Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse


Poor Shantae just can't seem to catch a break.  First she loses her half-genie-ness, then her arch-nemesis Risky Boots escapes, and now she has a court summons for saving a town!  Get ready for high seas adventures in WayForward's latest installment in the Shantae series:  Shantae and the Pirate's Curse.  In Shantae and the Pirate's Curse you play as the eponymous heroine Shantae who hair-whips her way through battle, but still manages to find time to do what she wants.  Things are going astray right from the start in the world and only Shantae can help defeat the bad guys and save the day.  I have to admit, I'm new to the Shantae series of games; however, I've heard great things about them and couldn't wait to give Shantae and the Pirate's Curse a whirl.  Does this dashing djinn  live up to her reputation?  Or was will you be left wishing for more?


Shantae's basic running and jumping are well executed, as is using the lamp to absorb dark magic.  Most actions are smooth and natural to do, which is what you want out of a good platformer.  However, I would say the only place that the controls lack are when it comes to the use of the sub-menu.  It might be that the use of items and inventory don't translate well to the Wii U and work better when it comes the 3DS, but as of this review I don't own a 3DS so I don't know if that is true.  Other than this, your basic running, jumping, and hair whipping work well.

Graphics and Style

Although the series made it's premiere on the Gameboy Color, tiis latest installment in the Shantae series has much less in the way of limitations and makes full use of the color palette available resulting in bright colors, shiny cartoon characters during the exposition scenes, and satisfying color schemes.  As a forewarning, certain racy "teases" happen during the game with our scantily clad super heroine.  Stuff such as the heroine getting trapped while soaking in a bubble bath or certain suggestive poses seem to crop up too often for my tastes, but that's just me.  I'm a bit of a prude and have learned to embrace that.

The style really evokes a goofy anime feel and has characteristics that remind me of "Slayers."  I find the wait animation a little too "boppy" in that the characters move a little too much in my opinion.  For me, a little bit of movement feels nice and makes the character look fidgety much in the same way I would be if some one just left me standing and waiting.  Shantae's waiting animation though makes her look like she's grooving to the background music or at a rave that I can't see.   

Music and Sound

Download this music now?  Granted!

The game has a nice collection of enemy death noises, hair whip sounds, and item use sounds as well.  I don't have too much to say on this other than they worked well for the game and weren't distracting or over the top as can sometimes happen in platformer games.

When a game has a killer score, it gets my attention from the get go.  So when Shantae and the Pirate's Curse opened with a title screen score that made me feel like I was about to dive into a high seas adventure (sorry, puns are in my nature) reminiscent of something from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie; I was immediately hooked.  Who doesn't love it when they game composer, in this case Jake Kaufman, goes all out with the hard sell?  Each "drum beat" that crescendos to every piping flute that trills in those first few moments lets you know that adventure will soon follow.  Although the rest of the soundtrack doesn't quite have the same orchestral feel that the title music does, it still helps keep the gameplay lively and fun with jaunty tunes and upbeat rhythms.  Speaking of gameplay...


As you race around the various levels and towns within the game you'll find yourself enjoying the pleasant use of parallax scroll and the colorful settings to which you travel.  The hair whipping that you use to defeat enemies seems a silly way of fighting at first.  Even in-game characters seem to realize the ludicrous nature of hair-whipping a bad guy to death.  Pretty soon though it just comes to you second nature and you can race along (or stop in a shop) and find clever ways to employ your hair to defeat enemies.

Final Thoughts

The first time I heard about the Shantae series was thanks to the team of Joe and Dave and their show Gamesack.  In their "Games that Push Hardware Limits" episode, they talk about how the game was on pare in quality with games that came out for Gameboy Advanced.  Modern technology looks and feels great, but somehow I'm still more impressed with how much the original was able to pull off.

One last thought:  I have to admit I feel awkward playing this game and a lot of it goes back to the scantily clad women thing.  I think my wife put it best when she said it feels geared towards prepubescent girls who are into the "girl power" thing, or males who enjoy lusting after pretend cartoon women.  Although I do find the hair-whipping attack clever and fun to use, I don't know how often I am likely to pick up and play this game again after reviewing it.  Not that the game has huge failings and errors; It's just that I still have that bit of anxious embarrassment that I did in high school when a risque scene would happen in a movie or TV show.  With a woman, cartoon or otherwise, spending the majority of the game looking like she's dressed for a modern interpretation of "I Dream of Genie" rather then getting ready for battle, I just get all weird and embarrassed.

Graphics/Visual Style: 7/10
Music/Sound:  10/10
Control and Gameplay:  8/10

Overall Rating: 7.5  (I knock it down because the scantly clad women really startled me when I first saw the game.)

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