There are many different ways to announce a game and when it comes to Shantae and the Seven Sirens, many were a bit perplexed. Not only would the game be released in two parts, but the first part would only be available through the Apple Arcade as part of a launch promotion only for the rest to launch on the Apple store in March, leaving many of us left waiting until the final full release on consoles. So, while this journey may have been a bit of an odd one, it isn’t too unusual for the Shantae franchise over the years and now that it has finally danced its way onto consoles, is it worth picking up?
After the life-changing events that happened in Half-Genie Hero, Shantae and her friends are due for a break and they have been invited to the tropical “Arena Island” paradise for a vacation with only one caveat; that Shantae participate in the half-genie festival that the town is holding. After being quickly convinced by Sky, Bolo, and even Mimic, Shantae meets with the town’s mayor and is introduced to five new half-genies, all of which have their own unique form of magic, who will also be participating in the dance festival.
During an evening practice the rest of the half-genies mysteriously vanish and leave Shantae as the sole guardian capable of uncovering the mysteries of the island and trying to rescue her newfound friends, though with the appearance of Risky Boots and mentions of a true treasure being hidden away, things may not be quite as they seem.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens feels like it is at a bit of a crossroads. Fans of the franchise have a chance to see all of their favorite characters return for a new journey in a brand new location as well as the addition of a great number of likable seeming allies in the form of the new half-genies but unfortunately many of them really don’t get a chance to shine or even develop much of a personality beyond simply existing as a goal and a way to give Shantae new dance power-ups and the new location only serves as the best way to deliver the new mystery and the source of the Sirens that players will be facing off against.
This means that while the signature brand of humor and writing is still there for what character interactions there are, especially for Shantae who continues to shine in nearly every conversation she has, the new characters really don’t have a lot going for them which is extremely unfortunate. In fact, a certain fan favorite barely plays a role in the game as a whole and even the boss battles lack the type of impact that previous games have had, with most confrontations beginning and ending with little to no fanfare which is quite disappointing and results in a narrative that has some of the charm that fans have come to love but doesn’t capitalize on any of its new characters or even most of its returning cast.
For Shantae and the Seven Sirens the series takes a return back to its Metroidvania roots where the entire game takes place over the course of a single map with dungeon-like areas placed at the end of most paths. Players will gain access to more areas as they progress through the story unlocking additional powers for Shantae that can be used to open up paths that were either previously untraversable or were blocked in some manner all while taking down a variety of enemies that are standing in the way with a mixture of hair-whips and magic. All this is done with tight controls and new extremely fluid transformations that make navigating areas a breeze.
As usual, most sub-weapons (that require magic to utilize) that Shantae will use in combat comes from stores that also provide various boosts to her hair whip attack, such as increasing its attack power and speed, though most of these spells will be very familiar to fans of the franchise as nearly all of them are returning from previous entries. The real special abilities that Shantae unlocks as the player makes their way through the game come in the form of Fusions that allow her to transform into various small animals to navigate the environment in various ways. This includes things such as having to transform into a newt to climb walls, a turtle to dive, and more.
The game’s layout works fairly well in pacing out progression to give players a small sample of what to expect from the exploration abilities while traversing through the dungeon they obtain them in, though remembering the exact locations of certain secrets in the main map will be a bit more difficult. This is primarily due to the fact that, while the game map does show where players have been and if there are entrances they haven’t traveled through, any caves where hidden items may be or other previously unreachable secrets, be they heart squids that can be traded for an increased health bar or saved for other reasons or nuggets that can be traded for boss cards, are not marked down which is rather unfortunate given the eventual size of the map and sparsity of fast travel platforms.
The other core ability that Shantae will unlock throughout the game happens to be special dance magic that utilizes the abilities of the other half-genies that the player has rescued so far. These dances serve as both a method of progression as well as a way to help Shantae defeat her foes since they can end up being incredibly powerful to the point that the game rarely feels like a challenge. This is also due to the fact that, while the dungeons are a real highlight that see a mixture of solid puzzle design and navigation, most of the combat and platforming is fairly simplistic at best and even boss battle tend to be rather simple in nature with only a couple of bosses requiring some unique thinking to defeat.
Now earlier there was mention of cards and that also happens to be a way that Shantae can grow stronger and be customized a bit to best fit the player’s style. Whenever a standard enemy is defeated they have a chance to drop a card that, when a certain number is obtained, can be equipped to provide various boosts. Three of these cards can be equipped at a time and they can range from simply allowing Shantae to crawl a little quicker to regenerating magic to avoiding any damage from falling into a pit, giving players an advantage that can be customized to their liking.
Visuals & Audio
One of the first things that players will notice is that WayForward has decided to give Shantae and the Seven Sirens a bit of extra love here and there as the company has teamed with Studio Trigger to produce not only an opening video for the game but a number of short cutscenes that play throughout the story to introduce key plot points and boss fights. These animations are short but gorgeously presented and hold up incredibly well to the bright and colorful art style used with the in-game world. The character sprites remain as detailed as ever with the new characters and bosses given gorgeously drawn designs that really stand out here.
As far as the soundtrack goes, it is worth noting that the series’ longtime composer Jake Kaufman was not able to return to work on the background music for the game but thankfully the songs haven’t seen too much of a drop in quality with the new team taking over. The chiptune background music remains fairly catchy, especially in regards to major confrontations, though there are a few that really lack any type of impact which may be the biggest sign of his absence. It is also worth noting that this entry also happens to feature perhaps the most voice work in the series so far thanks to the animated cutscenes seeing many characters talking for short bursts and of course providing bits of dialogue here and there during story moments and it is nice to note that all of this voice work is not only handled quite well but nearly all of the voice actors have returned to reprise their roles.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens may not have the longest run-time, as it clocks in at around eight hours roughly but the enticing New Game+ option and the blast that one can have while playing makes it easy to jump back in to make another run and maybe aim for a faster time. While the story could have been given some more attention, especially in regards to the new characters and location, and things are a bit easier than one would hope, Shantae and the Seven Sirens delivers satisfying dungeon exploration and solid boss battles all wrapped up in a gorgeous looking package.
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