Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Review by: Paul Acevedo
Originating all the way back on the GameBoy Color, WayForward’s Shantae series has long been the standard-bearer for American-developed platformers. The fifth game in the series, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, originally launched as a timed exclusive on Apple Arcade, later appearing on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and Steam in 2020. Seven Sirens recently received the free “Spectacular Superstar” update that improves on the overall experience, so here we are with this review.
Seven Sirens begins with a gorgeous anime intro from Studio Trigger that is accompanied by another catchy, original song sung by the voice of Shantae, Cristina Vee. Shantae and her friends have been invited to Paradise Island for an event called the Half-Genie Festival. Our heroine meets five charming half-genies like herself, but the other half-genies are soon kidnapped during the festival opening. It’s up to Shantae to get them back, which will put her at odds with not just old foe Risky Boots but also the titular Seven Sirens.
Like previous games, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a 2D Metroidvania platformer. Shantae must explore the hub area Arena Town, Paradise Island, and its many oceanside and subterranean dungeons as she seeks to rescue her new friends and save the island. Our protagonist fights chiefly by whipping her hair, though she’ll gain new offensive moves and powers as the game goes on.
Given that Shantae dresses like a belly dancer, dancing has always been a part of her skillset. Traditionally, the dances she acquires throughout a game allow her to transform into various forms like monkey and bat to reach new areas, but dances have been reworked here. The new dances allow Shantae to see invisible objects, grow plants, power windmills, and shake the environment.
What about traversal, then? Various coins that Shantae collects bestow her with temporary transformations called Fusions. These transformations are mapped to individual buttons, so you’ll just hit a button to turn into a newt to dash, a different button to become a frog and swim, and so on. The fusion system speeds up gameplay, but having to dance literally all over the map to find secrets will slow things down a lot for completionists.
The other new game system involves Monster Cards. Monsters will occasionally drop cards when killed. These cards can bestow Shantae with a huge variety of buffs when equipped. She can only equip three cards at a time by default, so mixing and matching buffs adds fun strategy and customization to the game. The number of copies required to actually equip a card varies – some can be used with only one copy, while others require ten. Thus, you’ll have to stop and farm the new monsters you encounter if you want to wield the bonuses their cards bestow.
The “Spectacular Superstar” update adds a handful of quality-of-life improvements across all modes as well as several new game modes:
- Definitive: The “director’s cut” of the game is rebalanced to make everything more challenging, plus it adds new pre-battle dialog with some of the bosses. I focused on Definitive mode for this review and found it to be tough but extremely fun.
- Full Deck: Start with all 50 Monster Cards and customize Shantae’s abilities like crazy.
- Rule Breaker: Equip up to 50 Monster Cards at once if you don’t want a challenge.
- Beginner: Shantae can’t die in this mode, making it great for kids and platforming newbies.
- Legacy: The original Seven Sirens experience.
Topping the amazing Shantae: Half-Genie Hero would be almost impossible, and Shantae and the Seven Sirens doesn’t quite manage that. The level design is less inspired than in previous games, and some of the boss fights get repetitive. Still, it’s a gorgeous game and another chance to hang out with this terrific cast of characters. If you sat on the fence before, now’s the time to get ret-2-go with the number one half-genie hero.
Our Rating: 4 out of 5