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Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . At long last, PlayStation 4 owners have a chance to discover WayForward's 2014 platformer, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. With charming visuals, sharp writing and a lot of intricate dungeons to overcome, this throwback action game is still worth playing. Too bad the adventure all but ignores Shantae's genie half in favor of the usual Metroidvania-style upgrades. Rating: 71%
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Shantae and the Pirate's Curse
  • Review Score:

  • B
In a perfect world, great games would always be rewarded with big sales and a healthy future. But we don't live in a perfect world, and a lot of well-received games are doomed to a life as an obscure cult classic. Normally, that would have been the fate for Shantae, the adorable 2D platformer first released on the Game Boy Color in 2002. Despite getting lost at retail, developers WayForward stuck with the idea and turned the half-genie hero into a long-running franchise.

First released on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U back in 2014, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is the biggest adventure yet for the lovable lass. When the evil Pirate Master attempts to revive himself, Shantae teams up with her arch-nemesis, Risky Boots, to make sure this doesn't happen. The plan is to sail to a series of disparate islands and collect Risky's lost pirate gear and save the day. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Playing out like a side-scrolling version of The Legend of Zelda, Shantae will realize that each island not only has unique obstacles to overcome, but also a deadly dungeon filled with hidden treasures and boss fights. It's one of those platformers where you will hunt down keys and unearth new abilities that can be used to traverse new parts of the world. Toss in some elements from Mega Man and Metroidvania-style games and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this pirate's curse.

Shantae spends most of her time whipping her long purple hair around to defeat the swarms of undead creatures plaguing the land. As she and Risky travel from one island to the next, Shantae will collect a bunch of useful weapons and power-ups that will aid her on the lengthy quest. It starts out by finding a gun, but it won't take long to uncover a pirate's hat that can be used as a parachute and, of course, a cannon that allows for multiple air jumps. Fans of this style of action/adventure game will recognize a lot of the components, even if they have been given fun pirate theme.

There's a lot more story in Shantae and the Pirate's Curse than I expected, with nearly every one of the lovable side characters getting their moment to shine. A lot of the game revolves around tracking down and returning missing items, which in turn will open up new directions for the story to take. While I like how story-driven the game is, I find myself annoyed by the amount of backtracking I was forced to do.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The real problem is that there are more than a few times where I had no clue where to go next. It's not always clear what islands you're supposed to revisit and when, so gamers who don't repeat stages looking for hidden items will find themselves constantly hitting walls in the progression. I see what they were going for, but I hated how something so simple can derail the game's otherwise quick pacing.

I also wish there was more to the core combat. While I was able to make good use out of the extra abilities, I was annoyed by the shallow gameplay. Shantae whips her hair left and right, and that's about it. It's of limited range and rarely kills enemies in a single hit, leaving the half-naked hero open for cheap hits. You can upgrade these attacks and buy a couple defensive moves, but most of the combat is limited to whipping your hair side to side. And more than anything else, it's disappointing that more wasn't done with her half-genie side. There are some big missed opportunities here.

My biggest gripe may seem minor at first, but proved the most frustrating over time. Unlike most Metroidvania-style action games, Shantae doesn't regenerate heath in the save room. This means you'll need to either grind for items or spend your hard-earned money on them. This wouldn't be so annoying if that money wasn't going towards buying upgrades for our hero. To get around this, I ended up saving, quitting to the main menu and then returning to the exact same point with full health. This is something I wouldn't have had to do if the save room refilled my health, like every other game in the genre.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

What I didn't have a problem with is the retro art style. Shantae and her friends look great as small 2D sprites, and I love how colorful and diverse the tropical setting is. From the spooky Spiderweb Island to the water-deprived Tan Line Island to the always icy Frostbite Island, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is good about radically changing the look from stage to stage. You've seen a lot of these types of levels before in other platformers, but WayForward is good about finding new twists on old cliches.

In some ways, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse feels like an appetizer before the main course. Thanks to a 2014 Kickstarter campaign, Shantae will be returning to home consoles in a brand new sequel called Half-Genie Hero. But don't let that keep you from sharpening your teeth on this utterly charming platformer. If you weren't infected by the Pirate's Curse on 3DS or Wii U, then give this long-overdue PlayStation 4 port a rub.
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