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Shantae and the Seven Sirens (Switch) Review

by Zachary Miller - May 26, 2020, 9:40 am EDT
Total comments: 7

8.5

It's hard to beat Pirate's Curse, but Seven Sirens comes damn close.

As the site’s resident Shantae superfan, you can probably guess that I was eagerly anticipating the Switch release of Seven Sirens, which had previously been exclusive to Apple Arcade. I’ve reviewed most of the series here, including the Game Boy Color original, DSiWare follow-up, and 3DS pinnacle. That game, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, which also appeared on Wii U, is considered by just about everybody to be the untouchable exemplar of the Shantae formula, featuring individual stages with expanding maps (a la Order of Ecclesia), brilliant dungeons, a catchy soundtrack, and a healthy dose of fanservice. The next game in the series, Half-Genie Hero, was a Kickstarted game that I was unfortunately ineligible to review (what with the kickstarting) but Donald liked it a lot--more than me, actually.

Having now cleared the game three times, thus securing all five ending screens (another Shantae standard), I can safely state that Seven Sirens, while different from Pirate’s Curse in many ways, is nonetheless its equal. If you like “Metroidvania” games in general or Shantae games specifically, it’s a can’t-miss.

The story is fluff, but entertaining fluff, as the series’ writing continues to be on-point. There are subplots involving Sky and the Squid Baron that had me laughing out loud. Seven Sirens features a good amount of callbacks to all the previous games, including a new dance parlor (Shantae), timed battle dungeon (Risky’s Revenge), Squidsmith (Pirate’s Curse), and the character designs of Half-Genie Hero. The multitude of brief animated cutscenes and new character art give the game a lot of personality.

The gameplay has been overhauled somewhat. Instead of individual stages with expanding maps (as Shantae’s repertoire grows), Seven Sirens has opted for a single, surprisingly large, map. Metroid has always been infused into Shantae’s genes, but here, those traits are fully fledged, and it’s wonderful. The island--most of which is subterranean--is divided into several color-coded zones, most of which have a warp point associated with them. Unlike the case in Half-Genie Hero, where I felt that many of Shantae’s transformations were single-use “keys,” her powers here are utilized in unique ways throughout the journey. As is usual for the series (Half-Genie Hero notwithstanding), Seven Sirens also includes Zelda-like dungeons that were a bit on the easy side but I appreciated nonetheless. Boss fights are also surprisingly simplistic and over quickly if you’ve bought the right upgrades from the shops.

But even the system of transforming and dancing has been leveled up. In Pirate’s Curse, Shantae didn’t transform, but instead used pirate gear to get around. In Seven Sirens, Shantae still transforms, but her animal avatars are triggered by a button press. Her Dash Newt form, for example, activates by hitting ZR, whereby she dashes forward and, if she hits a wall, will stick to it. It’s similar to her traditional monkey form, but streamlined. Similarly, she can break blocks as the Bonker Tortoise by pressing/holding ZL. All of her moveset powers are utilized this way, which speeds the gameplay up significantly.

But she can still dance, and by holding X, she can select (eventually) four area-of-effect actions. The first of these is a power that reveals hidden objects on the screen. The second livens up certain objects and purifies poisonous water, as well as healing Shantae. I won’t go into the next two, but they’re just as useful. Like her transformations, these powers continue to be useful and meaningful throughout the game.

The other big change is the addition of Monster Cards. Monsters occasionally drop these upon dying, and they can be equipped on the subscreen--three at a time--to give Shantae various buffs. While it’s fun to seek out a complete set of Monster Cards, I was thankful that they don’t factor into the completion rate. Various NPCs in the game’s three towns hold boss cards, and they want gold nuggets in exchange. It’s fun to experiment with the cards, though, to figure out what card combos fit your play style.

One of my typical complaints about the Shantae series is that, in order to get 100% item completion, you have to grind for gems in order to buy the increasingly expensive items in the shop(s). I’m happy to say that in Seven Sirens, the game throws gems at you left, right, and center. I never had to grind, and had bought all the items long before the endgame.

The game looks great, ditching the occasionally awkward-looking 2.5D backdrops from Half-Genie Hero, instead going with backgrounds that match the character art. Everything is bright and colorful, but slowdown can occur when there’s a lot happening at once. The character art has been refreshed, and while I generally like it, I do miss the Inti Creates art from Pirate’s Curse (and not just for the 3D effect). Series mainstay Virt (Jake Kaufman) is oddly enough NOT involved in Seven Sirens, but his compositional replacements have crafted a toe-tapping soundtrack that manages to mimic Kaufman’s works, although most of the dungeon pieces loop a bit too quickly.

I don’t have many complaints, but here we go: Every time you warp, or enter/exit a town, or enter/exit a zone of the map, there’s a short load screen. Over the course of the entire game, it gets old, especially once you start warping around to get 100% item completion. Seven Sirens brings back the challenge caves from Risky’s Revenge but, like that DSiWare game, does not mark them on the map, so you will forget about them. Similarly, additional important objects that often produce Nuggets or Heart Squids are invisible on the map, as is any indication that you already found an item or solved a cave. My solution was to create a short-hand map on a piece of paper (which was an enormous help for my speedrun). I also have this complaint about most Metroidvania games, however, but nobody ever seems to solve it.

Apart from those complaints--which are minor in the grand scheme of things--Seven Sirens is a wonderful game and might well be the equal of Pirate’s Curse, which is no small feat. The game does feature several ending screens for completing the game in various ways and a second game mode that’s akin to Risky’s Revenge: Director’s Cut instead of Half-Genie Hero. There’s also a nice movie viewer if you want to sample the cutscenes. Like I said, if you’re itching for a good Metroidvania or just like Shantae games generally, Seven Sirens is a lock.

Summary

Pros
  • Cutscenes, character art, and voice acting really add to the experience
  • Great level designs and fun dungeons
  • Solid, often funny, writing
  • Very pretty, with catchy music
Cons
  • Lots of short loading screens add up
  • Map could be more helpful for item collection

Talkback

dfields90May 26, 2020

Alright so I am pretty sure I managed to purchase every game in the series over the years but yet to play a single one. What would you say is the definitive play order? Great review looking forward to this!

Great question!

In terms of best > worst, the order is:

Seven Sirens/Pirate's Curse > Pirate's Curse/Seven Sirens > Half-Genie Hero (Ultimate) > Risky's Revenge: Director's Cut > Shantae GBC

I love the original but it's very hard, and playing its successors first will "train you" for it.

dfields90May 26, 2020

Okay perfect - thank you for specifying the versions too. Okay maybe I will start off with risky and follow your original order that I assume you played it in..Thanks!

AdrockMay 26, 2020

About how long would you say 100% completion takes?

Quote:

I can safely state that Seven Sirens, while different from Pirate’s Curse in many ways, is nonetheless its equal.

This is encouraging. Pirate’s Curse is easily the best game in the series. I’ve played all of them except the original. I was a little disappointed in Half-Genie Hero. It felt like a significant step back.

Quote:

The character art has been refreshed, and while I generally like it, I do miss the Inti Creates art from Pirate’s Curse (and not just for the 3D effect).

While I like the HD graphics, I still prefer the art of Pirate’s Curse. I was watching a Shantae video on The YouTube and saw a comment like “Everything’s A Sexy Girl: The Game”. Yeah, that’s about right.

First time through took about eight hours. Second run, knew what I was doing and where I was going, got 100% item completion in something like five hours. Third run, went for speed (any percentage), got it down to less than four hours, I think. Right around four hours.

Yeah, I have issues with Half-Genie Hero. It didn't really feel cohesive, and her bat and spider transformations were REALLY under-utilized.

To be fair, the character art of Pirate's Curse could ALSO be described as "Everyone's a Sexy Girl," especially when you take the 3DS' 3D into effect...

ClexYoshiMay 29, 2020

Zack, I have to disagree with one thing.



Shantae and the Seven Sirens has yet to make me go through a long, boring, and protracted insta-death gauntlet Carrying Rottytops and watching Shantae to the peepee dance, which makes it better by default.




In all seriousness, though, this is the Shantae sequel I've always seen in my mind's eye ever since I played the original in 2005, the one that cleans up the flow issues while staying true to the character and cherry picking the best features from throughout the series to contain in one awesome package.

I recognize Pirate's Curse's quality and how generally stellar it is, and I'm super happy it made people notice the franchise I fell in love with so long ago for it's sheer force of peronality, but it's inexorably tied to Risky's Revenge in my mind, and I honestly cannot reccomend Pirate's curse without Risky's Revenge and Risky's Revenge, and...

Well, neither of those games are indicative of the original, which I fell in love with, both for it's STUNNING work with the GBC hardware, and it's delivery on proving that Castlevania 2 could have been done right. None of the games ever felt as expansive, weather it be Risky's Revenge being hamstrung by it's 50mb DSiWare limitation, Pirate's curse ditching the interconnected world for boat fast travel... I just never felt there was a game that captured that same feeling of adventure, that felt as lived in... but I think Seven Sirens has done it, and I honestly want OG Shantae remade with the HD 2D art, with this style. maybe incorperate Monkey Bullet into moneky form and change some of the level design to take advantage of it and the extra screen resolution and get rid of monkey paw, but dangit, we're like... Day/Night cycle and finding the Zombie caravan with a track and field mini-game away from just hitting the brilliance.




I do have to confess I'm not done yet, but unless the game drops the ball hardcore in it's latter half, I easily enjoy Seven Sirens more than Pirate's Curse.

InvaderRENJuly 12, 2020

I thought Monster Boy solved the collection issue pretty well - any item or room you cannot complete the secret, it just places a ? on the map. Brilliant.

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Game Profile

Genre Action
Developer WayForward Technologies
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Release May 28, 2020
PublisherWayForward Technologies
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