Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop Download
Category: Adventure, Platformer
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: May 28, 2020 (NA) / June 04, 2020 (EU)
Price: $29.99 USD
The Shantae series has been going since 2002. The first game released on Gameboy Color and was simply named Shantae. Matt Bozon developed the game with Shantae but it was actually his wife Erin, who created the character. The first game was well received by critics and scored favorable reviews. Unfortunately, the game’s sales were not so positive due to the new Gameboy Advance that had launched the year before. This meant that a lot of potential players had moved on from the Gameboy Color and onto the new handheld console.
During the last 18 years, Shantae has had 5 outings in total. These include Shantae, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, Shantae: ½ Genie hero, and now Shantae and the Seven Sirens. The latter previously released in two parts on the iOS and Microsoft last year as part of the launch of the Apple Arcade. The first part launched last year and the second part released as part of an update back in March 2020. The full version is now available on consoles including the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens follows our half-genie hero Shantae as she visits the tropical haven of Paradise Island. Uncle, Skye, and Bolo join Shantae on a vacation as while Shantae also takes part in the Half-Genie Festival. Shantae meets up with the Mayor and after the exchange in greetings and introductions, Shantae is tasked with rounding up the other half-genies. Upon finding them all, they all reunite backstage to get ready for the sneak peek preview performance for the Half-Genie Superstar Spectacular.
Though deeply unprepared, Shantae and the other half-genies get up on stage and as they are about to perform, the whole stadium suddenly goes dark. When the lights turn on again, all the other half-genies have disappeared except Shantae. The young heroine sets off to find the others and learns that Paradise Island has a deep dark secret that lurks in the depths below. She will confront foes both old and new and will stop at nothing to rescue the other genies and save the inhabitants of Paradise Island.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is an adventure – platformer game similar to Metroidvanias. The game world consists of a series of labyrinthine tunnels and dungeons that our hero has to navigate. There are around 50 kinds of monsters to encounter. These range from series staples like the bat, crab, and snake to new enemies like the Siren Man and Siren Soldier. To defeat most enemies, Shantae uses her Hair Whip attack. She can also purchase sub-weapons and upgrades in the shops in the towns.
Sub-weapons consume magic from the Magic Meter and each can be upgraded up to three stars. Purchasing weapons and items requires gems. These gems are found all over Paradise Island. They can be in containers like vases or dropped after an enemy has been defeated. You can only carry up to 999 gems in total so once your pockets are full, you need not pick up anymore.
Fighting monsters can leave you worst for wear at times, especially if they hit you with their attacks or come in to contact with you. This can cause you to lose health and in need of finding hearts or food to replenish the health, you have lost. Hearts and food can be found after defeating monsters. Hearts will replenish your health instantly whereas food can be stored and eating when you need it most. Potions bought at the shops can also replenish health as well as magic when need be so do not be afraid to stock up when you can.
During her quest to find her fellow half-genies, Shantae will learn transformations that will help her overcome obstacles in her way. Unlike in previous games where Shantae would do a dance to become an animal of some kind, the transformations in this game are instantaneous and temporary. For example, Shantae can turn into a newt to dash across the screen or climb up walls. As soon as she stops climbing or reaches the end of the dash, she will return to normal.
Just because Shantae doesn’t dance anymore to transform, doesn’t mean she no longer dances. Shantae can dance to perform powerful fusion magic with powers she is given from rescued half-genies. However, they require an object called a fusion stone in order to fuse their powers with Shantae. Once you find the fusion stone, return it to the half-genie and they will pass their powers over to you. Using Fusion magic consumes the Magic Meter but it can benefit you in a number of ways. The Seer magic allows you to see things that are invisible to you normally. It can reveal hidden platforms or ornaments that can contain gems or even nuggets inside. Invisible enemies will also be unveiled with this power.
As well as the main world there are six dungeons known as labyrinths. Each labyrinth has a map and a boss waiting at the end of it. There are puzzles to solve as well as locked doors that require a key to open them that is hidden somewhere else in the labyrinth. The labyrinths also have areas that require certain transformation magic forms to navigate your way through successfully. The half-genies that are trapped in these labyrinths will give you the fusion magic you need to transform and make your way to the boss. The Boss will require you to use your newly gained powers in order to overcome their defenses or weakness and beat them.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
At the beginning of the game, you will start with three hearts. Scattered around Paradise Island are Heart squids (with five labyrinths hiding three Heart Squids each). When you have four of these little critters, you can melt them down create Heart Containers. This in turn will grant you an extra heart. To melt them down, however, you have to visit any one of the three towns: Arena Town, Tree Town, and Armor Town. In each town, you will find the smelting house.
Talking of towns, each town has a shop to purchase weapons and items, smelting house to melt down heart squids, bathhouse to replenish hearts, and a Warp Room to warp to any other previously visited Warp Room. There are a number of people in towns that you can talk to. They can provide you with useful pointers like ‘What to do next?’ or even be willing to trade with you. Trading of course is the next feature we will be talking about and that is Monster Cards.
Monsters Cards are an in-game collectible that can be used to improve certain abilities and skills. Most of them can drop randomly after defeating monsters. Depending on the rarity of the monster, you may have to collect several of the same kind before you can use it as a perk. Some Monster cards you can acquire via the aforementioned trading with collectors in the towns. However, they can’t be bought with gems. Trading for Monster Cards require something a bit more “shiny” and harder to find.
I am referring, of course, to Nuggets. Nuggets rare lumps of Gold that are also dotted around Paradise Island. They have no other use than to buy the Super Rare Monster Cards from collectors. Unlike Heart Squids, Nuggets can’t be found in labyrinths so it helps narrow the scope of where they are hiding. Good luck finding them all. I was lucky enough to find them all myself but I can’t for the life of me, recall where I stumbled on to each and every one.
If you enjoy the wonderfully animated cutscenes (like I do), you can watch them again in the Movie viewer. This feature is found by choosing Extras on the main menu. The Extras menu also has a Completion Art gallery for those that beat the game under certain requirements. While I won’t show you the art itself to avoid spoilers, they are just as colorful and as well detailed as the cutscene animations themselves.
One thing that I must mention is that Shantae and the Seven Sirens does not feature autosave (yeah, I know. We are in 2020 now. What gives?). While the game does save automatically after clearing a chapter, it still requires manual saving in between chapters. To save manually, you have to find the hunched-over old man in the green robes.
He can be found at any number of places on the map as well as in each of the towns. Do bear in mind to save your game before you quit or you will lose your progress. I found getting into the habit of saving often is a sure way to keep your progress as current as possible.
One final feature that I will mention is there is a New Game+ Mode for those that beat the game. Rather than wipe out your previous save data, you can choose one of the other save slots to start New Game+. This mode allows you to use more magic than the standard game at the expense of taking more damage than usual. If you find the game a little too easy for your tastes, be sure to give this mode a whirl when you unlock it. It becomes harder still if you don’t upgrade your health.
To say that I love the music to Shantae and the Seven Sirens is an understatement. The music in Shantae games has always had a great amount of charm to them and this game is no different. It is always entertaining and energetic as well as calm and soothing when it needs to be. The background music changes with each environment that you find yourself as well to make each area sound different yet similar at the same time.
I do love how the characters are given personality with voice acting to accompany the speech text boxes. Cristina Vee returns to reprise her role as Shantae and it is superb as always! I also thoroughly enjoy listening to the characters converse with each other though it always suffers from the same problem as the other games. It is never enough! By this, I mean that not all of the text in the Speech boxes is voiced and I am always left wanting more (though I guess that isn’t really a bad thing).
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is like looking at a living comic book. The colorful hand-drawn visuals really jump off the screen and are simply beautiful to look at. The text font is easily readable and all the characters and monsters are highly distinguishable. The menus are clear and sharp, even on the small screen of the Switch in handheld mode. I especially enjoyed the animated cutscenes as they look truly incredible. I could watch a whole Shantae TV show if it had the same animation style.
The performance of Shantae and the Seven Sirens really is as smooth as silk. I did not witness any issues with changes in resolution or frame rate drops during my whole playthrough. One thing that I did notice that I thought was really odd, was that the screen went completely black at one point during a boss battle. The sound was coming through fine but I had no image. I could return to the home menu on the Switch no problem and could see that okay. Then I went back to the game and it was still pitch black.
Fortunately, as it was in a boss battle, there was a save point close by so I could try again. When I booted up the game and got back to where I was, the screen was fine and I could beat the boss without issue. It was a weird thing to happen but seemed to sort itself out.
My time playing Shantae and the Seven Sirens has been such a joy. I loved every moment of the game. So much so that I have beaten the game twice (once with 100% completion) and am now getting ready for my speed run. Collecting all of the monster cards is certainly a challenge but not one that is necessary for 100% completion (which some people may be happy to hear when trying to accomplish a 100% speed run of the game).
Aside from the wanting full voice acting and falling victim to the blackout glitch, I don’t really have anything bad to say about the game. I will admit that this game is geared up towards casual gamers than hardcore Metroidvania fans. Hardcore fans will probably find the gameplay far too easy for them.
New Game+ Mode can make the relatively easy gameplay more challenging by lowering the defense to take more damage when hurt. Shantae and the Seven Sirens is about being fun and enjoyable, not grueling and punishing. If you really do want a challenge though, you can increase the difficulty by not increasing your health and play through the whole game with only three hearts!
I will also add that there are a couple of other little features and highlights included that I also enjoyed. I won’t say much about them so they still have the element of surprise for those of you that do pick up the game. They aren’t exactly game changes but they are nice little features to help pad out the game that little bit better.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is simply an absolute joy to play. Ideal for gamers who enjoy Metroidvania games that aren’t overly complicated. Its charming music, beautiful visuals, and fun gameplay made every moment playing a delight.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
*A download key was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio