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Shantae and the Pirate's curse was first released on the North American Nintendo 3Ds eShop October 23, 2014 and various leftover sprites in the game lead to the potential idea that the game could have gone in a somewhat different direction.
Like the Squidsmith found in the final version of the game, the Gunsmith's purpose was to upgrade Shantae's (Risky's) pistol, perhaps by collecting special items, or maybe by simply being paid gems, like the advance genie shop in the first game. He was replaced by purchasable upgrades in the item shop, as his inclusion would most likely be an inconvenience to the player having multiple shops for each pirate weapon that could be upgraded, as opposed to purchasing upgrades.
Saliva island Miner and his wife
The Saliva island Miner is first encountered by the entrance to spittle maze where he mourns his wife who has been turned to stone. Later, he himself turns to stone by reading the same curse thinking it was a cure. In the games files sprites of the duo in stone form, broken in half can be found, accompanied by ghost sprites of the miner and wife, implied that they died when their stone bodies shattered from the impact of falling into the spittle maze entrance. It is most likely that these were removed to avoid the implications that they were both accidentally killed, thus making the game darker than it should be.
The female variants of the Wetmen enemies that first appeared in the original Shantae were planned to make a return in Shantae and the pirates curse and even have all attacking sprites. The sprites appear to be mild upgrades of their Gameboy counterparts and have the only a few new frames. Perhaps the reason they were scrapped is because their animations and design would be a bit out of place compared to the vastly improved sprites of other returning enemies.
Potential game mechanics
In the game files there is a small icon sprite of a sword, under the name of "Magic Tile". This might have been for a magic meter at some point, used for items such as the pike balls.
There is also a mailbox sprite titled "Mayor Mailbox Idle" which may have been an outlet for fetch quests.
The remaining unused sprites consist of testing platforms, an unused pistol bullet titled "PistolAmmo" which either means it was the placeholder for the non-upgraded pistol shots or an item that replenished ammunition, and three mine sprites which are placeholder duplicates of the ones in the final game. The four testing platforms are:
"PlatformTest2" most likely to test collision and, well... platforming.
"Respawn Block" which would mark where Shantae respawns after falling down a bottomless pit.
"SpikeTile_All" a block covered with spikes on all sides and was most likely an insta-kill upon collision.
"Steel Block" unknown in purpose... maybe to test walking sound effects?