We live in a time so focused on eSports and competition that some people can almost forget the roots of what made games so popular. I can remember being a kid and sitting down with my friends playing games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and taking turns whenever we died to the sun in the desert level. Platformers were the perfect introduction to a world of video games for so many people, and it has been my absolute pleasure to play something that brought me right back to those days. Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a cute and fun game with just the right amount of intricacy and challenge to be fit to play at any level of experience.
Let’s start with the overall look of the game, and it is gorgeous. All the main characters from Shantae’s memorable cast return, from Bolo to Risky Boots. Every design is so colorful and fun, it’s hard to pick favorites. Every new half-genie introduced in this game is also incredibly well done, and they all feel like they’ve already been a part of the world. The island theme goes perfectly with the nature and machine contrast of the levels, allowing you to appreciate a super calm hub world with friendly characters that’ll joke about your quest whenever you return to them. Even the background NPCs are memorable, my favorite being the super fan with the Shantae shirt. Even with all this color popping in your face it never feels like “too much”. You get a really good glimpse of what you’re in for with the intro cinematic, which was masterfully animated by Trigger (of Gurren Lagann and Kill la Kill fame). Everything flows together seamlessly, and the characters not taking everything super seriously adds to the calm, comedic vibe of the world.
Even when you go past aesthetics, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a joy to play. The controls are tight and responsive, the platforming is challenging but not crazy, and the boss fights require a decent bit of thought to get past. As a Metroidvania, the basic concept of Shantae and the Seven Sirens is simple, you traverse through a dungeon, break pots for food and powerups, find the keys and get to the boss. It’s not really a change from the formula that’s been present for years; after all “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” The real fun is when you get to your transformations. While I love platforming, it can get a bit slow and repetitive after a while. The game completely changed for me once I got the newt form. This isn’t an active dance like in older iterations when you’d transform into the monkey, this is a dash that transforms you into a newt and lets you stick to walls. It’s just a little thing, but that added mobility was where the game really picked up for me, and it was only the first transformation.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens actually goes above and beyond in character building of all things. I normally wouldn’t expect building a character past upgrading power ups in a platformer, but Shantae and the Seven Sirens introduces Monster Cards that upgrade certain character aspects. So if you want to focus exclusively on whipping your hair, you can select a bunch of hair whip power up cards and have that be your setup. There are some that increase climb and crawl speed, some that reduce spell cost, the list goes on. The ability to change aspects of how you play is honestly more than welcome, and it even functions as a pseudo-bestiary. That being said, you can still purchase upgrades for your hair whip as well as more items that can help you out, such as long range fireballs or a bubble shield. These aren’t consumable items, rather they use up your magic meter much like your dances. This is where the building comes in, being able to do a fireball damage build or spike ball of death build is a new level of replayability. There are a lot of fun possibilities to work around with, and I’m excited to collect all the cards and try even more.
When it comes down to it, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is just downright fun. Whether it be the colorful environments and characters, the witty dialogue, the funky music, the list goes on and on. Whenever I picked up the controller I was smiling ‘till I put it down, that’s really all there is to it for me. The boss fights and platforming are enjoyable, the story is engaging enough but not entirely serious, all the characters have fun fourth wall jabs at the genre. The music never gets annoying, it’s just enough to vibe to while you jump around. I highly recommend Shantae and the Seven Sirens to anyone who wants to relive the golden days of Metroidvania games, and wants to have a good laugh while doing it.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on Playstation 4