From Pitfall and Super Mario Brothers to Kid Icarus and Crash Bandicoot, the platformer has been challenging players for over thirty years. I feel the genre reached its peak in the late 90s when the PlayStation took the world by storm. Soon thereafter, games started to get exponentially larger and more complicated with hardware increasing in power with each successive generation. Gamers started to gravitate towards more hack-and-slash and open world titles like Devil May Cry or GTA.
In today’s gaming universe, nostalgia is having a direct effect on developers who grew up in the 80s and 90s and are looking towards the beloved games of their past. With the proliferation of Steam and the monster success of the Nintendo Switch, the platformer is making a massive comeback in the most glorious way possible. Indie developers finally have their time to shine, with WayForward’s Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse proving that old school platforming is healthier than ever.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Review Nintendo Switch
This is the third adventure to feature everyone’s favourite hair whipping genie, where Shantae has lost her magic powers just as a great evil takes over her home of Sequin Land. Shantae must join forces with her arch nemesis, the pirate Risky Boots in order to vanquish the evil. As she struggles without her powers, Shantae must learn the pirate way and gain new weapons to take on her enemies.
Let me preface the rest of this review by mentioning that I have never played any of the other games in the series. They all look great, but I won’t be able to make any comparisons between them. If you enjoy this game, I suggest playing the other titles for some more platforming fun.
In this latest instalment, Shantae starts off with only the ability to whip her hair (her main weapon) and jump. Don’t let her innocent look fool you, that hair of hers is a deadly weapon and can vanquish her enemies with ease. As Shantae explores the islands around her home, she collects new weapons and upgrades which aid in the fight and also help her solve various puzzles located throughout. At the start of the adventure, you’ll notice hard to reach switches that you can’t seem to hit. It’s not until Shantae reaches the second island that you receive the flintlock pistol, which allows her to shoot through the narrow openings, activating the switches. The puzzles aren’t a great challenge, but they’re fun in their own right. You can also upgrade Shantae’s hair whip to make it stronger and more effective.
Just as the puzzles aren’t anything to write home about, the varying enemies could have been a little more ‘varied’. Each island has its own monsters to fight, but in reality, they all feel (mostly) the same, just with different skins. One island will have goblins, another has evil mermaids, and yet another will be populated with the walking dead, (not that one, sigh). The visuals are nice, yes, but they’re all defeated in the same way. I would have liked to see a little more variation in the baddies, instead of what seemed like the same sprites with new outfits.
The world that WayForward created is full of unique and colourful characters though, each beautifully animated throughout the adventure. I found the interactions between Shantae and the population tended to go on a little too long, but it all serves as exposition and backstory necessary to help move the story forward. It wasn’t so bad the first time around, but if you die and have to have the same interaction again, you’ll be glad there’s a skip button to race through the conversation.
The platforming in the game reminds me of a cross between Aladdin on the Genesis and any of the Mega Man games from the NES days. It’s not going to set any standards, but you’ll have a pretty fun time throughout the experience. Aside from vanquishing monsters, Shantae can also collect gems to buy health, weapons, and power-ups, and in a Zelda-like manner, find lost Heart Squibs which allow you to increase your heart containers/health meter.
As a fan of the platforming genre, I highly enjoyed Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse to the point that I would definitely seek out the other titles in the series. The game won’t win any awards on difficulty, but the story is funny, the characters well developed, and there’s a high fun factor in general.
The Nintendo Switch has a way of reinvigorating older titles, and this gem initially released in 2014 is no exception. With multiple endings and unlockable modes, gamers will have a field day playing this entertaining adventure.