WayForward's magical girl Shantae lost her fantastic powers at the end of 2010's Shantae: Risky's Revenge. It was certainly a blow to the half-genie, as she's pretty proud of her fantastic heritage.
But Shantae and the Pirate's Curse for the Nintendo 3DS demonstrates that the mystic heroine is perfectly capable of beating back bad guys with conventional tools and weapons.
That's not to discount her emotional trauma, of course. Shantae just really knows how to make the best out of a bad situation, giving fans of traditional platforming games much to be grateful for.
You are a pirate
Shantae may be bereft of her magic, but that's not enough to keep her down when trouble starts in her beloved Scuttle Town. She and the pirate Risky Boots strike an uneasy alliance when it becomes obvious that Risky's old mentor, the Pirate Master, appears to be brewing up some world-conquering plans.
Shantae quickly realises that if she's going to have any luck against the likes of the undead sea-dog, she's going to have to be a pirate (yar-har fiddle-dee-dee).
Whereas the action in Shantae: Risky's Revenge takes place across a large, linked overworld, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is broken up across several islands. With some aid from Risky's pirate ship (and its reluctant owner), Shantae can travel from stage to stage.
Though the levels in The Pirate's Curse no longer form a single rambling experience, each island still provides a good amount of gameplay with plenty of secrets and hidden areas.
There's still plenty of exploration on tap, too: Shantae takes a page from another game gal, Metroid's Samus, and travels back to previous levels and areas in order to unlock cool stuff with the aid of the new items and powers she acquires on her travels.
As pretty as the seaside
Though Shantae is no longer able to perform the magic belly dances that turn her into a variety of animals, flicking her hair is still her primary means of attack (how does her neck handle it?). As she progresses, she also gets her hands on secondary weapons like a blunderbuss and an oversized pirate hat that grants her a soft landing from falls.
The visuals on display in The Pirate's Curse easily top the rich spritework in Risky's Revenge, and that's saying something. Master sprite artist Paul Robertson is back, as is the life (and gratuitous jiggle physics) he manages to inject into every enemy and character.
Even NPCs sway and breathe - a far cry from most games' cold, dead statues that stare blankly at you until you deign to talk to them.
The Pirate's Curse's soundtrack is composed by Jake Kaufman. In other words, if you have headphones, use them.
Shantae's hair-snapping is reminiscent of the whip action from classic Castlevania games, which is just one reason why The Pirate's Curse is a joy to play. Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is just satisfying in every regard, whether you're hopping, floating, shooting, exploring, or collecting.
Best of all, it's not over. We'll see Shantae make her high definition debut in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero some time in 2015. Dearest platforming fans, if you've yet to make the acquaintance of Scuttle Town's warm-hearted guardian, now's the time.