Sometimes you just want a quick game where you can collect gems, buy upgrades, defeat enemies, make new friends, and save an island from total destruction. All while flexing powerful dance moves and dealing quick hair whip damage. This is what Shantae and the Seven Sirens brings to consoles. With clean, cute graphics, interesting Fusion Magic and Monster Card systems, and fast-paced action, Shantae is an outstanding platformer to dive into. But it’s not without it’s flaws.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the latest game from developer WayForward. It is the fifth title in the long-running Shantae series, but fortunately you don’t need to play the other games to know the reoccurring characters; it’s established what their relationships are to Shantae as the game progresses.
The story starts with Shantae, Uncle, Sky, and Bolo arriving at Paradise Island for a short vacation. There’s a Half-Genie Festival happening and Shantae’s been invited to take part. She is introduced to fellow half-genies: Harmony, Zazzle, Plink, and Vera. Each of them has their own unique abilities which will come into play later in the game. As part of the celebration all five genies are set to put on a show, but before they take the stage, things go sideways, and the half-genies are abducted. In order to rescue them, Shantae must travel to the sunken city below where she will face new threats, new bosses, and reunite with old enemies.
Deep in the Sunken City
The dungeons are separated into distinct, but interconnected, sections. Most of the action happens in the lower depths but I had to make frequent stops in Arena City, Tree City, and Armor City. Much like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, I couldn’t access certain sections of this vast dungeon until I was granted a new ability. Therefore, I was limited in what I could do. The lack of a comprehensive map or list of objectives made exploration difficult in the early game. But if I paid close attention to the townsfolk, I was given sufficient clues on where to go.
Eventually I made my way into the sunken city. With a couple of hair whips here and there I was able to take down enemies easily. Defeating enemies and cracking vases gave me gems. These gems allowed me to buy upgrades such as Hair Shampoo to increase my damage, or I could buy magic abilities like Bubble that shielded me from enemy projectiles. In addition to these gems, I also received different kinds of food that could heal me or replenish my magic meter when eaten. On top of the gems and food, enemies also dropped Monster Cards. These cards allowed me to assign different ability boosts to Shantae. One card increased my hair damage while another one increased my climb speed. I could only equip three cards at a time, so in the later game I had to be strategic in my choices.
One new feature added to the game was Fusion Magic. After rescuing a genie, I was imbued with their magic. This allowed me to further explore the sunken city and access places I couldn’t visit before. In the end, I had four dances and was able to transform into five different creatures. I was practically unstoppable in the end game. Unfortunately, gaining these transformations and dances in a sequence resulted in a lot of backtracking. I would gain transformations and would have to go back to a dungeon area that I visited hours before just to gain access to an extra room. Sometimes it was necessary, and other times it was not.
Despite the constant backtracking, it was still exciting to explore those areas. Every time I received a new transformation, I was eager to hop onto a warp platform and head back to an old part of the sunken city. I didn’t mind doing it, but there were times when my map would show that I cleared a room, when in truth, I missed half of it. This made my journey into the dungeons a little tedious at times.
The boss fights were surprisingly easy once I figured out the pattern of attack and could properly counter with the appropriate Fusion magic. Perhaps the most difficult boss fight was the big finale against the Seventh Siren. That battle forced me to use some of my transformations and magic to do damage. But that particular boss fight exposed another minor flaw in this game: I didn’t use every ability I bought in the shop. I bought fireballs, pike balls, and boomerangs, but I never used therm. I could have, but there was never a difficult battle that required me to cast anything other than a bubble to protect myself.
Return of Old Enemies
Seven Sirens has a tightly woven story. Shantae must save the half-genies and along the way she comes across her old nemesis, Risky Boots. After each encounter with Captain Boots I was given bits of information that ultimately painted a larger picture of what was happening on Paradise Island. In all, there wasn’t anything here that progressed Shantae’s personal story. There was mention of Shantae’s mother, but perhaps WayForward is saving that story for the next Shantae title. Still, the puns and the jokes made me laugh, and the entire sequence with Squid Baron hit a little too close to home. The animated cutscenes were incredible and made me long for a Shantae series on Netflix (someone make this happen).
The story had some missed opportunities. I was introduced to a wide variety of characters: half-genies, the three scientists, and numerous townsfolk, but none of these characters were entirely fleshed out. I wanted to know about the other half-genies and their stories. I wanted Shantae to be able to connect with these genies on a level different than her normal crew. And speaking of her crew, they made brief appearances. Bolo spent most of his time looking for a new room, Sky spent her time relaxing by the pool, and Shantae’s uncle was found in various parts of the dungeon. Even Rottytops, Shantae’s good Zombie friend, made a small appearance.
Despite some flaws, Shantae and the Seven Seas is good game. It’s quick-paced game for people who like platformers. It’s also a good staring game for players who have not played a Shantae game, though you would do yourself a service if you played Half-Genie Hero first. The combat and movement are intuitive, and the story is interesting enough to keep you invested. The flaws in the game do not impede on overall playability but they are noticeable and might cause some occasional frustration. If you like platformers and want a simple game that will take you roughly 10 hours to complete, I would recommend picking this game up.