In celebration of #WayForwardMarch, I played through the fifth game in the Shantae series, Shantae and the Seven Sirens, on my Twitch channel. Having played and enjoyed several other WayForward games in the past, including the previous two Shantae games, I had a fairly good idea of what I was getting myself into here but was still excited to check out the latest exploits of everyone's favorite half-genie.
Shantae is an indie 2D platformer series that stars the half-genie belly dancer, Shantae, and a colorful cast of supporting characters that include pirates, zombies, and mad scientists. In this entry of the series, Shantae must explore an island with a complex series of underground passageways to find her fellow half-genies that mysteriously went missing. Unlike previous entries in the series, Seven Sirens features one large continuous map rather than a series of separate smaller levels, which gives it a much more explicitly Metroid-like feel. Also in proper Metroidvania fashion, as Shantae progresses through her adventure, she gains new powers, usually in the form of animal transformations, that improve her ability to overcome obstacles.
- Having been making 2D platformers for decades, WayForward knows how to make one of these games control well and Seven Sirens is no exception. Shantae's jumps, attacks, and special abilities all feel great. I especially liked her salamander transformation, which allows her to climb on walls and airdash.
- Shantae's move set is complemented by cute and charming character art and animations. The attention to detail and personality imbued into not only the game's heroine, but the supporting cast, enemies, and NPCs do so much to make this game (and the rest of the Shantae series) so endearing.
- While I missed the immediately danceable signature sound of long-time series composer, Jake Kaufman, I still found plenty of tracks to like from Seven Sirens' 4-person sound team. The overall sound is a bit more varied than the previous games with some traditional Shantae bops as well as some nice mellow pieces.
- I'm not particularly invested in the story or "lore" of Shantae, but I definitely enjoy the humor in these games. There were quite a few scenes in Seven Sirens that gave me (and my Twitch viewers) a good chuckle.
- Seven Sirens provides a big map to explore, but, much of the level design is fairly bland. It was not especially interesting to uncover new areas nor does it offer the platforming challenge of rgw previous games' more linear stages.
- This game has really fun boss designs but the battles themselves aren't actually that exciting. I got through most of them just spamming attacks and using the plentiful healing items that are collected while exploring.
- Dialog in Seven Sirens is only partially voice acted in a way that I found exceptionally jarring. Often within a given scene, characters would go back and forth between being voiced and silent seemingly without any rhyme or reason. I would have rather they had a few key scenes fully voiced and left everything else quiet.
- At the beginning of my playthrough, the performance of this game on PC was quite rough despite it not being particularly graphically demanding. Load times were also quite long. About halfway through, a patch came out that mostly resolved this but this game was already a year old at that point.