WayForward’s indie darling Shantae is finally back with her new title, Shantae and the Seven Sirens! I’ve been a fan since stumbling across the original game on a mall shelf in the summer of 2002, so I’ve actually been eagerly awaiting the release of this fifth game in the series. What adventures does Shantae and the Seven Sirens have in store? How does it compare to previous titles? Of course, it’s always hard for me to be unbiased – these games hold a lot of joy and nostalgia for me. I can’t imagine a Shantae game that I wouldn’t want to play, because I’ve always ended each game wanting just a little bit more.
That said, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is nowhere near a perfect adventure, but at the very least it’s definitely a fun one.
Get ready for a tropical vacation with your favourite half-genie!
After years of hard work and making a name for herself, Shantae finally is getting the big vacation she deserves – an all-expenses paid trip to Paradise Island, home of the Half-Genie Festival. Surrounded by her own kind and adoring fans, Shantae and her friends are ready for the vacation of a lifetime! Unfortunately, not everything is as peaceful as it appears on this little island paradise… When the other half-genies suddenly disappear during their festival performance, only Shantae is left behind to figure out what went wrong and what secrets lie deep beneath the surface.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens brings back the best – and worst – of its classic world map setup… while struggling a little with offering a challenge
Unlike its predecessor, Half-Genie Hero, Seven Sirens returns to Shantae’s explorable open world roots. From your starting point, you’ll have a few different directions to go, though you may need a power or two to get any further. As you unlock more abilities, you’ll be able to discover secrets across the maps and uncover new pathways forward. On one hand, this exploration and problem-solving has always been a small joy of mine – it’s really rewarding to suddenly realize how you can move past an obstacle. On the other, it can lead to a lot of frustrating backtracking and fetch quests as well. Over the course of the game, you’ll discover warp pads that let you travel back and forth instantly, but it takes awhile to uncover them and you’ll have to do quite a bit of trekking in the meanwhile.
The dungeons are nicely designed as always, but it felt like they featur far fewer puzzles and gimmicks than in previous titles. While Shantae has never been an extremely challenging series, there was always at least a medium-level difficulty at play, true to its metroidvania style. Seven Sirens feels easier than ever. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my hair-whipping, puzzle solving adventures through the deep places of Paradise Island. But I didn’t really have to put a whole lot of thought and attention into them. I never died, and if I came close it was easy enough to heal up thanks to the numerous hearts and the copious amounts of food items dropped by enemies.
The biggest challenge was honestly finding where one needs to use the seer power, and that felt like less of a challenge and more of either random luck or being incredibly thorough – while some places are clear, others are very much not.
As always, the controls feel fantastic and intuitive. I did notice that on joystick it was a little sensitive to thinking I was trying to go in a door or crouch down when I just wanted to move left or right, but that was a pet peeve that was fairly easy to get past. Otherwise Seven Sirens is just as easy as any other game in the Shantae series to pick up and just start playing, and feels just as satisfying.
On the surface, the game is certainly lovely. Shantae’s art and character designs are as cute as ever. With our new array of half-genie friends, we’ve also gotten tons of cute details. Even NPCs have plenty of character and personality in their designs (can we please talk about the Squidsmith?) Dungeons and towns are colourful and full of detail. You might notice a difference in the music this time – the composer for previous Shantae games is missing on Seven Sirens’ credits. While it’s not quite the difference isn’t too big and the music still has its nostalgic Shantae charm.
Loading times and a few clumsy details occasionally draw away from the charm
So what didn’t I like?
The loading times.
At first I thought it was me because when I was streaming, loading screens would lag like crazy and occasionally cause everything else on my PC to lag too. When I started checking reviews on Steam I realized it’s definitely not just me – the game just has egregiously laggy loading screens. After awhile it became really frustrating to have constant pauses while trying to play.
On a less important note, a few of the extra details seemed unnecessary and messily included – the monster cards for example. This isn’t enough to cause a real issue, as much as it just makes things feel a little hastily tied together.
I’ve also seen a few other reviewers comment on the lack of character development and story depth, but I’ll break away from the crowd a little here – I don’t think every game needs deep story, believable character development, and realistic dialogue. Shantae is a fun, quirky metroidvania. It’s always featured silly dialogue a lovable surface characters, with more modern games focused on recreating that nostalgic 2-D platforming feel of the older Nintendo days. That’s part of the reason the games are always so fun and lovable to me, and I don’t mind not having a lot of character details and story plot points to keep track of. If you go in knowing what to expect, I think Shantae hits its mark quite well.
The tl;dr? It’s still worth!
Overall, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a really fun adventure. Is it worth full price? Honestly, I think so – it gives a good 10 hours of colourful, quick platforming joy, and definitely is replayable. Is it perfect? Of course not – there are some details that don’t really pull together well and it doesn’t offer a big challenge for anyone looking for some difficulty in their gaming. But it definitely is fun.
Long-time Shantae fans will probably enjoy it, and a younger crowd just discovering Shantae probably will as well. For those who are new to the series and looking where to start, I think you’ll probably find a little more fun and challenge if you pick up The Pirate’s Curse or Risky’s Revenge first, but Seven Sirens is a fun game wrapped up in a pretty little package that’s surely worth picking up.