The original Shantae on the Game Boy Colour (which I played on the 3DS VC not that long ago) was a lovely little platformer with some slight issues: it was very, very hard, and there was a lot of backtracking and wandering aimlessly. I really enjoyed it, but I was a little concerned the followups were going to have the same problems. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse does not, I was pleased to discover.
I picked the game up as part of that Nintendo Humble Bundle a while back and now I’ve played it I can say it’s a definite highlight of that pack. It looks incredible, especially in 3D, and fixes all of issues of the original game. There’s backtracking, but there’s an item that warps you to the start of each area and several upgrades and shortcuts you can use to speed around the place. It’s not exactly easy, especially the final area on the way to the end of game boss, but it is substantially more accessible than the GBC title. Baddies don’t take hundreds of hits, and those that do can be dispatched easier if you buy the available upgrades in the shop. I found that many could be defeated more easily later in the game using extra moves I’d unlocked too.
These moves, like a dash, a triple jump and a down-attack also turn Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse into a Metroidvania type platformer, even more so than the (no longer available) animal morphs of the original, allowing access to new areas. There’s even a fill-in-all-the-squares Castlevania style map, and an dungeon filled with skeletons which apes Castlevania even more. As before, your hair is your weapon, and is basically a whip anyway!
Hidden around the game, some more difficult to find and/or reach than others, are evil cacklebats, each corrupted by Dark Magic. A side quest, to unlock the “proper” ending, is to defeat all 20 of these creatures. I managed it although finding two of them took ages! There are also hidden squid which, when you collect four, gives you an extra health heart. I didn’t get them all, but they’re not important for the story.
My only (tiny) disappointment with Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was that each area borrows very heavily from areas in the first game, with most of the baddies from that returning. Yes, they’re redrawn and look incredible, but they’re the same as they were before. There are a few new ones, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. The bosses are all new (bar one, who literally tells you he’s a filler boss now, having returned from a previous game) and they’re all fun to beat.
Definitely one of Wayforward’s best games, although most of their output is pretty special. I’m really interested in playing their HD remake of the DSi Shantae game now too!