Shantae and the Seven Sirens Review
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the latest installment in Wayforward Technologies long-running series that has been evolving from one platform to another since the original released for the Gameboy Colour back in 2002. While the colours have always been bright and the characters have always been charming, Wayforward continues to outdo themselves with Seven Sirens, which is the fifth in the franchise. While the series has remained a 2D platformer over the years, metroidvania elements have been expanded upon over the years in a formula that Wayforward continues to improve upon with Seven Sirens.
Wayforward Evolves Shantae
Fusion magic further refines the shape-shifting abilities that were a central feature of Pirate Weapons in Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Instead of having to manually select a specific ability, this game allows fans of the series one button access to the important abilities that Shantae will be using across the stages of Shantae and the Seven Sirens. Dash Newt is the first unlocked ability in the game and it transforms Shantae into a Newt that can grip onto walls with an initial burst of speed. The Dash Newt is basically Shantae and the Seven Sirens’ equivalent to Super Metroid’s morph ball as it’s both the first ability to unlock and it’s primarily used for navigation rather than battle. Just like any other title in the Shantae Series, the talented half-genie will not only shapeshift in this title, but she’ll be utilizing the power of various dance moves to tackle boss fights and navigate her way through and around Paradise Island.
Shantae begins her exploration of Paradise Island by attending the Half-Genie Festival in Arena Town. Upon arriving, Shantae discovers that the other half-genies are scattered around the island as part of a tour and she has to track them down. After locating each of the five other half-genies, Shantae joins them for a stage performance (which she struggles her way through) just for them to disappear when the lights go out, leaving Shantae along on stage when the lights turn back on. The mystery is initially blamed on Risky Boots who does play a role in the plot as usual, but greater threats face Shantae as the Seven Sirens make Risky Boots battles look like facing a room of mindless Lobster Joggers. Health can be regenerated by eating consumables found from defeating enemies or purchased in town but hearts are also easily located by destroying nearby urns and lanterns. Anyone who has ever played Castlevania or Legend of Zelda knows exactly what it’s like to destroy the environment to further progress. The platforming shares similarities with Sonic the Hedgehog and Donkey Kong in some ways, with hidden areas providing benefits in some cases and enemies that can trap you in others. I’m kept on my toes when going into the hidden areas in the best of ways and it’s like an island of sirens; you never know what you’re going to get.
Great Metroidvania for New Fans
One of the key additions to the Shantae series with Shantae and the Seven Sirens is monster cards which can be utilized to enhance gameplay like upgrades in roguelikes enhance a characters ability to survive. Monster cards drop from defeated enemies from basic snakes and crabs to more challenging foes such as Wetmen and Naga. Even the powerful bosses in Shantae and the Seven Sirens drop their cards which can be used to defeat future bosses akin to the boss abilities in Mega Man games. Each monster card will enhance Shantae’s abilities in unique ways and up to three monster cards can be used at a time. There are a total of fifty cards to collect and if you’re able to complete Shantae and the Seven Sirens, the odds are you’ve located each of them. Shantae can increase her movement speed or automatically refill her magic over time with these cards, allowing you to optimize the gameplay to your style or give yourself an important advantage going into a big fight. My only regret with monster cards is that they aren’t also used for some sort of in-game TCG in addition to their important purpose of empowering the half-genie. This system is a refreshing addition to the Shantae series and it’s yet another way Shantae has evolved over the last eighteen years.
Considering the humble roots on the Gameboy Colour, it’s impressive that Shantae continues to improve on a formula that was set all of those years ago rather than trying to shake things up to its detriment. Each of the characters plays their role and the voice acting is fitting for the character and art design. While I identify with Water Lily Siren for her love of the sun and relaxed demenor, I definitely know people who are more like Empress Siren and Coral Siren. While the other half-genies have always provided that diversity in character that fans of any anime can relate with, it’s impressive that even the enemies can feel relatable in this 2D platformer and metroidvania title. From the opening anime intro that features an original song, “Rise and Shine Shantae”, with vocals by Shantae voice actress Cristina Vee to the very last cutscene, I was drawn into the world of Shantae and the Seven Sirens which caps off this generation of consoles like it did the Gameboy Colour generation of handhelds all of those years ago.
Brilliant 2D Hand-Painted Visuals
The art design is beautiful as always, the cutscenes would make fans of the original truly astonished and the voice acting compliments it all in an adventure that kids and adults can both enjoy. While I would recommend Shantae and the Seven Sirens to any metroidvania and platforming fan, I’d particularly recommend it to new fans of those genres and it’s a great title to get a kid into the genres as well. While I particularly enjoyed this latest Shantae title on the Xbox One, I could see how Nintendo Switch owners would enjoy being able to take it on the go and think it compliments the family-friendly nature of the hybrid platform. This is one of the easier platformers with metroidvania elements that I’ve played due to a reduced emphasis on backtracking and an increased emphasis on optimizing the gameplay to your style with the fresh monster card feature. Shantae has been a cult classic since its initial release on the Gameboy colour and I hope that the Seven Sirens help shine light on the series with new fans. Shantae and the Seven Sirens has evolved the Shantae formula yet again and nothing feels out of place on Paradise Island unless it’s meant to.
***Xbox One code provided by publisher***
- Colourful Visuals
- Anime quality cutscenes
- Fitting voice acting
- Relatable characters
- Monster Cards evolve the formula
- Easy Metroidvania
- Standard platformer
- Not enough backstory for new fans
- Monster cards serve one purpose