nitpicks such as the A button being reserved for firing the Flintlock Pistol instead of the B button which will confuse gamers if they’re playing this game for the first time. In most games these days, the A button is for jumping when it comes to video game protagonists. The other nitpick is either WayForward, Nintendo UK, Nintendo of Europe or whoever localised the game can’t be bothered to change the dialogue to British English or they can’t tell the difference between British English and American English which is one of my pet peeves in video games throughout the years.

Last but not least, there’s yet another nitpick I’d like to point out which is I’ve noticed Shantae lacked the ability to swim in this game. Previously, she’s capable of swimming in Shantae: Risky’s Revenge. Most 2D and 3D platforming heroes, heroines and sidekicks possess the capability of swimming but it is strange Shantae couldn’t swim, similar to Skylar from the upcoming fellow indie 3D platforming game, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island. I can’t stress this enough that swimming is a natural thing to do, even for humans and living, breathing creatures and since Shantae is (half) human, it’s inexcusable she isn’t capable of doing just that.

Now on the subject of the video game soundtrack, Jake Kaufman composes it. Some music tracks from it are more memorable and catchy, more so than others. In fact, there’s not a single music track I didn’t like. Regarding the soundtrack, it certainly have set the bar high and it’s up there with video game soundtracks from Super Mario 64, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros., Densetsu No Stafy 4 and Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded, to name a few.

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Figure 18: Almost every boss in the level share the same Boss Battle theme except for the Squid Baron and the Pirate Master.

Some of my favourite music tracks from the soundtrack are “Boss Battle”, “We Love Burning Town”, “Scuttle Town”, “Scorching Dunes (Sunburn Island)”, “Trip Through Sequin Land” and “Beyond Permafrost (Abandoned Factory)”. I recommend you to listen to the entire soundtrack with your headphones for the full experience. Just like the islands and the dungeons themselves, the soundtrack can whisk you off to places beyond your wildest dreams. Furthermore, they enhance the game experience indeed and make you feel as if you’re actually traversing through the locations, levels, dungeons and islands.

As I listened to the soundtrack, it took me more than a while to become aware of the theme of “Boss Battle” is remixed and used multiple times, similar to the “Boss Battle” theme from the Japan-only, 2D side-scrolling Nintendo DS game, Densetsu No Stafy 4. What both boss battle themes from these games respectively have in common are they are intense, heart-thumping, exhilarating, infectiously catchy and fast-paced. However, unlike the “Boss Battle” theme from Densetsu No Stafy 4, the “Boss Battle” theme sounds more Bollywood-like.

Thankfully, my positive views outweigh my negative opinions I had for this game in terms of the varying amount.

My overall verdict of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is it’s an enthralling game with unexpected surprises at every turn which will keep you guessing, highly addictive gameplay, a phenomenal, infectiously catchy soundtrack oozing with ear candy and a well written, laugh-out-loud script that will keep you engaged for many weeks to come, despite it’s an indie game, its short length, its flaws and its price. I assure you it’s worth every penny in spite of the frustrations I had with the game sometimes. All I ask of you is give Shantae a chance; she might surprise you just like she did the same to me. If you like what you see on what Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has to offer, then you’re in for a treat when Shantae: Half Genie Hero is finally released! In the meantime, I suggest you check out Shantae and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge if the Shantae series have tickled your fancy.

News By Wing See Li. Twitter: @xflowerstarx

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