Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, the third adventure from the hair-whipping half genie, is latest in the trend of “This game’s pretty good, let’s port this one to Switch too” (not that this’s a bad thing). The follow up to Shantae and Shantae: Risky’s Revenge is frequently cited as her strongest installment, and it’s no challenge to see why. A magnificently mobile moveset punctuates satisfyingly testing platforming. Throw in some killer dungeons and bosses, and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse stands proud as a testament to the everlasting appeal of the Metroidvania formula.
Forced to collaborate with her nemesis, Risky Boots, to fell an abominable jerk called The Pirate Master, Shantae travels from island to island, conquering Zelda-esque dungeons and acquiring the pirate-themed items they offer. From a pirate hat used to gracefully glide about, to a cannon that outputs a hefty ‘ka-blow’ capable of hurtling Shantae into mid-air, her abilities lean on the side of quick ‘n’ nimble, resulting in movement being ecstatically enjoyable. As iconic as her extensive animal transformations are, the replacement bunch of quick-fire, pirate-y moves lend themselves marvellously to the gameplay at hand. With slick, 16-bit sexiness and melody-laden grooves serving up a plentiful helping of visual and musical charisma, along with a scattering of witty writing to boot, there’s bunches to love in Shantae and the Pirates Curse.
Not all is paradise in Sequin Land however. Particular places offer an abundance of foes, each and every one shooting, slicing, and stabbing at Shantae in unison. As enjoyable as hard-hitting tests of skill may be, these instances come across a tad cruel, as navigating Shantae effectively with such a cluttered quantity of hazards on screen becomes excruciatingly frustrating. A point of no return is also present towards the tail-end of the journey, and whilst it doesn’t impede players from continuing to explore, it does make Scuttle Town totally grim ‘n’ gloomy (so be sure to have an extra save file on hand should you wish to continue kicking back in Scuttle Town’s ‘not depressing’ aesthetic).
In comparison to its sequel, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse boasts a significantly less linear level design, wholeheartedly embracing its Metroidvania influences. Its vast dungeons and awesome bosses overpower the straightforward stages and ‘not quite as awesome’ bosses of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Despite this, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse lacks the accessibility and sublime simplicity of its follow-up, and fails to grasp the equivalent degree of re-playability. In summary, the perfect Shantae experience would marry the focused direction and ‘straight to the point’ approach of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero with the moveset, dungeons, and bosses of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. So, all eyes on the next Shantae installment (whenever it may come to fruition).
When all is said and done, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the definitive Shantae experience, and feels just as fabulous as ever on the Nintendo Switch. Easily trumping its predecessors and confidentially rivaling its stellar sequel, this is an ideal introduction for newcomers into a franchise of platforming mastery. Even despite its slight missteps (emphasis on slight), Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse shows that this hero doesn’t need her genie powers to kick a whole load of monster backside.