Nintendo held a particularly large booth at New York Comic Con this year, but they also set up a room dedicated to games current on and coming soon to the Nintendo eShop. Among those games was Wayforward's next game, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse. From my experience, I can say that Shantae on 3DS is off to a good start to be a great continuation of the series.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is the third iteration in the Shantae franchise. The game's predecessors starred Shantae as a half-genie, both on GameBoy Color and on DSiWare (and both currently accessible through the 3DS eShop). However, after the events of Shantae: Risky's Revenge, our dancing heroine has lost her genie powers, and she has been trying to adjust ever since. It is not long before she is encountered by her nemesis, the pirate Risky Boots, but she is there to ask for some help instead of a battle. It turns out Shantae's genie powers have split into shards and made Risky's minions more powerful than she. What is worse is that they plan to resurrect Risky's mentor, the Pirate Master, which would spell disaster for Sequin Land. Forced into a truce, Risky and Shantae must work together (with whatever skills a pirate can use) to save the land and get Shantae her powers back.
Pirate's Curse is much like its predecessors in that it is a side-scrolling action adventure title. Players control Shantae, attacking enemies using her hair whip or whatever abilities she acquires throughout the adventure. With her genie powers gone, she lacks the ability to transform into animals or use magic attacks against her enemies, but she replaces these skills with pirate abilities and other weaponry she obtains over the course of the game. She also has an inventory of many items to use at her discretion; the demo particularly only had potions, though there are probably plenty more items from where those came.
The demo only had two areas to check out - a boss battle and a dungeon stage. In my playthrough, I explored the dungeon exclusively. Graphically, the game resembles its DSiWare prequel, but the graphics are much smoother and look much crisper and detailed, thanks to the 3DS's higher resolution screen. The 3D depth is particularly sharp, and the game takes no performance hit when shifting between 2D and 3D. It does appear that the game takes assets from Risky's Revenge, at least in the demo dungeon, but not only are these graphics improved, a number of additional, more detailed characters join them. During cutscenes, the character art is completely redrawn with the help of Inti-Creates, which fits right into the franchise's general artstyle.
The dungeon was fairly straightforward, although it was probably designed to be among the earlier areas of the game. There were a few locked doors, requiring Shantae to venture off the path and into darker sections of the dungeon to find a key. In searching for the key, I encountered a mini-boss crustacean, and the battle was fast-paced but not too fast for me to get close for a few quick whips of hair. New in this game is the display of damage counts when hitting an enemy (or getting hit yourself); I suspect the final game will show off more numerical stats for Shantae and a bestiary to reflect the need for a damage counter. All the while, between the new effects, smooth animations, and crisp visuals, the gameplay was as fun as Shantae as ever been.
Deeper into the dungeon, I encountered switches which shifted cage platforms when activated, but there were some switches too far to reach. Thankfully, Shantae would find a pistol in the dungeon, adding a projectile to her arsenal. I do not know whether there will be any cost to using the pistol in the final game, but I did not see anything resembling a limit to its use in the demo itself. Besides this new weapon, the game demonstrated a new charge attack that Shantae potentially learns earlier in the game. While running forward, she starts to glow, and if you press the right button at that time, she dashes forward, ShineSpark-style, and destroys everything in her path with a sharp pirate's blade.
While I did have a good time with the game, there are some concerns I would like to address. For one, with the game's reuse of assets or similarity to those in Risky's Revenge, I wonder how large the game will be when it is completed or how different the world will be compared to that of its predecessor. Also, the inventory at the bottom screen remained fairly inactive throughout the demo, almost feeling like an empty placeholder above all else. I suspect the bottom screen will allow a map display at some point, but the demo felt a touch too basic regardless. Outside of these concerns, the game felt as good if not better than the previous Shantae games, especially with higher-resolution graphics and a widescreen display through which to admire the experience.
Shantae and the Pirate's Curse releases some time this year for the 3DS Nintendo eShop. Meanwhile, the series' next big game, Half-Genie Hero, is slated for PC, PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U sometime in 2014.
Located in Nintendo’s separate eShop room, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was playable, and I got to get some brief moments with the game. The demo took place within a stone dungeon filled with a variety of enemies and hazards. The game’s controls were similar to that of the other Shantae games, full of jumping and hair swatting at baddies. During my playthrough, I not only had Shantae hair smacking shadowy pirates but also a crab mini-boss that I could only hit when its defenses were down, which was only when it was preparing to attack. There were also these flying bats that found pleasure in knocking me into pits constantly. Besides defeating the usually enemy, using the hair I was also able to find hidden areas filled with money-laden urns and activate switches that moved cages suspended from the ceiling. By standing in a cage when I hit the switches, Shantae would be carried with the cage around walls and over pits. However, further into the demo, these switches were too far away for Shantae’s hair to reach and required a new ability: Risky’s Gun. This not only worked as a projectile weapon but also as a puzzle-solving too; it could activate faraway switches allowing me access to parts deeper into the dungeon. It will be interesting to see what other pirate abilities you can acquire throughout her journey.
Graphically, the game was made up entirely of sprites, which is the norm for most WayForward titles. Whenever Shantae whipped her hair or an enemy moved in for the attack, the animations where both crisp and fluid. The game also looked good in 3d although it was not necessary to have on in order to enjoy the game. One neat 3D effect was whenever the cages moved, they would slide into the background with Shantae and then move back forward again into the new spot. Little things like that are neat touches that I hope fill this title.
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse played smoothly just like the other titles in the series. Even though it was just a small taste, I already enjoy the subtle 3D effects as they come into play as well as the new pirate power-ups. Due out later this year on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, this well animated title is one to look out for.