Shantae and the Seven Sirens Review: A Familiar Formula That’s Still Really Fun

by David Sanchez June 12, 2020 @ 7:47 am

Shantae and the Seven Sirens opening cutscene.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

The Shantae series is five installments deep, and it has proven to be among the most popular franchises to come from WayForward. Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the latest entry in the series, and while it’s starting to feel a bit too familiar, at this point the franchise still a lot of fun. As such, what you get with Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a game that may retread old formulas but still feels really great to play.

Murder Island — Well, More Like Kidnap Island

Shantae and company have decided it’s finally time to take a vacation. They’re invited to an island resort to take part in the Half-Genie Festival. Shantae meets five other half-genies… and then they’re kidnapped. And just like that, the scene is set and Shantae is back at it with a new adventure. The story is light, but there’s some decent voice acting and a few fun anime-styled cutscenes.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens platforming gameplay.

While the story isn’t too deep, it definitely feels like the game takes a solid chunk of time to really get going. It isn’t until a little over an hour when things really take off gameplay-wise. It’s not a major problem, but given just how smoothly Shantae and the Seven Sirens flows most of the time, it can feel a bit cumbersome having to play through a somewhat uninteresting intro.

Thankfully, once you pass that threshold, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is almost nonstop fun. The game has a Metroidvania-lite feel to it. You’ll hit roadblocks, backtrack, unlock new abilities, and open previously sealed paths. It’s nothing new for the genre, but whereas a lot of these types of games are a bit of a slower burn, Shantae and the Seven Sirens moves at a rapid pace. You’ll be surprised by just how quickly you can move from one end of the map to the other.

Shantae’s got quite a few abilities to work with here. Whenever you rescue one of the kidnapped half-genies, you’ll be granted a new magical ability that allows you to move through areas you couldn’t before. Early on, for example, you’ll be able to turn into a newt. This transformation allows you to dash across large gaps and walk on walls, which means areas that were previously out-of-reach can be explored.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens boss battle.

In addition, Shantae can learn new dance moves that further allow you to explore. The first dance you move you learn unlocks treasure boxes and platforms that were previously absent. So if your newt transformation can’t get you across an especially large gap, it’s possible you’ll need to do a quick belly dance to unlock some platforms to traverse the pitfall.

The weakest aspect of the gameplay in Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the combat. While there is a diverse cast of enemies, the combat is too shallow. You’ll whip bad guys with Shantae’s ponytail, jump and duck to dodge their attacks, or just avoid them altogether. Aside from some collectible enemy cards, there’s no real reward for battling the smaller enemies. And because these creatures respawn when you move between screens, the combat ultimately feels tedious. On the plus side, boss battles are a little more interesting, requiring you to use your different abilities to best the big baddies.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens PS4 gameplay.

Aside from the sharp animated cutscenes, Shantae and the Seven Sirens has a nice cartoon look to it. Like the gameplay, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in previous entries, but even then, the game just looks great. Environments are varied, there are a lot of enemy designs, and the animations are smooth. The audio design is also solid, with themes that will remind you of old NES and SNES tunes. Quite frankly, the audiovisual presentation as a whole has all the charm of a Nintendo property — it’s cheery, lighthearted, and fun.

While Shantae and the Seven Sirens doesn’t do much that’s new for the series, it still provides an excellent and inviting Metroidvania experience. Sure, a little evolution would’ve been nice, but what’s there is just so good that it’s hard to fault the game for sticking with what works.

Score: 8 out of 10

Follow this author on .