When Nintendo revitalized the Metroid franchise (you know, until they let it fizzle out again) a decade ago, both of the games they published -- Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion -- sought to answer the nagging question of sequels to games featuring protagonists who became exceedingly powerful over the course of their previous adventure: "Where did all those weapons go, anyway?"
In Samus's case, the answer varied with the game. In Fusion, she had to have them all surgically removed after being nearly devoured by an alien virus, while in Prime, her Power Suit was just a shoddy piece of junk whose components stopped working after a minor impact with the wall. But you know, at least they were trying. For WayForward's upcoming Shantae sequel, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, the answer was actually built into the previous game. At the end of that adventure, Shantae got double-whammied by evil pirate Risky Boots and the rogue zombie Rotty Tops, who stole away all of the heroine's hard-earned genie powers.
So, at the beginning of Pirate's Curse, Shantae finds herself pre-stripped of her abilities. Unlike the Metroid games (and other similar series that employ similar narrative conceits to set up a link between plot and play mechanics), Pirate's Curse looks like its heroine's skill set will take on a different feel than in her previous outings rather than send players foraging for the same abilities they've used over the last two games. Since Shantae's innate powers have been robbed, the only old power she has access to is smacking her foes with her ponytail.
Which isn't to say Pirate's Curse absolutely won't go back to the well. In the demo playable at this year's PAX, Shantae possesses a strange vestigial skill: The X button is reserved entirely for holding aloft a genie's lamp, which does... nothing. So until that resolves itself, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is about a genie who can't be a genie.
Stripped of her power to transform into other creatures and perform magical dances, Shantae instead resorts to more mundane platforming mechanics. In the PAX demo, this amounts to her gaining an uncharacteristic new power: A blunderbuss pistol, which she can use to shoot enemies or activate switches. It's hardly new for this style of game, but it's different for Shantae and suggests her adventure won't be more of the same.
There's no guarantee it'll be packed with surprises, though. The boss battle in the demo pits Shantae against a tank in a battle that feels fairly standard for an action platformer: She has to hit the tank's projectiles back at it to knock its commander off his perch, allow her to dash forward and damage him while he dusts himself off.
In other words, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse looks as though it's likely to mix up the franchise slightly without radically reinventing the genre as a whole. It's comfortable, familiar action abetted with great graphics and music, along with a slightly sardonic (albeit family-friendly) sense of humor. A little down-home comfort food for the eShop crowd.
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