The latest entry in the Shantae series, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, is every bit as beautiful and fun to play as the previous titles.
WayForward is back with a brand new adventure starring our favorite demi-genie, Shantae, as she gets caught up in a nefarious scheme. In Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Shantae’s vacation at a beautiful resort island is cut short when several of her fellow half-genies are kidnapped.
Players guide her as she explores both the island and the mysterious depths of the sunken city below it to find her newfound friends and uncover the secrets of the island.
Though the story is simple, that simplicity allows the characters themselves to shine and make the plot compelling. As Shantae’s new half-genie friends disappear before her eyes, you feel her distress and fear for their safety. And when she’s forced to charge in on her own because her friends are more concerned with her well-being than the other genies, you both understand her motives and root for her success. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it works wonders in investing you in the story enough to feel excited when you rescue the others.
When Shantae arrives on her island getaway, the first thing players will notice are the drop-dead gorgeous graphics. With 4K resolution that beautifully compliments the hand-drawn 2D animation, the environments alone are more than enough to inspire awe. And what makes them pop even more are how the background and foreground both interact and blend into each other almost seamlessly. There’s a real sense of depth in the setting, attributed to the attention to detail, giving the world a sort of liveliness.
The sprite art is similarly just as vibrant and detailed with each character having a unique and fun design that fits the tropical aesthetic of the backdrops to a T. Shantae herself is the standout, gorgeously animated, as always, as her sprite always bounces along even in idle animation. It’s effective in conveying her high-energy personality and determination in everything she does. This same level of care is also given to enemy sprite art as well as Shantae’s transformations, which includes their unique designs to how smoothly they’re animated.
What also makes the graphics so appealing is how well the colors are matched with them. The color palette in Shantae and the Seven Sirens is bright, bold, and bouncy, lending even more vitality to an already vibrant game. And since the setting is a tropical island, the palette of choice matches even more so.
Serving as a well-balanced complement to the graphics is the voice work. Every character’s voice suits them well, and the acting is lively and lighthearted. It would have been easy for the voice work to become borderline cartoony but it avoids that trope with flourish while remaining genuine to the characters themselves.
Keeping pace with the stunning visuals and sound is the equally fun and imaginative gameplay. The meat of Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the platforming itself, and overall, it’s solid on that front. It’s primarily a 2D side-scrolling platformer that occasionally plays around with perspective to stimulate a 3D plane at times. This is especially effective during boss battles that require players to pay attention to both the foreground and background of the environment as some of the bosses often move between the two planes. It’s nice to see that the sense of depth isn’t merely a (admittedly gorgeous) graphical window dressing but serves to enrich the gameplay mechanics as well.
The level design is fantastic with a wide range of terrain taking place in both the island and in underwater ruins. The platforms and enemies are placed strategically enough to encourage creatively dispatching foes while navigating jumps and mini-puzzles. Best of all, there are tons of hidden routes, locked doors, and secrets to discover, giving players all the more reason to thoroughly tread and retread levels to scour for more treasures and secrets.
Everything from the normal enemies, to bosses, to the platforming itself proves that Shantae offers very little actual challenge. On top of that, between both infinitely spawning enemies and smashable vases that provide you with tons of in-game currency as well the various healing and damage items that can be purchased fairly early on, it’s easy to decimate the challenge with some early game grinding. One positive from this is that it encourages more exploration, arguably the best part of the game, by keeping foes from overwhelming you as you backtrack.
My biggest complaint with the title, however, is that some boss fights are rather bland. As much as I love Risky Boots, she’s the biggest offender as her fights are easily the most boring of the bunch. All of her battles can be broken down into extremely basic attack patterns, which removes the chance for any challenge or complexity. It’s especially jarring when compared to other boss battles that offer far more excitement.
While the controls are normally tight, there are occasional bouts of floatiness while jumping between platforms. This means that there can be times where Shantae doesn’t land where you need her to. Fortunately, the level design is impressive enough to avoid the need for pixel-perfect timing; you won’t be a victim to cheap deaths at any point.
There are plenty of other mechanics to help players along on their journey. The belly dance mechanic is back and still used to activate machinery, restore health, and other tasks. Monster cards also make a return and they allow you to augment Shantae by increasing the range of her basic hair attack, attracting loot from a distance, increasing the power of your rocket spell, and tons more.
Then there’s a brand mechanic called Fusion Magic, allowing the hero to change instantly between all-new creature forms. Each form possesses a special ability that is necessary for the successful completion of future levels such as climbing walls, drilling through sand, and more. It’s an excellent new mechanic that adds even more diversity to gameplay already rife with variety.
Overall, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a fun and graphically stunning game with tons of replayability that greatly extends its seven-hour playtime. While it does suffer from a lack of difficulty, the excellent level design, interesting characters, mechanics that seamlessly blend with gameplay, solid voice acting, and gorgeous sprite art all work hard to make up for that detriment. If you’re a fan of the franchise, a lover of 2D platformers, or both, this is a great title to add to your collection.