Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

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Steam

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse picks up where Risky’s Revenge left off, with Shantae still effectively human. The town is getting bulldozed by its Mayor, Ammo Baron (yes, he’s still Mayor) and you decide to stop him. Unfortunately, this is effectively rebellion, so you get a court summons. While under house arrest, you uncover a lead into the revival of the Pirate King and decide to stop it. Who cares about court summons, amirite?

I’ll say outright that Pirate’s Curse is better than Risky’s Revenge. It maintains the quirky design and pleasing aesthetic of the first game.  It decided to go full 2D this time though, so that’s an improvement in my books. The movement feels so much more fluid and the movement options unlocked throughout the game feel better. You get a glide, a dash, and an extra triple jump… which you lose… in the final boss fight… because design decisions.

What I find most amusing is that this game sorta solves the problems of Risky’s Revenge while also adopting some problems that the old problem solved. The backtracking is less insufferable. Might be level design making it a bit more enjoyable to go through them. Luckily the backtracking is mitigated in Pirate mode (unlocked after beating the game once). Honestly, what might have fixed it for me in backtracking might be the addition of a new item called “Pirate’s Flare” which is effectively an escape rope. Tired of a map’s BS? Get out of the labyrinth and flare back to base. Speaking of items, they’ve rebalanced the items to be less broken and now none of them are required to unlock certain areas. Health drops regularly (if you’re killing enemies) and you can use these drops whenever you like instead of immediately.

There are few things more frustrating than entering a screen only to get knocked back because instant dash enemy. Yet here we are. Insufferable stealth section and the climb to the final boss is a series of spike traps that exist purely to try my patience. No enemies. Just spikes. And lord save you if you game ogre there because the save point is not between spike hells but rather at the beginning and at the end. Bring all of the potions.

Let’s talk about the final boss fight. Now in Risky’s Revenge, I didn’t really dock points for the game taking away all of your transformations because they weren’t really used for combat. The time required to dance for them took away from the pacing anyway. However, in this game, most of your upgrades are movement upgrades. Which means you don’t pause to use them and you’ve been using them the entire game. And they were instrumental in spike pit hell because each puzzle room was set up to utilize a specific upgrade. So by the time you’ve gotten to the boss, you’re pretty used to using them like, all the time. You get to use them for phase 1 of the boss. Then the boss takes them away. Then you have to deal with phase 2 with limited movement. Then phase 3 which is phase 2 with some extra patterns. And phase 4 which can be cancer because it’s not the same kind of combat you had been doing all game.

Look, the final boss is a test. A test on all of the skills we’ve obtained up until now. You don’t teach us all of the math required to do the exam and then give us a stinkin’ psychology exam instead of a math exam. That’s completely unfair to the player

But when the game works, it works. Pirate Mode (again, unlocked after playing through the game one) is a great replay option if you’re into that sorta thing. The game is legitimately enjoyable and the characters are as delightful as ever. I’m going to give this game a pass, but not by much. Be prepared. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge [Director’s Cut]

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Steam

I am a regular speedrunner of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. I’ve gotten my time to a pretty good spot and while I love the game to death, I’ve been flirting with other games just as a change of pace. Sometimes I watch speedruns and the Shantae series has been on the radar for a while because the “plot” is amazing it looks really cute. So while it was on sale, I bought the bundle. Looked up the order the games are in (chronologically) and started up Risky’s Revenge.

Boy what a mistake that was.

In Risky’s Revenge (a sequel to GBC game I will likely never play) you play as Shantae. She is a half-genie girl that acts as the guardian of Scuttle Town. One day, while her uncle unveils the magic lamp, an artifact he found, pirates attack and steal the lamp. Your job? Get the lamp back. Seems simple enough. In metroidvania style, you gather your genie powers from magic fountains throughout the world, become super powered, only to lose these powers in the final fight not like you were using the powers to fight anyway (we’ll come back to that).

Aesthetically, the game is quite well-designed. It diverges a bit from the typical metroidvania style of screen transition by instead showing you a faded version of the screen behind you as you travel through your current screen. This is a pretty cool innovation because now you don’t get surprised by random flea knocking you back into the prior screen. You always know where you’re going to land. Only works one way though, so to prevent you from getting mauled on the way to a screen “in the foreground” you’ll always land on a safe spot after transition. That’s not to say the usual screen transition from one room to another isn’t still there. Just that I found this little experimentation interesting. This experimentation creates a pseudo-3D map. The map is also very compact. There aren’t too many places to go in the game. Overall, maybe 3 major zones. So the design is incredibly efficient! The art design (as stated earlier) is quite cute. All of the designs feel good. The audio design is sweet too.

Unfortunately, while I praised the design in terms of ‘efficiency’, I’m afraid that the design is incredibly frustrating. James Montagna. That’s right, I wrote down your name before preparing this review. Why? Because SCREW YOU AND YOUR LEVEL DESIGN. I absolutely hate backtracking in games. I will tolerate backtracking if it’s to find new full zones in games. But in this case, you have to go to Zone A to get story progress then go to Zone B where you get a powerup which you need to use again in Zone A to get another piece of story progress to complete Zone B. Absolutely disgusting. I hate you. I want my five hours of life back. You can teleport between areas of the map but for some reason there’s no teleport in Scuttle Town, the hub for the game. Which makes no sense.

But wait! Are we incentivized to to back to these zones? What do we get? Well, magic jam, an item that lets you buy more item skills. But I went through the entire game only really using 2 items once. The fireball you use to break a wood barrier (why there’s a wood barrier, lord knows) and lightning to activate a bomb (required for story). The rest of the time, the pike ball pretty much carried me through the game.

Honestly, the backtracking added so much to the runtime of this game. I wonder if it’s intentional padding.

Oh yeah, let’s go back to the powers thing. So being half-genie you get to transform into aminals throughout the game. It’s the main map exploration gimmick. Now thank goodness the animals are never really used for combat on land, because if they were. Wooh boy I’d be ready to split skulls. Spoiler alert – the final boss of the game is you(r genie half) and you lose your ability to transform for this fight. How retarded would it be to spend the entire game collecting powers, using them, only to lose them for the final fight? That is horrendous game design.

Overall, I found the game more frustrating that enjoyable. I plan to try out the others, but this one is going to be a no from me. I wanted to like it, but I just can’t give this a pass possibly because of the map/power interaction. That’ll be it from me though. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge [Director’s Cut]