I’m going to admit that I never played any of the previous games in the Shantae series and after playing this one I realize how much of a shame that is. More people should play this game as well as previous installments in the series. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (just Shantae TPC going forward) is the third game in the franchise with the fourth titled Shantae:Half-Genie Hero currently in development. The franchise is helmed by the talented folks at WayForward whom have become one of my favorite developers and have released some great games such as Duck Tales Remastered, Adventure Time, Contra 4, Silent Hill Book of Memories, TMNT Danger of the Ooze, and more. It should come as no surprise then that the team at WayForward know their shit when it comes to making a fantastic 2D action platformers. And fantastic is exactly what Shantae TPC is.
The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up the game is that the artwork and animations are beautiful—even on the low-res screen of the 3DS! It is also one of the few games I’ve been playing with the 3D slider maxed out because the 3D really adds depth and helps the world and characters come alive. The colors are bright and pop and the soundtrack is catchy from the menu to the credits. All of this is accompanied by clever and funny dialogue with the wittiness extending to the puzzles and their solutions. I’m pretty sure they are unlike puzzles you’ve played in other games before and each one is pretty comical. I’m dying to tell you how you go about solving the first puzzle but don’t want to spoil the fun. Before I started I was worried it’d be difficult to follow the story or find the game humorous because of not playing the first two games but luckily that doesn’t hinder the experience whatsoever. There are definitely nods to past games and obvious appearances from past characters but while I was still able to follow along I want to play the first two games to understand the backstory.
Don’t let the cartoony vibe of this game fool you—it’s not easy. The difficulty isn’t as brutal as say Mega Man or Super Meat Boy but it’s also not as forgiving as something like New Super Mario Bros 2 or any Kirby game. It strikes a good balance of being challenging yet not unforgiving with levels that will test your platforming skills and bosses that will test your battle skill. Controls can make or break a platformer so thankfully like all of WayForward’s previous games they’re spot on and every jump feels precise and every death feels deserved. The levels are varied and each island has a different environment full of new enemies. As you progress through the game you unlock special abilities and equipment like a pistol which is a welcome addition as the difficulty ramps up later on. You can also buy new abilities and equipment at shops as well as upgrading the ones you currently have and you’ll need to do this in order to access sections in worlds you previously couldn’t. For example, while you can use the aforementioned pistol as a weapon it is also used to activate switches scattered throughout all of the islands.
I don’t want to give anything away as far as story or characters so I’ll leave you with this—Shantae is a damn fine game by a damn fine team. I know I’m gushing but I love everything about it and in fact along with Shovel Knight they’re two of my top games of 2014 so far. Both games are fantastic and the only downfall they share has to do with Nintendo. Shantae will be coming to Wii U and I’m sure it will be absolutely gorgeous like Shovel Knight but my only complaint is that these titles don’t support cross buy but more importantly cross save. They’re the perfect games for Nintendo to enable shared saves between 3DS and Wii U. Even without it Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse deserves to take up blocks on your 3DS and soon on your Wii U and fits in with other great titles.