Indi games are weird. There's no denying this fact when you have titles that allow you to take control of a knight that wields a shovel in order to defeat evil forces and a genderless character that falls into a land of monsters and left with a choice to become either a pacifist or a homicidal maniac. Games like these represent how indi games have no limit to their creativity, and Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, the third and latest entry in the Shantae series, is no exception to this fact.
This side-scrolling action platformer begins on Shantae's homeland of Scuttle Town while she's attempting to grow accustomed to not having her genie powers that her arch-nemesis, Risky Boots, took away at the end of the previous game. Because of this, Shantae has only her hair to remind her of the powers she once had. However, things aren't all bad as Shantae has been deemed the protector of Scuttle Town!
This title holds prominence as when Pirate's Curse begins, it opens with an attack on your town from a villain called Ammo Baron. Ready to fulfill her role as town protector, Shantae runs to defend Scuttle Town from this cheesy second-rate evildoer!
This turns out to be the worst course of action as Shantae soon discovers that Ammo Baron rightfully owns the town due to the now previous mayor selling it for a couple of quick sweets. By attacking the mayor, Shantae is stripped of her title as town protector and will have her hair cut at a moment's notice.
"Can things get any worse for Shantae?" asks the reader so I can answer with a rhetorical question and move on with this plot summary. Well reader, yes, yes it can as Shantae must team up with Risky Boots in order to stop a greater evil by the name of the Pirate Master from coming back to life.
The only way our protagonist stands a chance of fulfilling such a dangerous task is by traveling to six different islands and destroying bosses in every island's dungeon as they are host to the power of the Pirate Master. As it may come to no surprise, playing through such a quest is far from a chore. This is because Shantae and the Pirate's Curse perfectly mixes gameplay aspects from Mega-Man, The Legend of Zelda, and most obviously Metroid and Castlevania as Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is part metroidvania.
The inspiration from Mega-Man and The Legend of Zelda is primarily seen in dungeons. The Zelda aspect is obtaining an item in every dungeon and then using said item to defeat that dungeon's boss. The Mega-Man aspect is seen through the ability to use old items in combination with new items to defeat a boss in any play-style you see fit. Finally, the Metroidvania part of the game is seen through the fact that every island has an expansive land to explore that is able to be explored from left-to-right. Since each island is large in areas to explore, its only fitting that players can find collectables.
The collectables in Pirate's Curse aren't there to collect with no use like the trophies from Dying Light. The two collectables, heart squids and dark magic, have important uses to the player. Heart squids can be used to obtain new hearts. Doing so will entail retrieving four of these adorable creatures and then MELTING THEM ALL in order to gain an extra heart. Dark magic can be obtained by defeating cacklebats, minions of Risky that were originally tinker bats and have since been mutated by dark magic. Defeating these creatures are extremely satisfying and much less annoying than encountering a Zubat countless times upon end. Defeating cackle bats will release the dark magic inside of them which can then be collected by sucking it up with a magic lamp because genie. Like heart squids, cacklebats have a pivotal role in the game. Specifically at the end of the game. This is because Shantae and the Pirate's has two endings. One ending is "good" and the other is "bad". Failing to collect all the released dark magic from cackle bats will result in the bad ending. But collecting all dark magic will give the player a good ending. One thing that keeps ringing through my mind right now is how ridiculous these collectables sound, but you know what, that's the charm of Shantae as an entirety. ]
The entire world of Pirate's Curse is rife with colorful characters, varied enemies, and a plethora of settings that refreshen the experience of the game. While the last two factors listed are a large part of what makes this game so great, the characters are perhaps the best part of Shantae. This is because characters range from a lovable zombie that doesn't want to eat your brains to a squid realizing his role in life is to be a filler boss. Characters such as these are examples of how Shantae is successful mostlly in part to it's colorful charm. Because of this, its not surprising that this charm transgressed to the aesthetics of the game.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is one of the most beautiful games I have laid my eyes upon. Its pixelated prowess represents that good graphics doesn't always have to mean applying infinite polish to a CGI filled world. Since everything about this game has been perfect so far, its no surprise that the soundtrack follows suit of this trend by having an awesome collection of music that is at its best when it mixes different genres of music together with an overlying Arabian theme that compliments the fact that Shantae is a genie very well.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is simply a perfect game. It has a fantastic narrative that perfectly mixes drama and humour into a story that is unforgettable. Not only that, but the game takes steps into new boundaries by meshing together aspects from a multitude of popular games in such a unique way that it makes it feel like they originated from this game. With all these impressive features plus an equally fantastic graphical style and soundtrack, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is better than perfect; it is pure genie-us!