I’ve always enjoyed the Shantae series of games, with WayForward’s half-genie hero offering a fun assortment of adventures ever since her first escapade on the Nintendo Switch back in 2002. That’s crazy, right? Shantae has been around for nearly twenty years now… she’s a gaming legend.
Her latest adventure is just as charming as the rest too, with Shantae and the Seven Sirens seeing the titular hero FINALLY getting a well-deserved break on Paradise Island, which also just so happens to be hosting the Half-Genie Festival. Of course, things go wrong when all of the other half-genies end up getting kidnapped, meaning Shantae has got to save the day once more. What are the chances, right?
As players have probably come to expect from the series, Shantae and the Seven Sirens offers a vast and beautiful 2D world to explore that’s full of platforming escapades, enemies to beat up, and puzzles to solve. Basically, if you’ve played a previous Shantae game before, you’ll feel right at home here.
Of course, one of the big hooks this time around is the fact that you’ve got to rescue the other half-genies, with each granting you new abilities that help you traverse the world and solve the many enigmas that are scattered across it. It’s a true Metroidvania-style adventure in that sense, so you can expect a fair bit of backtracking to not only progress through the game but to find all of the little secrets that you might not have been able to previously access too. With some slick level design that’ll test both your platforming and puzzle-solving prowess and an assortment of enemies to conquer along the way though, you won’t begrudge re-visiting a few previous locales during your roughly ten-hour journey with the game.
Most of your time in Shantae and the Seven Sirens will be spent exploring the overworld, interacting with the NPCs than inhabit it (and helping complete small side quests for them) and then conquering the many deadly dungeons. There’s a lot of platforming involved in exploration, but there’s nothing too difficult to encounter so players should feel comfortable there – you may get caught out by one or two hazards now and again, but it’s pretty straight-forward for the most part.
It’s when puzzles come into the mix that you’ll start to feel tested, with the transformations and abilities you unlock expected to be utilised in an assortment of ways to open new pathways or to get to those hard to reach areas. A lot of the time it’s pretty obvious what you need to do – it’s always clear when you need to turn into a hermit crab to drill through the ground or a newt to climb walls for example, whilst it’s also not very subtle when you need to perform a dance to apply power to an inactive object. However, when these abilities need to be tied together in succession or there are objects blocking your way, it can really take a bit of thinking in order to find a solution to the conundrum in front of you.
It’s not a complaint by any means and it is actually one of my favourite things about the game – add to that some genuinely clever puzzle variety and an assortment of abilities that continually increase as you progress, and you’ll quickly find that Shantae and the Seven Siren’s puzzles remain a lot of fun to solve through the entirety of the adventure. It’s worth pointing out that the different abilities are more intuitive to access this time around too, with transformations performed with a quick button press and your dancing skills requiring a simple button combination. Sure, that might not sound like much to a lot of players, but it goes a long way in streamlining the experience and making it easier and quicker to utilise Shantae’s different tricks.
There are plenty of baddies to beat up during your adventure, with most going down fuss-free with a few whips of Shantae’s hair. You can also tie your abilities into combat and there are a slew of different tools you can use too, but mashing your standard attack typically proves the most effective way to take most foes out. The combat certainly isn’t particularly deep but it’s effective enough that you won’t tire of it, even if you won’t feel too tested by the foes in your path. That being said, the boss fights do deserve a shout out – they tie together some puzzle and platforming style elements into the mix that make them a heck of a lot more entertaining and varied to battle than standard enemies, so you can expect a more thorough testing of your skills. They’re also really stylish in design, which is always a plus in my eyes.
Whilst the transformations and abilities you unlock grant Shantae most of her power, you can also improve her capabilities in other ways. You can purchase some upgrades in the in-game shop for example, with new tools and improvements to your hair-whip attack making taking down enemies even easier than it was before. Again, it’s something we’ve seen in the game previously, so those returning to the series will know how this works.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens also introduces Monster Cards, which are special cards that are dropped by enemies and that can be equipped by Shantae to give her an assortment of different boosts to her varied skills, whether that’s increasing the effectiveness of her abilities, increasing her movement speed, or even making enemies drop more gems. There really is a diverse selection of boosts available across the game’s fifty cards and I found it quite addictive to tinker with them to see what worked best for me – you can have up to three equipped at a time and swapping them around for different areas or bosses can prove a mighty effective way to progress through the game harm-free. It’s a simple idea, but a neat one that adds an extra dimension of customisation to Shantae and the Seven Sirens’ gameplay.
There really is a whole lot to love about Shantae and the Seven Sirens, but it could also be argued that it’s a lot more of the same. Sure, using abilities and transformations feels more intuitive than before and the visuals are more impressive than ever (especially with some of the animated cutscenes), but there’s no denying that players will find themselves doing a lot of the same things that we’ve seen across the series over the years. Is that a bad thing? Not at all, especially since the adventure is of such a high quality anyway, but it would have been nice to have seen a little bit more variety when compared to previous journeys than Shantae has embarked on.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens offers yet another thoroughly enjoyable and super charming adventure for gamers to embark on – even if there isn’t a whole lot different on show when compared with previous entries in the series. Still, with the more intuitive controls, the creative Monster Cards, and the slick level design, there’s no doubting that Shantae and the Seven Sirens hits the same high standard we’ve come to expect from WayForward’s entertaining series of adventures.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC