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Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (3DS) Review

/ Nov 17th, 2014 No Comments

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

Cult classics are border a tricky line in video games. For those that love a series, their devotion borders on fantastical. However, most people are usually ambivalent to them or fail to understand the franchise’s following.

The Shantae series gained a cult following after the first entry released in 2002 for GameBoy Color, and its well-received DSi sequel kept the love going. The series’ dedicated fans caused developers to spawn two more entries into the series. The latest entry, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, is a solid starting point for anyone new to the series, but rewards its fans with plenty of in-jokes and references.

It Has Two Meanings

A weird dream has been plaguing Shantae since she lost her genie powers and became human. A voice rings out from an ominous island. This voice beckons to its evil minions to help break the seal that bind it, and release a terrible curse to make it the ruler of Sequin Land. While the dream is most concerning, trouble is brewing at home when the Ammo Baron attacks Scuttle Town. In rebuffing the assault, the town learns the mayor sold out the town.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

That pesky Ammo Baron is going to be the death of this town.

The future of her home is in peril. As Shantae worries about Scuttle Town, the truth of the dream comes to fruition. Shantae’s nemesis and the reason she lost her genie powers, Risky Boots, shows up at Scuttle Town. Against expectations, Risky is not there to fight Shantae — in fact, she needs help. Risky tells that her old master, aptly named the Pirate Master, has turned her crew into warped, evil monstrosities and aims to cause havoc for Sequin Land. In a Matthau and Lemon move, Risky and Shantae team up to figure out a way to stop the Pirate Master’s return.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

Strange bed fellows, eh?

While the premise of the game is novel, the strength of the dialogue and humor make the story compelling. Shantae’s world is full of colorful, fascinating characters, from the citizens of Scuttle Town to the Rottytops and her zombie family, to the bizarre dessert cult. There are many moments in the game that will cause players to audibly guffaw. It is the Squid Baron, however, that steals the show. His subplot is worth the price of admission alone.

A Swashbucklin’ Adventure

Shantae may not be a half genie any longer, but being a full-time human isn’t too shabby. At the beginning of the game, Shantae only has the use of her luscious, purple hair to whip enemies and the ability to jump quite agilely. It isn’t until Shantae ventures forth from Scuttle Town with Risky Boots that her arsenal grows, figuratively and literally.

To prevent the Pirate Master’s return, Shantae and Risky must travel to a number of islands and find a Den of Evil residing there. Before Shantae can reach this Den of Evil and do battle with a great monster at the heart of it, she must solve some major problems on the island.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

As Shantae gains more pirate abilities, the complexity of platforming increases.

Whether the problem is clearing out a massive gathering of stones blocking a path or helping some beach babes get a pool to sunbathe, fixing the plight of the island will reveal the entrance to the Den of Evil. Quite often, the solution to the island’s problems will take Shantae back to Scuttle Town or previous islands to speak with a companion and trigger an event.

The Dens of Evil are labyrinths full of dangers that Shantae must best in order to vanquish the evil within it. As she explores and solves riddles, Shantae gains new items and abilities, including a flintlock pistol, pirate boots and a scimitar. These items give Shantae a fighting chance against the great dangers she faces. Ironically, all of these new abilities come at the misfortune of her nemesis, Risky.

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse

Boss battles are tough, clever and fun.

Maps in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse have a Metroid feel to them. As such, when Shantae gains new abilities, she can revisit old areas to reveal hidden paths and find secrets. In fact, the solution to finding another Den of Evil sometimes involves going back. The “Metroidvania” presentation ensures there is a huge incentive for re-visiting areas to find all the Heart Squids and Black Magic.


Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse features fantastic gameplay and a great sense of humor. Incorporating new abilities into your repertoire when playing is easy thanks to a good control scheme. Combat requires timing and precision, especially later in the game as enemies only get tough and shave off more life. Boss battles are incredibly challenging, and completing them is rewarding. The game stays true to Shantae’s root, keeping old fans satisfied while making it fun for new fans.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Platforming is challenging and combat is satisfying. Exceptional boss battles round out the experience.


The game features fluid animations. Shantae's adventure is full of color and imaginative enemies. At times, the game is reminiscent of classic Shantae titles.


Shantae has a fun and catchy soundtrack, and players will experience some great sound effects.


While the premise is novel, it is the strength of the dialogue and humor that make the story so compelling.