Nintendo Airstream 2014: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

By GamingNexus On 29 Oct, 2014 At 11:00 PM | Categorized As Gaming Industry News | With 0 Comment

Fans of Wayforward Technologies’ Shantae series are nothing if not patient. After the original cult hit on the Game Boy Color in 2002 (Gil Ruta proudly declares that he owns a rare copy mint in the box), fans had to wait an agonizing eight years for Wayforward to release a sequel on DSiWare. While the wait between games is getting shorter, it’s still puzzling that a retro 2D sidescroller series takes so long between installments; Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse just hit the eShop, four whole years after the previous game.

One could forgive Wayforward for the wait because to be fair, the studio is a master of 2D sidescrollers and evocative, expressive sprite art in particular. The Shantae series has always possessed a mildly bawdy, anime-esque pin-up calendar look, but the flirtatious and playfully provocative art style is instantly memorable. That art style is smoother and more refined than ever in Pirate’s Curse; the half-genie hero and her collection of eccentric enemies and allies look the best they have since the first game, and the stereoscopic 3D plays a big role in that.

Enemies will leap onto the stage from the foreground, boss battles have impressive projectile effects that stand out, and even the character portraits displayed during conversations have subtle depth and contour. It’s amazing that a 2D game can have so much texture, especially when the majority of the graphics are intentionally drawn in an affectionately pixelated, 16-bit design. This is one of the few games you’ll want to keep the 3D slider turned all the way on for the entire playthrough.

Pirate’s Curse is not just pretty graphics however, as I got a distinctly Metroid Fusion vibe during my demo, with a healthy amount of Castlevania’s storytelling thrown in for good measure. The game is far more of an adventure this time, with welcome backtracking enabled by unlockable items and abilities replacing the animal transformation mechanic from previous titles. In my demo, I experienced stout but not unfair challenge, making me wish I had more time with the game.

When the first Shantae arrived on the scene, it stood out because outside of Nintendo’s stalwart offerings, 2D platformers were a relative scarcity. Pirate’s Curse, then, represents the current cream of the crop, as the genre is now bursting with indie mediocrity and pale ripoffs of a handful of decent titles. With Limbo, Meat Boy and The Swapper leading the charge, too many platformers are shallow imitators presenting needlessly unfair difficulty just for the sake of being “old school” hard. Even worse are the pretentious, faux-subversive “press X to ponder the meaninglessness of existence” walking tours. Hopefully, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse can remind gamers of the genre’s roots: stiff but fair difficulty, gorgeous, lovingly crafted art and most importantly a playful, winking sense of humor.


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