Shantae has come a long way since her humble Game Boy Color origins so let's check out her fifth and latest fun-filled adventure.
I've been a Shantae fan for a long time and for many reasons, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse remains my favourite game in the series. It simply got everything right from its beautiful pixel-perfect visuals to its rewarding and challenging gameplay. After playing Shantae and the Seven Sirens, I can easily say that it doesn't quite live up to the best that the franchise has to offer but it is a heck of a lot of fun.
The first thing that disappointed me about it is that although I love the colourful visuals, they're far too similar to Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. Each Shantae game has had its own unique style since the first game so it's slightly unfortunate that much of Shantae and the Seven Sirens feels all too familiar. On the plus side, there are some very cool animated cutscenes that are great fun to watch and unlock. When it comes to music, it's certainly decent and fitting but it's definitely not as catchy or as memorable as Jake Kaufman's scores for the previous games. With all of that being said, the game world is still full of cheer and charm and the cast is as delightful as always.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens features familiar gameplay in that you run around stages while whipping your hair at enemies and exploring for treasures. The campaign has a Metroidvania setup with a large overworld map and smaller maps for each of the handful of dungeons. As you progress through it, you'll unlock an assortment of Dances and Fusions which act as spells and situational transformations, respectively. The former can show hidden platforms, bring things back to life while restoring some health, power electrical devices while harming enemies, and move certain obstacles out of your way. Meanwhile, the latter can let you dash and cling to walls, drill through dirt, stomp and spin dash, swim, and triple-jump. Needless to say, experimenting with these abilities is exceptionally satisfying.
One thing that Shantae and the Seven Sirens accomplishes with these Dances and Fusions which impressed me is the fact that they're very streamlined. In previous games, you had to transform into something then use its ability but here, you seamlessly transition into swimming, drilling, climbing walls, and such which makes the gameplay far more intuitive. On the other hand, it is kind of disappointing that you don't have the option to transform into various animals for as long as you wish. Anyway, performing the Dances is also well implemented as you can use them to harm enemies, heal, and alter your environment in clever ways. Who knows; you may even uncover some secrets with them! In the end, these gameplay changes may limit your freedom a bit yet they remain intuitive and fun.
As with most games in the series, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is jam packed with treasures to discover and doing so will require a lot of exploration, experimentation, and thinking outside the box. The main collectibles include the familiar Heart Squids which increase your max health, Cards, and Nuggets that you can trade with certain NPCs for rare Cards. Each Card represents an enemy and you can acquire most of them by simply defeating them a bunch of times. However, they're not just cosmetic as you can equip them for nifty bonuses such as automatically replenish your magic meter, increase the amount of gems acquired, and make your weapon Relics more powerful.
Speaking of Relics, you'll spend gems at shops for heal items and Relics which either act as sub-weapons or performance boosts such as increased attack power and defense. The sub-weapons are a lot like the ones in the Castlevania series and many of them are copied from previous Shantae games. Anyway, the downside to all of this is that you'll obtain many gems as you explore so you'll end up clearing out the shops and reaching 999 gems with nothing to spend them on. I encountered this about 70% of the way through my playthrough and it made progression far less satisfying. On top of that, the level of difficulty is quite low to begin with so considering you'll become overpowered easily as well as acquire a seemingly endless supply of heal items; you're looking at a severe lack of challenge.
Even though Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is still the gold standard for the franchise, I enjoyed my time with Shantae and the Seven Sirens a great deal. Here's hoping the next adventure captures more of that classic half-genie magic.
- + Charming world and delightful characters
- + Familiar and tight gameplay with cool new abilities and streamlined transformations
- + Oodles of treasures to discover
- - No new visual style / music isn't as catchy
- - Progression and abilities aren't as rewarding as they were in previous installments
- - Overall lack of challenge