[Review] Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Posted on May 26, 2020 by Dennis Gagliardotto(@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch
Release date: May 28, 2020
It’s crazy to think that it’s been almost twenty years now since the half-genie hero, Shantae, was introduced to the gaming world way back on the Game Boy Color. The debut entry not only laid the foundation of what would become a long-running and incredible platforming franchise, but at the time pushed pixel art to the absolute limits of its associated hardware. The series laid dormant for quite some time before Risky’s Revenge popped back up in 2010, and since then has seen a ton of success with a healthy schedule of releases. Now Shantae is back on an all new adventure that fine-tunes the HD art from Half-Genie Hero, and brings another incredible Metroidvania that sees new and old faces alike joining in to save the day.
Everyone’s favorite belly-dancing, hair-whipping genie goes on a much needed vacation and finds herself on an island. Excited to relax, Shantae goes to get a room, but upon arrival she’s invited to partake in a performance with other half-genies, which she’s reluctant to do but gets coerced into anyways. During the performance, something evil and sinister takes over and in the blink of an eye all of the genies go missing. Shantae, confused, must go and uncover the secrets as she saves the day once again. The intro cinematic and throughout the game you’re met with occasional animated sequences that are absolutely stunning, with the opening in particular being done by none other than Studio Trigger, the animation team behind Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia, and Darling in the Franxx. Shantae has seen an evolution of visual styles throughout the years, all of which have been fitting, but Shantae and the Seven Sirens gives, to me, what is possibly the best right next to Pirate’s Curse.
Shantae’s platforming excellence shines brighter than ever before here with a clear fluidity and intuitive controls that make the entire experience feel seamless and unobstructed by changing the way spells and transformations actually work. The dances this time around are mainly used as abilities that serve as a sort of “key item” and “environmental effect” like being able to see invisible objects or restore health, while the actual transformations have been reserved for button presses through the use of Fusion Coins. These Fusion Coins can turn Shantae into five other animals that help get you through Seven Sirens’ intricate levels and access places of interest that help progress through the game as well as secret locations for collectibles like the Heart Squids, and with every four obtained, can be forged into a new heart to increase Shantae’s overall health. Personally, I think this quick access method and tweak to her magic and abilities makes the game feel a lot more polished and harder to put down when you’re not doing too much inventory management, leaving any pausing primarily for checking your map or eating any food in your inventory.
In addition to the new way Fusion Forms and Dances work, Shantae and the Seven Sirens adds a new card-like mechanic where enemies defeated will randomly drop monster cards and after accruing so many of them you’ll eventually unlock an ability of theirs which can be equipped, up to a max of three. These can do a number of things like increase climbing speed, crawling speed, increase damage of a particular magic used, nullify damage for any pits you drop into, and much more. Passives and buffs like this alongside the expected Shantae upgrades like faster hair whipping and item attraction give the player the way to play in a way they feel is most suitable. It’s always been, to me, one of the more defining things about Shantae, as you never really required to get every thing to play through and beat the game, giving more freedom in the way you enjoy it from start to finish.
Shantae’s class doesn’t just come from its unique, fun, and inventive platforming, but also from how responsive it is. I like my platformers fast with occasional tricks, and being able to utilize Shantae’s abilities that way by whipping hair really fast before dodging and dashing with a Newt Fusion ability or double and triple jumping with the Octo Fusion during insane boss fights, which are as colorful as they are clever, make for such a fantastic time that consistently feels balanced. Any time I died it was mainly due to a lack of paying attention to my health, but even when things got tough, I always had a healthy supply of recovery items on me, and the game is nice enough to drop hearts on occasion from breakable pots and defeating enemies. Nothing really has ever looked, felt, or sounded like Shantae, and it’s what makes her stand out among the greats of the genre.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens overall is yet another fantastic Shantae adventure, and while it doesn’t necessarily feel new outside of a more polished and intuitive way to play, it’s very much a “don’t fix what’s not broken” situation, where Shantae remains consistent with each release providing endless amounts of fun and enough charm to keep you smiling throughout. Unfortunately without a trophy or achievement system on Switch, any collecting or challenges will be done at the players will with no real reward outside of it, as I was always a big fan of trying to speedrun the games after playing and beating them a few times. Regardless, Shantae feels right at home on Switch, and any fan of platforming, old or new, that wants to get into an adventure with a beautiful and hilarious half-genie hero is sure to have a spectacular time with Shantae and the Seven Sirens.
Shantae hasn’t just transformed through her spells and dancing but throughout the franchise for almost twenty years now, and Seven Sirens brings with it another stellar entry that feels fluid, intuitive, and just all around fun as charm is constantly exuding from all corners of its gameplay alongside great level design, dungeons, and that sense of adventure that never ceases to be fun. Shantae is at her best on the Switch and looking better than ever before in pure HD that runs beautifully in both handheld and TV mode, and while there can sometimes be arbitrary loading screens between environments, and sometimes taking quite a bit of time, it’s otherwise an inventive and polished new entry in Shantae’s long history. Shantae and co.’s respective character, personality, and humor help drive Seven Sirens’ charm throughout, and thanks to this IP, the platforming genre has never been better.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.