Shantae and the Seven Sirens(Review)
Our wishes come true?
We are here once again ladies and gentlemen. From the amazing folks over at WayForward, It's time to be thrown back into the world of Shantae. With the fifth entry into the series promising to be the biggest and best to date, does this entry grant everyone's wishes or does it just leave us with wishing the genie would've just stayed in that bottle(right? Aguilera).
The story starts with Shantae after her many adventures just wanting to get away for awhile and just have some fun, a girl has earned her vacation you know? Upon arriving to Arena Town, a town being used just as a tourist hot spot to gain a lot of money, she and the others learn of 5 other ''Half Genies'' that are also on the island and all of them will be performing in a stage play to entertain the crowds and tourists on their vacation.
Being a little nervous,Shantae agrees to do the act and then begins to socialize with the other half genies in order get ready for the big performance. But as the half genie stars begin their performances,a huge blackout occurs which leads to the disappearance of all the other 5 half genies,leaving Shantae as being the lone genie who has not been kidnapped. What could possibly be behind this event and where are all the other genies? Shantae isn't one to sit around idly, so she decides its up to her to take matters into her own hands and save the day. She rescue all 5 half genies herself.
If you're here reading this then I'm positive you've played at least one Shantae game in your entire gaming career, but if you haven't then what the heck have you been doing your whole life, what's wrong with you? huh? HUH!? HUH!?!?. Eh,moving on. Shantae is a 2D platformer at heart and some would say it would fit into the realm of ''Metroidvania'' if you want to put another label on it. However, I prefer to call it an action platformer puzzle game because you have lots of enemies to fight and take down, lots of platforming and precise movements to make,as well as using different abilities to be able to solve and get around puzzles. Its a franchise with multiple strengths.
Being a franchise with multiple strengths, this game holds even more truth to that claim, this time not only do you have your traditional hair whipping from Shantae but now incorporated are magical upgrades known as Fusion Magic. With fusion magic you're able to gather key items known as Fusion Stones and you can use these to borrow a special power from one of the other half genie heroes you save in order to open up new paths you couldn't get to or to unlock different puzzles in the game that wouldnt be possible to beat without a specific power up.
On top of being able to use fusion magic and your usual hair whipping attacks, you're also able to equip items known as fusion coins. These are another form of power up that is similar to fusion magic,however these coins allow you to transform into different items or even creatures that allow you to traverse to areas you werent typically able to reach beforehand.
You can equip a coin that will allow you to turn into a newt, a little lizard that can jump back and forth and cling to walls so you can climb up a pit you might've fallen down,climb up a long wall just to see what treasures await you or if you just feel like being cute, it's whatever tickles your fancy. They're mandatory skills to have, as another one allows you to turn into a tortoise shell to smash through blocks or turn into a drill to push your way through sand to find new dungeons and areas to explore. You have a complete arsenal at your whim, but it doesn't even stop there.
Lastly for abilities you're able to collect Monster Cards. Monster Cards in this game work as a stat boost or a situational boost,depending on what type of monster card you get. You can get your attack power up,crawling speed raised and even longer duration of items used, such as rockets. There are a ton of these to collect, so the game gives you an incentive to destroy as many enemies as possible to see which cards you want to collect and take advantage of. There's a ton of variety.
Phew. Now that you have all of these spells and items in your hands, what about the actual game play itself? As stated before this game to me is action platformer puzzle game and using all the above spells and abilities I mentioned are crucial to your success rate. There are multiple environments in this game in which you will have to traverse, ranging from water jungle areas,fire dungeons,under water bases and each one of them require specific tasks that must be performed if you are going to attempt to complete them.
For example, if you're going to attempt to gain access to a place called Tree Town, you will notice there is absolutely no way for you to jump up to the platform that leads to the town. However, using your fusion magic of a Seer Dance, its special power can show you objects that are blind to the naked eye, you can see platforms you're able to jump on to get to where you need to go. Without that spell, you will be stuck in the mud without anyway to advance. But to get the ability you need to save the half genies and gather up a fusion stone and return it to them to make it happen.
Using these abilities known as Fusion Magic is one of the key mechanics tied to the majority of the game play you'll experience here. Besides having Seer Dance, you will gain access to other main magic powers such as Refresh Dance and Electric Dance. Refresh dance will bring to life dead roots of trees to give a special item,while other times used it can refresh your health or bring to life a dormant statue which when killed, will give you an item you need for a specific quest. Electric dance is more straight forward, this is used as an area attack to electrocute enemies in your vicinity or power up giant fans and lastly it can be used to light up electric panels inside a dark cave or laboratory.
Most of the boss battles in this game are great and they're a pleasure to not only watch as they're animated superbly, but to play and stay focused on too. Each boss you encounter feels like something brand new and they all have a different mechanic that you need to use against them in order to beat them. For instance one of the first enemies you come across is a big plant lady and you'll notice right at the start, she seems to have a problem with the sunlight. This is key to having her open up her pedals so you're free to attack her. She moves back and forth and a ray of sunshine keeps coming through parts of the ceiling, you must make her go in the right direction to be directly into the sunlight, then her pedals open up and boom, time to break out the RoudUp because this weed is about to be pulled!
Other boss fights work in a similar fashion as this, but if I go into too much detail about each one then you will be left with nothing to look forward to upon you actually playing this game for yourself. While I give praise to the boss fights overall, there's one enemy who keeps showing up that is both an ok boss fight, but at the same time gets a tad bit tedious. I am of course talking about Risky Boots, people familiar with Shantae games will know of her and well shes back to cause trouble,but shes basically used as the exposition intermission boss fights before the REAL one occurs. You end up fighting her a handful of times and she never really gets any harder with each encounter. One fight shes doing jumping and shooting attacks, next fight its the same attack rotation, but maybe this time she does one dashing move that is different. It doesn't feel like there's enough variety to her to warrant multiple different fights with her. I don't want to call it padding but it sorta felt like that to me.
The game length if you're new to the series and these types of games will probably run you a good 7-10 hours your first playthrough if you do everything by the book and don't venture off for any collectibles. However,if you're a completionist, you will most likely be spending 12-15hrs minimum to be able to collect all the monster cards and fill out your entire deck. Not all monster cards are mandatory, but its always cool to see the huge collection you have piled up.
Difficulty in this game ranges, it starts off holding your hand to let you learn about the mechanics and all the attacks, but then the further you start getting in the dungeons, the difficulty ramps up to where it gets challenging but not rage inducing, The game is surprisingly balanced rather well, new players and veterans of the series should be comfortable with the enemy variety,boss battle difficulties and the puzzle solving. The only issue people will run into is where to go, but ill get to that in a minute.
Shantae and the seven sirens is by in far the best looking Shantae game to date, there's no question about that. The animators did a superb job with the 4k hand painted visuals and it looks like an anime come to life. Wait did I say anime? You dang right I did.
The creative and amazing people over at the animation house studio named TRIGGER have for the first time in Shantae's history,provided and created anime level cutscenes for the game and they look absolutely amazing. I now,more than ever, want a full fledged anime for Shantae, I never knew before playing this game that I needed one so badly. So WayForward,TRIGGER, get a patreon up,get a kickstarter going, lets do this.
Oh no, dangit,we've reached this point. Yes yes, with all the good comes the bad with any game I've played and Shantae sadly is no different or special case. While I do not have many gripes with the game overall, there is still some stuff that kinda rubbed me the wrong way or things I feel should be improved on or fixed in the future installments.
Earlier I spoke of Risky Boots being nothing more than a exposition boss fight that really added no variety in multiple encounters. While the boss fight themselves with her aren't what you would call terrible or even bad, they just lacked substance. In the future with similar fights with her again or even a brand new miniboss that you fight in multiple scenarios, possibly adding more arsenal to her or their attacks would give their difficulty a much needed raise each encounter and would make fighting an enemy multiple times more enjoyable.
Traversing can also become a chore to new comers who might be new to the series and these style of games. When you get a quest, you're given very vague details of what to do and where to go in this game and with it being a ''metroidvania'', you're often left with wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out what to do and where to go. While I do not have a problem with this myself, I can see this being issue with players getting frustrated. Perhaps a small flashing light indictator would be helpful in future games for newer players to see where their next objective area is.
Lasty, missable power ups. This is prob the main issue the game has from what I've seen. There is one dance in the game that is mandatory right at the beginning of the game but it's missable if you aren't careful about what you're doing. A dance known as Seer Dance allows you to be able to see hidden objects in the environment and without it,there are certain sections of the game that you can not get to and it stops you from progressing in the game. If you talk to certain people out of sequence, it will bypass the half genie asking you for a fusion stone to use her seer magic and then the game is not able to be finished from there on out and you will need to restart your entire game once more.
At the end of the day Shantae And The Seven Sirens has a few flaws but nothing that really hurts it in any major way. From its animation,to its cutscenes,to its characters and its game play and the use of different abilities to traverse, this game does everything really well and succeeds in my book as being the definitive Shantae expereince to date. I implore long time fans or even new fans to give this one a look because this is as good as a platformer can get.
Shantae And The Seven Sirens is out now on Nintendo Switch
*Review code provided by WayForward