I’m not a big Indie guy, having only played a handful from the Wii U eShop. And thankfully, most games were very enjoyable, especially Shovel Knight. I’ve never played a Shantae game before either. So I’m thrilled to say that the latest instalment in the franchise, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, holds up extremely well, both as an Indie title, and one that can go toe to toe with Shovel Knight.
After having her genie powers removed from previous events, Shantae is living the human life in Scuttle Town as the Town Guardian. However, after she has defended her town from Ammo Baron, she has her title removed since Scuttle Town was just sold… to Ammo Baron. After returning to her home, she gets trapped by her arch nemesis, Risky Boots. As it turns out, Risky wants Shantae to help her on her quest to stop the resurrection of the Pirate Master. And so begins her (or rather their) quest across the Seven Seas to remove all of the sources of the Pirate Master’s evil.
The game is full of dialogue, but I don’t feel that it is there just for the sake of dialogue. A good amount of the text is entertaining, and there’s the occasional gaming related talk from bigger characters. Every character is unique in design, and some have unique personalities, like the discouraged Bolo. And despite being the main protagonist, Shantae is bursting with character, which is very refreshing.
The gameplay itself is as unique as Shantae herself. The game isn’t played in standard levels. Instead, you can explore all six islands to your leisure. Your goal at each location is to find a specific dungeon, and defeat the boss lurking inside. In order to get there, you must traverse through the environment in a 2D style. And your weapon? Your hair will do the trick! With the press of a button, your hair will flick forward, inflicting damage on foes. You are also able to do this whilst jumping or crouching/crawling, to adapt to different enemies. Each enemy has a certain amount of health, and your hair has a set amount of damage as well, in addition to your own health. You have many items at your disposal as well, ranging from food for health, to damaging tools like the pike ball. You can use to GamePad to quickly select one of these items without pausing the game, in addition to the map. You’ll often have to meet certain requirements before the door to the island, such as gathering certain items. Scattered throughout the place are Heart Squids, which grant you an extra heart once four have been collected (sound familiar?), as well as Cacklebats that have dark magic inside of them.
The dungeons are the most fun part of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. A big reason for that is because of how similar it is to the famed Zelda franchise. Dungeons follow the same formula has the highly rated adventure series. Explore rooms, beat up baddies, collect an item, use said item to proceed further, and thrash the boss with your newest toy. So in short, if you’ve played a Zelda title, you know the structure. Sure, they aren’t as complex as those Link faces, but there’a an immense sense of fun whipping your hair back and forth whilst traversing these places. What’s cool is that the items, all themed around a pirate’s outfit, are always used across the game, and aren’t there for just one cool thing in the dungeon it was found or the final portion in the game. What’s more, is that they’re all assigned to one button on your controller, removing any tedious hassle of having to switch constantly, making for far more fluent gameplay.
The looks for this game are pretty great. There’s this weird retro vibe to it, which has been accomplished thanks to its pixelated aesthetic. But it is far from ugly, since the backdrops are beautifully drawn, though the character sprites can be a bit inexpressive, and even in tense scenes, Shantae keeps on dancing in her idle pose (although it is still cool). What I can say, is that the character portraits are very well done. Every character has a unique design to them, and all are very well expressive. These come up with conversations with more important characters, and can be quite nice just to look at.
Awesome. Just awesome. The soundtrack has this weird but awesome mix between a pop style and an Arabic theme. Most are pretty catchy, from the overworld of Saliva Island to the village of Scuttle Town. But the boss theme takes the cake (or lamp in Shantae’s case) for me.
If there is any Indie game I would introduce to someone, it would be this. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a perfect example of how Indie games can have the same amount of creativity and entertainment as your typical Nintendo first-party game. Yes, it can be a bit short, given that it can take about 10 hours to 100% the game, which is a bit annoying when it is more expensive than your normal eShop title. However, it is worth the price, and is potentially one of the leaders for the growth of Indie games. With great gameplay, nice visuals, and an OUTSTANDING OST, this is an experience you do not want to miss! And it is for that reason I am awarding Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, a 9/10.
I purchased the Wii U version of the game, and is about £15. However, thanks to the Summer Indie Sale a couple weeks back, it only cost me £6! So if you see any deal for this game, do not hesitate!