The beloved Shantae series has danced through the danger since 2002, and WayForward has delivered some truly mesmerizing titles over the course of 18 years. Sure, each of them does have their unignorable quirks and niggles, but the quality and scope of these games really help it stand apart from others in the Metroidvania genre. Now, it looks like a genie has granted our wish for yet another sequel, and what an immaculate follow-up it is!
The half-genie hero Shantae and her cast of friends are on vacation at a luxurious island’s holiday resort. It turns out that there are other half-genies, like herself, who are visiting, and are taking part in a grand concert. Tragedy strikes when these ladies mysteriously disappear during the performance. Thus, the plucky young lass must set off to figure out what’s going on, uncovering the secrets of the island as she delves further and deeper within. New to the series are some beautifully animated cutscenes, plus a flashy and exciting opening by none other than Studio Trigger. Seriously, these cartoons are great fun to watch, and it only makes me wish for an animated series all the more.
At its core, the latest installation doesn’t stray too far off the beaten path. It still looks and plays similarly to its predecessor, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. For instance, each character, enemy and the like are smoothly-animated, with a varied palette of colours that really brighten things up. The quality of the level design is still dapper stuff, and it’s rife with secrets, simple platform puzzles and loot galore. Humorous writing, bubbly soundtrack and top-quality waifu material – each being a staple inclusion in every game – are all here, as well.
Shantae now has a few new abilities to coincide with her old ones. She can still use magic attacks like fireballs, missiles and projectile-defecting bubbles, as well as her trademark ability to transform into cute critters to help her stick to walls, dig through sand, and generally get around areas that were once previously inaccessible. However, now she can cast fusion spells that the other half-genies share with her. One may help reveal new containers to smash and platforms to jump on, while another heals you and anything nearby (excluding the baddies, duh). There are many instances where you can use these – perhaps too many, as keeping track of where you’ve used them is tough – in order to reap in gems and other important items of interest.
Just like before, you won’t be specifically shown which direction to go to. You’ll only be given hints and directions from other NPCs. At least navigation isn’t too difficult, thanks to the map. Backtracking to a pesky dead end, only now you have the required ability to advance past it, is always a satisfying feeling. Still, some additional waypoints on said map would’ve been a bit more helpful, since it’d at least make revisiting areas.
Monster Cards are a new feature in this entry, and they’re more than just mere collectibles. Defeated enemies may drop a card with a picture of them on. New abilities can be unlocked once you acquire a certain amount of each, and there’s a whole heap of them to get your hands on. Some of the perks make things just a little bit more convenient and aren’t particularly useful, like speed boosts for climbing and crawling. Some of the more useful ones make healing items more effective, drains less magic, and allows you to turn gems into health. While it may take a bit of grinding to get these cards, the fact that you can mix and match up to three different ones at once does offer a bit of variety to the experience.
Again, while exploration and figuring out where to go next is a tad tricky at times, it’s not to say it’s an unfair game. Thankfully, the developers have made it just as accessible as the previous installations. The difficulty is fair and forgiving enough in combat; same goes with the bosses, who typically rely on attack patterns that can be dodged without too much fuss if you’re speedy. Admittedly, the inventory does make things feel a bit too easy at times; you can carry huge quantities of food that you’ll be able to heal yourself with on the go. Naturally, using them is completely optional, but you can’t help but feel spoiled knowing that you can basically carry a smorgasbord of nosh in your pockets at all times.
WayForward clearly have learned more than a few things from the previous entry in the series, as Shantae and the Seven Sirens feels like a straight-up improvement to its predecessor in every way. The level design is top-quality, the combat is still very enjoyable, and the new abilities, magic attacks and Monster Cards are all welcome inclusions. Plus, it still looks and sound just as gorgeous as before. While navigation issues is its biggest problem, it doesn’t dent the overall product. If you’re after another amazing Metroidvania, then WayForward has two words for you: wish granted.
Review code supplied by developers.