Game Title: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 4-6 hours
Download: 476 MB
Shantae was the first franchise to pop onto the site in the “Reviewed on Multiple Handhelds” category once WayForward threw Shantae: Half-Genie Hero onto the Nintendo Switch. However, I never imagined that I would start reviewing other games of the same series on said platform, after I went through the trouble of all those Shantae 3DS reviews to review the whole series.
But, hey, it’s a good series so let’s keep this review train a-going. The 2nd Shantae game to be ported over to the Nintendo Switch was the third in the series, and the game many fans view as the pinnacle of it. Originally released on the 3DS and later ported to other systems, here is my review of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for the Nintendo Switch!
Pirate’s Curse takes place after the events of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge for the Nintendo DS. Shantae is having trouble adjusting to normal life without her genie powers when Scuttle Town suddenly is bought out and attacked by the Ammo Baron. Putting her concerns behind her, she tries to save the town, only to be accused of assaulting the town, herself, and lured into the world of thievery by Risky Boots, whom comes to Shantae for assistance in stopping the revival of an Evil Pirate King.
Pirate’s Curse has no shortage of humor, just like the other games of the series, but there are a lot of canon-based errors. The exact time the game takes place is very confusing throughout the game, and a lot of the lore regarding the Genies and why they don’t linger in the mortal realm actively retcons the original game, despite this not being a reboot of the series.
Like all of the games of the franchise, Pirate’s Curse is a 2D Platformer with combat and exploration elements. You could compare it to Metroidvania games, but instead of the game’s levels being one giant world like in the first two games, it is level-based, where you choose a level from a map and each one is enclosed in itself.
As far as progression goes, Pirate’s Curse changed a few things about the formula, mainly creating spell “items” you can use instead of an MP pool, since Shantae is a full-blooded human in this game, rather than a magical genie capable of using magic.
The most prominent change, though, is something Switch owners have seen before. Instead of using animal transformations to navigate levels and solve puzzles, you collect pieces of Pirate Gear to do it, like using a PIrate Hat to hover over large gaps or using a Pistol to shoot switches in tight corners. This moveset is what inspired the gameplay style used in Pirate Queen’s Quest, the first DLC campaign for Half Genie Hero.
This might not seem such a big deal now, but when it first released, it was a big deal because the first two games both used the same ability style with the animal transformation. Pirate’s Curse remains the only game of the series to use a different style of exploration gameplay, outside of the DLC Campaigns from Half-Genie Hero.
What hasn’t changed much is the Metroidvania way you explore and open up new areas. As you gain new abilities, you’re able to reach new areas in previous levels (as well as current ones). There are lots of hidden areas in all of the levels and, unlike Half-Genie Hero, most of these areas are mandatory for story progression. When you reach the 3rd Island, you’re sent on a story quest that takes you through almost all previous locations to get items needed to get to the next area and push the story forward.
But apart from that, it is your typical Shantae experience. Platform, fight off enemies, use money to buy upgrades and usable items, and fight off bosses to unlock new areas. Time, though, is an interesting factor. One of the biggest things I’ve seen people not like about Half-Genie Hero is its completion time.
My first run through Pirate’s Curse on the 3DS took me around 7-8 hours to get everything and beat the Final Boss with 100% Completion. On the Switch, it took me less than 5 hours with me remembering where a lot of stuff was that I had to go and find for story progress.
There’s not a lot to say about the controls for the game. For one, the touch screen is still used for items in your inventory, like in the 3DS version, though the screen is brought up with the + button since the Switch doesn’t have a second screen.
The basic controls are pretty simple. Move with the D-Pad/Arrow Buttons or the Left Analog Stick. Jump with the B button, talk to NPCs with the A button, attack with the Y button, and use your pirate gear with the X button. You can also use the R trigger for the Flare Item that returns you to the Stage Select screen.
The major problem with this game is its presentation. In terms of graphics, Pirate’s Curse didn’t look that much different from Risky’s Revenge on the 3DS, but on the Switch, it looks like it was a straight porting process. The backgrounds are blurry and the character sprites look very blown-up and without polish.
Granted, the game runs wonderfully. Perfect frame-rate, short load times, etc. But the game looks like little work went into the porting process, as the game is hard on the eyes, even in handheld mode.
With its presentation the way it is, I expected Battery Life to compensate, and it really does. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 19 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 54 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 58 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 18 minutes
4-6 hours is awesome. If you’ve played the game before, you could potentially get an entire run through the game done without having to recharge your Switch.
In conclusion, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse marks half of the franchise now being on Nintendo's new handheld. Although the canonical oddities of the story remain and there is a serious lack of polish in its presentation, it remains a fun platformer that series or platforming fans will enjoy, if you're okay with that unpolished graphical showing.