STAFF REVIEW of Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (Xbox One)

Monday, April 4, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Box art With a tidal wave of indie games flocking to the Xbox Games Marketplace, it really takes a lot to stand out. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse (SPC) is a side scrolling platformer, ala Metroid and Castlevania, and is based on a theory: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Having already released years ago on other platforms, does the Xbox One version warrant the $19.99 price tag? Or is WayForward Technologies looking for a quick cash-in?

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is actually the 3rd story in a 4 story saga. The first two games are not available on the Xbox One, and the 4th story is nowhere to be found either. So essentially for $19.99 you get 1 story out of 4, and early on, you will find that the story not only makes very little to no sense, but the whole importance of the narrative is lost completely from the beginning.

The series involves you playing as Shantae, who is a guardian genie of Scuttle Town. Prior to this game you find yourself up against a pirate named Risky Boots, who in this game is now your partner, how that happens I don't know. Ok, so now fast forward to this game.

This entry involves Shantae and Risky Boots teaming up together to fight against the Pirate Master. This villain is the embodiment of all that is evil and must be eliminated to secure the safety of the village. However, this time Shantae has lost her genie powers (apparently she lost them in the previous games). $19.99 for a wafer thin fraction of a story? Why couldn't this be a 3 game bundle for that price? As we progress I think you'll see why.

Laid out across several levels, Pirate's Curse, is a side scrolling platformer that actually delivers in many ways. The nostalgia factor of the game's graphics harkens back to the days where we would spend hours trying to time our jumps, dodge incoming danger, and destroy every breakable item you can find. This sentimentality continues through to the music as the synth heavy rifts repeat over and over until you feel like the music will actually haunt your dreams. I have to say this is nice and the sectional map layouts that we are accustomed to for all the levels is a welcomed division instead of one gigantic map.

The gameplay is solid and that's a great thing considering it's the soul of the game itself. Having a responsive control scheme with simplistic commands bodes well, as sometimes you will find yourself caught in hectic, timed jumps that could easily lead you to your death, of which is an issue I had with this game. It seems like it takes forever for you to find some form of save point and should you get 99% of the way through the level but die at the very end right before the save point, you'll be sent all the way back to the beginning. While it's very frustrating, the satisfaction of reaching a save point is underestimated greatly.

Along the way you will utilize the same basic principles where you finish one level, go to another level, fight your way to the boss, eliminate said boss, gain pirate gear to give you new abilities to reach previously inaccessible areas if you back track, and repeat the process over and over again. While this can get repetitive quickly, the game's gameplay mechanics offer both frustration and satisfaction around every turn, it does offer some form of balance. It's this balance that keeps this side scrolling platformer enjoyable. While anyone can see a tip of the cap to other iconic side scrolling platformers, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse can easily stand on its own.

After all this I can easily say that the list of "pros" far outweigh the "cons" in terms of quality. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is a wonderfully challenging nostalgia trip down memory lane, but again $19.99 for a game that came out in 2014 on a handheld platform, seems to be one aspect that I can't overlook.

Add to that fact that you only get 1/4 of the entire game series which is something that feels like a kick in the gut. The main reason for this is because after playing this game, you will want to play the others due to the quality, and unfortunately that will require you to invest more money outside of just the game so you can experience it all. And my apologies but this game series isn't a "system seller" by any means.

Then when you take into account the troubled past regarding the problematic development and lack of release of the 4th game in the series, I guess we should consider our Xbox's lucky that we even got one of the games to play. I simply don't feel it is worth the $19.99 price point. I get the impression that this is WayForward Technologies' form of trying to gain some form of revenue to finish a project that they already raised almost a million dollars for through PayPal donations and Kickstarter. My score for this game is high in terms of gameplay experience, and not the cost, so on that note I recommend that you until this goes on sale to buy it, but once you buy it, you'll sure be glad you did.

Please release the first two games in the series on the Xbox platform as well!

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.1 / 10



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