Ret-2-Go on vacation!
|Console: Nintendo Switch|
|A still to show the games artstyle and graphics.|
Story of Seven Sirens is good and entertaining, but nothing we haven´t seen before from the series. Having played 4 out of 5 games in the series how WayForward structures these games have become clear to me. It's the more standard 'travel the world and defeat ... bosses' but spiced up by a bunch of seemingly unimportant side-quests like 'catch the doll thief' that end up giving you exactly what you need to overcome your current obstacle. Maybe in part because of this, it feels like Seven Sirens just going through the motions at times, is on auto-pilot. It follows its own established formula to a T.
Even so, the story was still entertaining because the personality, the game's humour and tone and such, are big in full swing and it's as enjoyable as ever. It's a mix of older pop-culture parodies alongside self-referential humour and 4th wall breakings shenanigans all done in good fun. The game even references parody characters and plots and, if I may get ahead of myself here a little, brings back elements from the series that were removed for Half-Genie Hero such as the Squid-Smith. This all helps create a world, an atmosphere, that is so strong that it smooths out the story's kinks.
|A still image from the animated opening.|
The game retains the same character designs and models of Half-Genie Hero, yes, but it reintroduces many old enemies in the new style as well as bringing in plenty of new ways. The backgrounds are fully 2D now instead of the 2.5D of Half-Genie Hero. The 2.5D backgrounds never bothered me personally but it was heavily requested by the Shantae fan base and I can't deny that it looks really good. The only area that feels like a step down in this department is the soundtrack. It's not bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it also isn't as good as previous entries. It relies too much on previous compositions and is, all in all, not as snappy nor catchy.
Another department where the developers listened to player feedback is the animal transformations. Instead of pushing the dance button and then selecting the transformation into they are now activated instantaneously, with a push of a button. It´s just like the pirate equipment from Pirates Curse and it´s all the better for it. I never found the ´you have to stop to transform´ approach that problematic but even I can admit that it´s a lot more convenient this way and keeps the pace going.
|Dashing with the Newt transformation.|
The dancing is now used to activate the brand-new fusion transformations. By combining her magic with that of the other Half-Genies, Shantae can transform into new forms. A good idea that I think the game should've gone further with. In-game, the use of these transformations are limited. They either open up new paths, like the normal animal transformations and/or function as screen-nukes, do lots of damage to each enemy on screen. It's an OK use, if not a rather bland one. The concept has a lot of potentials which the game doesn't utilise. Perhaps make them new forms of Shantae that have completely different move-sets and playstyles? Something that you can use as the core mechanic of Shantae 6 if you ask me.
Back to this Shantae game. The last thing I really need to talk about is, well, the gameplay and the levels. As I said in the opening, Seven Sirens goes back to its Metroidvania and it's actually the most approachable Metroidvania I know of. Paradise Island is a well designed, good mix of exploration and platforming with the pure platforming sections that connect the various labyrinth and the labyrinths themselves. The game has some very strong level design. If only the map would allow you to place checkmarks, would've made the entire experience even that much better.
Sadly though, I can't give the same praise to the bosses which are a clear step down in more ways than one. While the animated cutscenes are wonderful to have, they completely replace the introductory dialogue and buildup. They're still just as well designed as always but they lack personality and there's thus nothing to really latch on to with them. The fights themselves also disappoint. The boss patterns aren't that interesting or creative and there are either over before you know it or drag on for too long. Even the final boss has a concept at her core that the series has done before.
|The newly added card system.|
Too easy I can say. I play Shantae for the fun of it, not the be particularly challenged but even I thought the game became too easy at the end. You can, if you invest in the upgrades, just run through the levels without having to worry to take damage, there are so many recovery options. In terms of combat, the merged forms are too powerful. Too much of a screen-nuke that can cut down even the most challenging of enemies. It makes the game approachable, yes, but also makes it so you can run through the last few parts of the game practically brainless and that isn't something a game should strive for.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is one of the best Shantae games, though arguably not the best. It combines many of the quality of life and accessibility upgrades of the pure platformer Half-Genie Hero with the series' Metroidvania roots alongside listening to fan feedback such as the simplified transformations. It is also perhaps too accessible, as the difficulty can easily be broken in half and the game feels like it's running on auto-pilot more than once.Even so it's a game that Shantae fans will enjoy as its heart remains the same and serves as the best entry point in the Metroidvania genre.