The Shantae series of games is one that I’ve only recently gotten into. The last entry, Half-Genie Hero, was a colorful and cheerful blast from the past that managed to capture nostalgia from a simpler time in gaming, despite being a recent release. Now we have Shantae and the Seven Sirens, which offers even more ambitions.
Can this traditional metroidvania approach to the series offer a chance for all of your wishes to be granted? Let’s find out.
A Pinnacle For The Series
Shantae and the Seven Sirens makes a great first impression with its new high-quality animated cutscenes. The opening combines wonderful animation with a catchy upbeat song performed by the voice actress of Shantae herself. It gives the game the kind of you feel you would have watching cartoons on Saturday morning as a kid.
It’s great to see the story take a step forward in this new entry, both in its presentation and in its overall presence. Fully animated scenes are peppered throughout the story, all of which offer exquisite animation and solid voice acting.
Characters in the hub area and out in the world also engage in witty dialogue with you that offers more than a few laughs. It’s more than you would normally see from a platformer’s narrative, and for me it really helped make the world feel like a place I wanted to explore and learn more about.
The story begins with Shantae and her group arriving at a tropical island for a well-deserved vacation. Of course, her all-inclusive trip comes with the requirement that she performs for the people of the island alongside other genies known as the seven sirens.
All seems well, until the night of the performance when the other genies disappear. It’s up to Shantae to seek them out and find out what happened.
The gameplay in Shantae and the Seven Sirens leans heavily into the metroidvania genre, as opposed to the more linear levels of the last entry. I prefer this as I like the idea of a large interconnected world with various paths, secrets, and obstacles to overcome.
Shantae thankfully navigates this genre switch relatively smoothly. A helpful map allows you to see where you have yet to explore, and a rudimentary fast travel system helps you get around, but there will be plenty of backtracking as you explore. For me, that’s par for the course in this type of game.
As part of this formula, you’ll often come across dead ends that require an ability to traverse. You’ll need to come back later when you have the proper means to move forward. For situations like this, the ability to mark areas on your map for later would have been nice.
As you navigate the various areas in the game, enemies will come in plenty of different forms. Your basic attack is a short range ability where you send Shantae’s ponytail out to whack nearby enemies. Later, you’ll come across other options for attacks, but this will be your mainstay.
Difficulty is steady, with some spikes, but the ability to carry health items with you and use them on-the-fly is always appreciated. I also liked the plentiful amount of save rooms, which are occupied by an old man in a green outfit.
Some tweaks to the Shantae formula itself also make this a more compelling experience for me than the prior entry. For starters, you no longer need to dance to transform into your creature forms. Instead, these are automatic or mapped to buttons which allow you to quickly access their unique abilities. An example is your first form that allows you to dash and stick to walls.
Belly dancing is still here, but it’s now reserved for magic that you receive from the Sirens as you find and rescue them. This makes more sense from a gameplay perspective and keeps things moving forward at your own pace.
Another new addition are Monster Cards, which drop from enemies at random intervals. Obtain enough of these and you can activate passive abilities. This offers some great incentive to engage with the enemies, even if you’re just running back through an area.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the culmination of everything I liked about Half-Genie Hero, and everything I like about metroidvania titles. It’s a platformer that retains its unique style, manages to feel nostalgic, but also doesn’t neglect the modern touches you would expect. Fans of the series should dive right in.
Superb Presentation and a Strong Soundtrack
Shantae and the Seven Sirens offers the most robust presentation that I’ve seen from the series. The art is vibrant and gorgeous, the animation and controls are superb, and the fully animated cutscenes bring back the nostalgia of weekend cartoons in the best way.
Environments are varied, but can feel a little repetitive because of their general theme and lack of unique elements. It’s not a huge issue at all, but there could have been more variety of the individual rooms.
The soundtrack is fluid and varied, offering catchy tunes, upbeat tracks, and tense music for boss encounters. It blends seamlessly into the rest of the experience, offering bold punctuation for the sentence that is the game’s visual style.
Metroidvania titles are a dime-a-dozen, so it takes a lot to make one stand out for me. Shantae and the Seven Sirens offers an excellent combination of classic presentation, precise controls, and compelling gameplay that keeps you interested all the way through.
As I mentioned before, fans of the series will enjoy the best entry yet, and those who enjoy metroidvania platformers will find a polished and incredibly solid entry into their beloved genre.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of Shantae and the Seven Sirens was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 6/3/2020