Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the third in the Shantae series, following Shantae: Risky’s Revenge and the original Shantae game that kicked the hair-flinging off, with it released first on the Nintendo family of consoles, the 3DS and Wii U, before being launched on the Xbox One and PS4, and Windows PC later on. The game follows the exploits of Shantae, who this time around has lost her magic genie powers and has to rely on her hair, as usual in these games. The big change here though is in her choice of partners, as she teams up with her arch enemy, Risky Boots, in an attempt to save Sequin Land from a new foe, the Pirate Master.
The story is suitably bonkers, as you might expect. At the end of the previous game, Shantae lost all her genie magic powers, and as such has had a tricky time fitting back into normal society as just a regular human. One day, Shantae is rudely awoken by the sound of cannon fire, and she rushes out of her house, ready as always to defend the town, even without her powers. However, it turns out the ruckus is caused by the Ammo Baron, who has apparently bought the town from the hapless Mayor Scuttlebutt. After giving the Ammo Baron a good kicking, it is revealed that the forces of Law and Order are actually on his side, and Shantae is served with a court summons.
Returning home, Shantae’s day gets a bit worse when Risky Boots appears, accusing her of kidnapping her henchmen, and of stealing all of her gear. However, together, the two witness Dark Magic turning the henchmen from Tinkerbats into Cacklebats. Risky deduces from this that the Pirate Master – a long dead pirate who happened to be Risky’s captain – is trying to use Dark Magic to revive himself, despite being sealed away by all of Sequin Land’s genies. A mutually beneficient alliance must therefore be forged, and Risky and Shantae reluctantly agree to team up. What this largely boils down to is Risky becoming a glorified taxi, taking Shantae to new islands when she discovers maps that show her where to go. And yes, the game gets weirder from there on out.
The aim of the Pirate’s Curse is to thoroughly explore all the islands that are discovered, in order to find Dens of Evil which are feeding the Pirate Master magic; these obviously have to be stopped. Along the way, a little light platforming will allow Shantae to find Cacklebats dotted about, from which the Dark Magic can be extracted after the application of some hair whips, before being stored in a genie’s lamp-type device. Finding all the Cacklebats is key to getting the best ending in the game, so backtracking with new abilities is always worthwhile.
As you explore, you’ll also find Risky’s gear dotted about, such as a pistol that can not only shoot enemies but can also be used to flick switches, a hat that allows Shantae to glide, a scimitar that can break blocks using a downward thrust, boots that enable Shantae to do a charge attack to break some walls, and a cannon that gives Shantae something of a rocket jump move. As you can imagine, when Shantae is fully tooled up, the levels turn into a blur of high speed action and your reflexes will be tested to the limit.
Now, being a port from the 3DS, Pirate’s Curse has a much more pixelated look than the first game that I played in the series, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. In fact, it was off the back of playing that and the amount of fun I had from it, that made me hunt down any other games featuring Shantae. I’ll admit though, on firing it up, I was somewhat taken aback by how the game looked. To be fair, it’s not bad, just different. And the sheer amount of personality that the developers, WayForward, have managed to shoehorn into the sprites, and the animation of Risky Boots’s ample charms, ensures that the game is great to look at. The sound as well is perfectly fitting with the theme of the game, with jolly tunes and more hair whipping sound effects than you can shake a stick at.
I think it’s fair to describe Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse as almost Metroidvania-like, as with new stuff, Shantae can get to new areas that she couldn’t before, letting you find more secrets and Cacklebats. There are other little side missions to take part in too, such as getting some girls on Spring Break a swimming pool to frolic in. And of course, the best way to do this is to store the smell of cooking ham in the genie lamp thing she keeps in her pocket, and then to release it in front of a giant monster, causing it to drool and fill the swimming pool up. This then causes a spell to become available, which is in turn used by another NPC to open up a new area, and so on and so forth. A lack of content is not a problem that this game has, let’s put it that way!
All in all, I really enjoyed Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse back in 2016, happily going back to it a good few times since. It still stands up today too, providing a stiff challenge and some very amusing gameplay. And of course, since that time, Shantae and the Seven Sirens has also released on Xbox. But, these are my memories, both old and new, of the booty shaking platform action of Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse from 2016. But what about you guys out there on the other side of the screen? Did you play the game back in the day, and if so what did you think? Let us know in the comments!
And if you haven’t played it, you can grab Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse on Xbox from the Xbox Store this very minute.