Title: Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Release Date: May 28, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
The Shantae series has been going strong since its first entry in 2002, and her popularity seems to be at an all-time high today. Who’d have thought that an adorable dancing half-genie could become so beloved? Regardless of why you love her, Shantae has returned with the release of Shantae and the Seven Sirens on consoles and PC. Once an Apple Arcade exclusive, this adventure brings with it new features and characters and is thankfully a full Shantae experience.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens begins with the Shantae and the crew arriving at a resort island to attend a Half-Genie Festival. However, during the performance, all five Half-Genies are kidnapped, leaving Shantae to go out and search for them. The narrative works given that it features returning cast members who add insight to the story and what’s really going on. There’s an added layer of mystery since you aren’t sure who is behind the kidnappings, but Shantae only seems to care about rescuing the girls at all costs.
The story itself is packed full of charm as Shantae’s impulsive actions get her mixed up with a colorful cast of characters. Each of the other Half-Genies also has distinct personalities that you get to know more about as you progress. It’s those little touches that make it feel like WayForward is eager to expand the Shantae universe, and it works surprisingly well.
Players will spend most of their time running around the Metroidvania style map as they gain abilities to access new areas. However, within the main map are dungeons with even more to explore. Gaining skills is rolled out rather conservatively as the game allows you to get comfortable with your abilities before giving you a new one. It makes it so the player isn’t overloaded with a bunch of skills to learn all at once.
Abilities are represented in the form of Fusion Magic. Each time a half-genie is saved, Shantae earns an ability coin. However, if she completes a task from the Half-Genie, she’ll also unlock much-needed dance magic. Both of these abilities are needed in order to progress the game. However, this does add a bit of backtracking to the entire process since most of the dances are unlocked after delivering an item that is usually locked behind a collect-a-thon mission.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens really gets the most out of the environments as players will find themselves running through the halls multiple times as they gain new abilities. The map is not small by any means, but the developer still adds as much as they can to each section. Whether its portions of the map locked behind abilities or secret areas, there’s a ton to discover here.
However, given that there are so many brick walls on this adventure, I feel like the map could have included a bit more features. One look at the map will show you save points and towns, but it lacks indicators where you need an ability to progress or a reminder that there’s a mission available at a specific location. It just means you have to remember where to return items after gathering everything and who to return them to, which causes some confusion.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens features some upgradable systems where players can gain new magical attacks and increase their power by purchasing items. Shantae’s purse can only hold 999 gems, so hoarding gems isn’t recommended. The purchasable items are there to make battles easier as well as add some new ways to take down enemies.
Additionally, up to three monster cards can be equipped, which adds a passive ability such as faster movement or increased defense. There are tons of monster cards available, each with there own skill. This feature really allows players to fine-tune their experience within the game to reflect their playstyle.
Graphics are gorgeous, and Shantae has honestly never looked better. The game even features animated cut scenes before bosses and notable events. However, I will say that the lengthy load times between areas do hinder the overall experience. It’s not so noticeable in the beginning, but when you’re making your way to check on whether you can access a specific area or not, the load times between sections become a substantial annoyance.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens stays true to classic entries but pushes the series forward with the inclusion of unique abilities and new characters. Thankfully the game’s smartphone roots don’t appear to hold back the console experience, and we are left with one of the best Shantae games to date. The load times and lack of direction might cause a few points of frustration, but not enough to make this experience any less enjoyable.
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