I have a very interesting history with the Shantae franchise. I knew of it when I was younger, but never really had any interest in getting it. Then, I heard about Shantae 1/2 Genie Hero (via Kickstarter) on the Wii U, got it, loved it (read my review!), and even labeled it the Wii U GOTY (which wasn’t much of an award for those who know the system. lol. So when I heard that a fifth true Shantae game was coming, I was totally in. But as I’ll show you in my Shantae And The Seven Sirens Review, just because you want something…doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything you’re going to expect…and that can harm things.
Game Name: Shantae And The Seven Sirens
Platform(s): PC(reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Release Date: May 28, 2020
So let’s dive right in, shall we? Shantae and crew are heading for a long-deserved vacation (especially when you consider that this is the 5th game in a franchise going 20 years…), and they head to a Half-Genie Festival where Shantae along with other Half-Genies are going to perform for a crowd and so forth.
But, obviously, things go HORRIBLY wrong as 5 of them disappear, leaving Shantae alone and having to get the other Half-Genies back and learn the secrets of Arena Town as a result.
In terms of story setup, it’s very Shantae, trust me. And on the surface, everything feels like a very Shantae-esque game, but that’s where things get a bit tricky. You see, unlike 1/2 Genie Hero, you don’t just go to other areas and explore, fight a boss, and more. There’s a literal massive underworld beneath the main setting of Arena Town that you have to explore…a lot.
I noted in my 1/2 Genie Hero review that there was backtracking to open up things via new powers. But in Shantae And The Seven Sirens, you take that to the extreme. This is VERY Metroidvania, which would be good in some ways as it shows the evolution of the series…but in this case…it kind of hinders the game.
First and foremost, sometimes you’re going from one area of the underworld to the other without clues as to where to go. They do show you where to go at times…but not always and that led to some frustration on my part. I’ll admit that I had needed help to get past some situations as it wasn’t clear where to go, and there were some areas I forgot I could go because of the giant scale of everything.
Which again, usually would be fine, I’ve played and beaten larger games before, but with Shantae here it just didn’t ring well. In 1/2 Genie Hero, you had large areas to go and explore, but you knew that everything you needed was in THAT AREA. In Seven Sirens, sometimes you’re going all over the world to get things you need.
The gameplay does for the most part feel the same. Shantae And The Seven Sirens still has Shante’s classic hair action, use of relics, and of course her transformations. However, you also get powers from the other half-genies and they let you do things like revealing obstacles that you couldn’t see otherwise, refresh your health and bring life to dead things, do attacks like with electricity and earth. It’s a nice additional system that brings more variety to the game.
It’s a nice balance at times, and the other Genie powers take things to a new level especially with the “transformation” art pieces that show up when she uses them. But…not unlike the world itself…it overextends.
For example, I picked a lot of money early on and improved the hair whip (which you can increase power and speed) and a fire attack (there are missiles, boomerangs and more you can get) and after a while, I picked up the electricity Genie attack…and I didn’t need to use the relic anymore. Just it and the hair attacks which I got to max power and max speed to do massive damage.
Plus, you get food to heal yourself via enemies, and if you fight enough of them you’ll have enough food to heal you up no matter what (not to mention refresh magic which brings back two hearts) and if you save your money you can get “Auto-Potions” which bring you back from the dead (think Zelda’s fairy) and so if you play it right…you’re basically unkillable.
Which is a sentiment that I also use to reference the bosses…
To their credit, the bosses that are the Sirens are unique in their own ways, like you would expect from a platformer and a Shantae game. The problem though is that they’re inconsistent in their difficulty at points.
For example, the first boss (seen above) is somewhat basic. You get her into the sunlight and you strike. Very simple, very easy. But, this boss two has you going up against a Siren in a mech that can ONLY be hit after a large sequence of dodging, and she’s basically a bullet sponge! I had upgraded my hair and had a relic at this point and it took a LONG time to beat her. But in contrast, one of the subsequent Sirens I beat in no time flat.
Things don’t get better with the frequent mini-boss fight of Risky Boots. She too is a bullet sponge and the battles are less about strategy than wailing on her and just dodging her attacks. It gets old after 2nd time, and you have to battle her 6 times!
Plus, not unlike the last game, there is NO tutorial, so I had to figure things out on the fly. This actually led to me thinking I had a game-breaking bug because I didn’t realize the height of Shantae’s jump when she’s transitioning up from section to section. Furthermore, in the last dungeon area, I realized that special “Monster Cards” we were getting weren’t just for collection’s sake, but you can use them to power up Shantae! That would’ve been nice to know earlier.
Visually, the game is fine. I do feel that they missed an opportunity to grow from what they did in 1/2 Genie Hero where the backgrounds and foregrounds were used in conjunction to improve the levels. They feel a bit flatter here in Seven Sirens.
That being said, the animation sequences are a very welcome addition, including an intro sequence that has a song that will indeed get stuck in your head. It’s no “Dance Through The Danger”, but it’s close. There were a few oddities in the sequences though, including the later scenes feeling a bit rougher, hopefully, the next game will continue to deliver cutscenes. Oh, and we definitely want need a Shantae anime.
But…we’d be remiss in noting that Wayforwards…uh…desire…to feature numerous characters in various forms of skimpy clothing does come off way over the top here. Yes, this was present in 1/2 Genie Hero, but we’re pretty sure they went much harder on making it happen with Seven Sirens. They aren’t subtle, at all. Which at times is fine, but other times it’s…well…kind of sad how they designed some of the characters.
Voice acting in the game is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, there’s a LOT more of it than in previous titles, which is welcome. But…for whatever reason…they didn’t go all the way. Shantae has the most lines, obviously, but others stop short of delivering full lines. They also repeat a LOT of dialogue. How many times do I need to hear “I feel like dancing!”, we know you do Shantae! Again, hopefully in the next Shantae (you know it’s coming), that this gets expanded on.
But to be clear, the dialogue and humor are top-notch, even if Sky feels a bit over the top compared to previous incarnations.
I’m sure some of you are reading this Shantae And The Seven Sirens review and going, “Man, he really didn’t like this game!” but that’s not exactly true. It’s a very adequate game. But in my opinion, 1/2 Genie Hero was much better. It had a wider array of things while not overextending its reach and not sacrificing things in the story for one reason or another (for example a mysterious Siren helps you and she’s…well we honestly don’t know because she “can’t talk” and yet she wants to help you because…reasons?).
The other really dooming thing is that it’s SHORT. I beat the game is less than 6 hours and that was with some backtracking that I wanted to do for one reason or another. If you get all the collectibles you can extend it, but if you blast through the story? Not so much.
Shantae And The Seven Sirens is a fun platformer and many Shantae fans will be happy with what’s shown, as well as what’s teased for the next game (hint: her mother). But if you were hoping that they would match the magic of 1/2 Genie Hero or the Pirate’s Curse, you’re likely going to be a little disappointed.
Shantae And The Seven Sirens Review
Shantae And The Seven Sirens brings some very nice additions to the franchise like cutscenes, voice acting, and more. But it comes at a cost because they expanded a bit too much, and the game suffers as a result.