Game Review #519: Shantae and the Seven Sirens (Nintendo Switch)
  • John Bush

Game Review #519: Shantae and the Seven Sirens (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi


Developer: WayForward

Publisher: WayForward

Category: Adventure, Platformer

Release Date: 5.28.2020

Price: $29.99



Watch the Trailer

Buy Shantae and the Seven Sirens from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.


Ret-2-Go

Right out of the box, Shantae and the Seven Sirens quickly shows that it is an evolution of the traditional Shantae formula. The player is greeted by the wonderful Trigger opening video, but also by a WayForward cinematic immediately upon starting a new game. This is the first Shantae game to have in-game cinematics, and they are just one of the many enhancements that make this the strongest Shantae entry in the series.



It is obvious the game is built on top of the technology and assets from Half-Genie Hero, and that seems to have been a very wise decision. The hand-drawn art gives the characters life and expressiveness that even the best pixel art cannot replicate. The time saved clearly benefitted the release turn around, and more importantly the gameplay itself.


Fusion Dance

The most notable change to the gameplay is the inclusion of fusion magic. By allowing Shantae to transform instantly as part of her platforming move set, the game has returned to the smooth platforming that was the hallmark of Pirate’s Curse without giving up the transformations that are part of Shantae’s identity. She still retains her dances as well, but they are limited to puzzle-solving, exploration, and combat.



After fusion magic, the biggest addition are the game’s monster cards. They have a chance to drop from enemies after destroying them and offer a wide range of boosts to gameplay when equipped (up to a maximum of three). My personal favorite was the one that prevented damage when I died from spikes. That one definitely earned its keep during my gameplay. However, the ability to vastly change the gameplay experience simply by equipping different cards is definitely great for replayability. More on that later.



Beyond that, Seven Sirens plays just like Half-Genie Hero mechanically. Her hair still whips, and she still has magic spells to assist in combat. Combining her hair whip, spells, and dances effectively in combat made for a much more interesting experience than in previous games, especially when encountering new enemies and determining the best way to dispatch them.


Exploring the Depths

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Seven Sirens is that is has made the jump to being fully Metroidvania. Previous games in the series have had Metroidvania -like aspects to them, but none have done it as extensively as this game. With multiple towns, and multiple interconnected zones, the world is absolutely massive. The map screens and disconnected islands of the previous two games are gone, which is not a bad thing.



Quests will send Shantae through the zones, even occasionally across the entire map. Thanks to smart level design and a handful of warp points this never becomes annoying though. Despite there rarely being direction given, I never got lost trying to find where I was going. As complex as each zone is, they all manage to have a flow to them that leads the player naturally in the right direction.


Like any good Metroidvania, there are also plenty of secrets to discover. It was common to discover an area that clearly required a skill I did not have yet, inviting me to return later to get the heart squid or gold nugget. Seven Sirens also rewards the player for being curious, and it was fairly common for me to simply be wandering around and spot something that looked odd, only to discover a secret using once of Shantae’s dances.



Sprinkled throughout the world are dungeons that break from the more traditional Metroidvania design of the main map. These are where the puzzles and platforming sections of the Shantae series are put on display, each ending with a boss fight. Each dungeon is unique and forces the player to combine Shantae’s dances and fusion magic in interesting ways to beat them.


The dungeons also all contain three squid hearts, thankfully tracked on the screen. Every squid heart can be obtained using only the skills Shantae has at the time, preventing the player from having to explore dungeons again after completing them. This is a pet peeve of mine that other Metroidvanias do not successfully avoid.



Half-Genies Galore

While fighting the mysterious Sirens, Shantae encounters other half-genies like herself. They play a significant role in the story, but also let the player see more lore of the Shantae world. While many classic characters from the series make appearances (including best boy Squid Baron), a significant number of new characters are introduced, all looking great in the game’s new art style.


The story is typical for a Shantae game; deep enough to draw the player in while still remaining largely light-hearted. The game’s quirky humor is definitely intact as well, a fact that I at least appreciated. Overall I was completely satisfied with the time spent on the story parts of the game, hopefully we see some of the characters return because they clearly still had interesting stories to tell.



Once More Into Paradise

Beating the Seven Sirens should take approximately ten hours, though this could be much longer if the player goes for 100%. I managed 83% in my first playthrough; I fully plan on going back and finding every item and monster card I missed. The RNG quality of the monster cards means that new playthroughs will feel different depending on which cards drop. While I have no interest in speedrunning personally, the Shantae series has catered to them for the last few games and I am interested in seeing how they handle the cards.


Seven Sirens also offers a new game plus mode for those that beat the game once. It includes a new costume, more magic power, and lower defense. I would have liked to see a mode that let me keep my cards, but admittedly many of the cards are not useful at the beginning of the game anyway. The fact that the new mode, and the many potential monster card combinations, add as much replayability as they do give players plenty of reason to come back for more.



Shantae and the Seven Sirens is not just the best game in the Shantae series, it’s the best by a fair margin. Using the time spent with Half-genie Hero to build this into a stronger title has made something extra special. It is clear WayForward has been listening to fans because they have produced a game with all the best aspects of their previous games while managing to be greater than the sum of its parts. Fans of both Metroidvanias and platformers must give it a try.


Score: 10/10


Buy Shantae and the Seven Sirens from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.


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*A game code was provided for review purposes.

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