Shantae and the Seven Sirens Xbox One review: wish granted?

When last we saw the sexy cartoon genie Shantae, she was whipping all sorts of enemy butt in the inspired and wonderful Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, which stands as one of the best entries in the series. So how do you move on from a game like that? Well, with something bigger, right?

Well, Shantae and the Seven Sirens doesn’t quite go that route. Rather than taking the same inspired steps as Hero, it seems to harken back to earlier games in the series. That may throw off those expecting something on an epic scale. However, fans of Shantae should be pleased anyway, as the developers at WayForward load on the charm, even if there are certain setbacks that keep this from being the ultimate chapter in the series.

A Whole New World, But the Same Old Trouble

Shantae and her friends get invited to a new locale called Arena Island, where she’s set to perform at the Half-Genie Festival to kick off the opening of the game. But, as you might expect, things don’t exactly go to plan. Five of her colleagues end up disappearing, and it’s up to her to venture out into the world and get them back, using her techniques to save the day.

Fish head, fish head, roly poly fish head.

Whereas Half-Genie Hero was more of a wide-open platforming experience, Seven Sirens harkens back to the classic style of game, like the underrated Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Its Metroidvania-style design will have players doing a little bit of backtracking, though there are levels that may remind you of how well Half-Genie Hero worked. That said, it feels like a slight step backward, if only because it can feel tedious getting through some of these stages.

Not that Shantae isn’t a bubbly character who can’t overcome the odds. She certainly can. But whereas Half-Genie Hero really opened up on her potential, Seven Sirens feels like it limits it a little bit.

Skill Up, Thrill Up?

That said, there are some neat gameplay techniques that open up once Shantae begins rescuing her genie friends from some troublesome bosses. They may not be as innovative as her animal transformations in Half-Genie Hero, but they add to the game all the same, making its eight-plus hour gameplay length (depending on difficulty) mostly worthwhile. It just would’ve been nice for the game design to be as innovative as Half-Genie Hero, instead of taking a slight step backward.

The transformation abilities are sure to be familiar with fans of Hero, as they have similar techniques that aid Shantae over the course of her journey. However, the Fusion Magic is a mixed batch, particularly with the Seer Spell, which can wear on nerves as you try to use it effectively. The Healing Spell is a little better, though you can easily visit in-town bathhouses if you really need to boost your energy.

Fun Visuals and Audio

While Half-Genie Hero continues to be the staple that the series is set upon, mainly due to its impeccable design, Seven Sirens still looks quite good.

WayForward has adapted to a more fluid animation style with games over the years (I’m still impressed by its work in DuckTales Remastered after all this time), and it still shows here. The characters, from small secondary types to large bosses, are fun to look at, especially with a good HD monitor. And even with the somewhat irksome level design in spots, the team definitely knows how to shape a world around its sexy genie.

No, this isn’t Poison Ivy.

Also, the audio is top-notch, per usual. The music is fun to listen to (although, let’s be honest, nothing beats “Dance To the Danger”) and the pieces of voicework are cute.

Not the Best Shantae Adventure, But It’ll Suffice

The thing that holds Seven Sirens back so much is also what escalated Shantae: Half-Genie Hero when it first released. Whereas that game set a new standard for the series, this one just feels like it’s running through certain motions. Even the transformation abilities seem borrowed if you take a closer look, though they remain useful.

That said, it’s still a good entry in the series, especially for fans that have awaited the character’s return. It could’ve been a lot worse; and if we learned anything, a good WayForward game is still worth its weight in gold. Just don’t expect something along the lines of Hero’s heights and you’ll be just fine.

RATING: 7.5/10

While not the best Shantae game, Seven Sirens has more than enough fun to keep things afloat.

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