When the titular heroine travels to a remote island for a well-earned break, all hell breaks loose and her friends are kidnapped by mysterious forces. Shantae returns for another outing in Wayforward’s colourful Metroidvania platformer — Shantae & the Seven Sirens.
After saving the world a number of times, Shantae, a half-genie girl imbued with magical powers (and deadly hair) should have earned herself and her friends a rest at the least. Travelling to Arena Town, Shantae; accompanied by Uncle, Bolo & Sky; arrive at the hotel and are introduced to the local town mayor who has invited a number of other half genies for a festival. In the middle of the festival, however, the other half genies are transported away and it’s up to Shantae to find them and save the day.
As with many games of its ilk, and in the vein of its predecessors, Shantae & the Seven Sirens has players advance through areas toward their goal but more often than not return several times across the story as new abilities unlock new movement options to reach new previously inaccessible areas. Whilst some games make these ability gates an inconspicuous part of the architectural design, players will immediately spot them on the first occasion they are encountered. This obvious placement makes it easy to know what power to deploy but the lack of any map interaction or in-game notation means you might forget where it was by the time you actually have the ability to pass it leading to some blind revisiting of map locations.
Shantae & the Seven Sirens is by far the easiest entry in the series to date, from its starting roots the series has gradually been getting easier but from the get-go this entry showers players with healing items. If you are dying it’s not because you didn’t have any potions or food remaining, it’s more likely you just didn’t notice your health was that low. The plethora of drops also results in an increased rate of gem drops making offensive progression fairly easy and less time consuming than before. Players with the patience to grind a few gems can overpower most enemies fairly early on. By the endgame, the almost infinite magic coupled with fairly low enemies makes spamming magic, defensive or offensive an all too easy option.
This time around, in addition to the usual hair flicking, genie jumping platforming and the transformation mechanics introduced in Shantae, Half Genie Hero, Shantae & the Seven Sirens introduces Genie Magic and some new transformation based animal movement options. The series can’t quite settle on some of its mechanics however as Shantae & The Seven Sirens returns to Heart Squid collection as a method of increasing life points as in Pirates Curse rather than the Heart Containers found in the most recent outing — Half Genie Hero. Animal transformations are activated in a different manner so series stalwarts will have to forget some of that muscle memory and learn some new controls.
The most interesting new feature is that of monster cards. These collectables are dropped by every enemy in the game. Up to three can be equipped at any point, and each bestows a certain situational benefit, such as increased health from food or lower magic usage for a particular spell. Some can be utilised after finding one, but others require players to collect more depending on the creature before you can equip. Rare cards depicting the boss enemies can be traded for gold nuggets hidden across the expansive map and offer some of the best boosts in the game.
Where Metroidvania sequels suffer is usually in the premise of evolving the main character. Metroid itself does this through events within its narrative, essentially depowering Samus’s power armour. Castlevania tends to swap out protagonists within its ever-expanding storyline to allow players to complete the hero cycle once again but succeeds in reintroducing previous characters with epic powers to help. Shantae & the Seven Sirens, rather than introducing a suitable plot piece or event, instead chooses to forget that — at the close of the last outing — Shantae was a bit of a powerhouse with a good number of Genie-based powers and transformations. Instead you get a basic Shantae with no powers and are back to basic attack power.
As Wayforward evolves the series, each game has progressively looked better and better. It’s difficult to know where Shantae will go next as this game shines. It’s beautifully colourful with some high-resolution artwork throughout. Half Genie Hero looked good but the palette has absolutely been upgraded as Shantae & the Seven Sirens really pops.
An evolution in nearly every area, Shantae & the Seven Sirens is more approachable for new players and there’s enough change to attract players interested in the series back for another adventure although they may be disappointed in how easily it’s overcome.