A nice Metroidvania with adjustable difficulty. Although the story might be hard to understand without playing the previous game, the solid gameplay makes up for it.
Release date: 23 Apr, 2015
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the third installment of the Shantae series and the sequel of Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut. To be honest, I never played any Shantae games before, so this review will be based on that.
The game seems to have its graphics made without keeping other elements in mind. The use of sub-pixel animation to simulate movement in the sprites makes all characters look lively, but it soon to be overthrown by the blurry background – the outdoor scenery looks like JPEG images that are zoomed to the maximum, making them pixelated. This combination of detailed and blurry pixels makes it hard for your eye to choose which one to focus on. Luckily, the indoors, especially dungeons, are not suffering from the same fate.
Dialogue boxes also look lazily done with the simple look. It looks like the one that you see from default RPG Maker dialogue boxes, except that it’s way worse – it has a blue background with a white outline and an Arial-like font in it. The design looks out of place with the detailed pixel art and could use some redesigning.
The story references the previous game a lot. I didn’t understand what the character was talking about most of the time and there were even some times when I was wondering whether the game was referencing the previous game or not. Although the main story can be understood without playing the previous game, it’s still better to play the previous game first to fully understand the story. As for the story itself, the writing is done well; it focuses on the exploration theme while not making it too serious at the same time.
Different enemies are available on each island, each with a different attack pattern. It can be challenging to pass through each area for the first time because of this – you can even die before you reach the checkpoint if you aren’t careful. Trying out how to proceed without getting killed will be your main concern as you play the game, especially if you are attempting to beat the game with only 2 hearts.
Sometimes, progression isn’t clear enough. Although most main quests are obvious, sometimes the game will ask you to collect some items without any pointers where to look. This might give an impression that you have to explore all previously explored islands to find the items, although the truth is, you just need to talk to some NPCs for hints. It took me a while to understand that NPCs have different dialogues after completing some side quests and that they will give you some info on your main quest.
The game has an adjustable difficulty. You start at 2 hearts, which equals to 8 HP, and can be increased by collecting Heart Squids and melting them into extra hearts in the town. It can be challenging to beat the game with only 2 hearts, especially if you meet an enemy that can hit you for 6 HP in one hit. Luckily, most normal enemies have a certain attack pattern so you just need to learn their pattern to avoid getting hit.
Bosses, on the other hand, are way challenging if you try to limit yourself. They have unique attack patterns and some of the attacks are hard to avoid if you don’t know what to do. Luckily, you can adjust the difficulty of the boss as well. Hardcore players can try to finish the boss without taking damage and using items, although casual players who don’t care about achievements can do both. As for me, I tried to beat them without taking damage and using items at first, although it proves to be difficult to accomplish as you progress without giving up on the other one – I ended up using items to defeat most end-game bosses to make them easier to beat.
Length and Difficulty
I finished the game in 14.1h and spent the rest of my playtime to finish the speedrun achievements. Most of my playtime on that 14.1h was spent restarting the game to defeat bosses without taking damage and clearing a certain area without dying, which can cut the playtime by a lot of hours if you choose to ignore all that.
As I said before, the difficulty is adjustable – you can use items and have more hearts to make the game easier. There is an achievement to finish the game without adding extra hearts and defeat all bosses without taking damage though, so achievement hunters might find the game to be more annoying to finish. Moreover, some people might find the last dungeon to be difficult since you need to execute a lot of actions at nearly the same time to clear the area.
The game has confusing tutorials. It might explain the mechanics properly, but the game never states which button to press – the most that the game will tell you is something like “press the lamp button”, which you must figure out from the controls on your own. Lastly, saving doesn’t seem to recover your health although reloading your save will fully recover it.
Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
Despite not understanding most stories and references, you actually can enjoy the game if you don’t care much about the story. The gameplay makes up for it with its unique enemies and challenging bosses, although the control might feel stiff at first due to the character’s slow attacking speed. Luckily, it doesn’t take long before you can upgrade the attack speed into an acceptable one, and when it does, the game will feel right at home for you. It’s a solid Metroidvania game for both casual and hardcore gamers with adjustable difficulty.