Developed by WayForward Technologies, Shantae and the Seven Sirens may be the half-genie’s most ambitious game yet. Not only does the game return to the series’s Metroidvania roots, but it also serves as a grab bag of all of the series’s best ideas.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens plays like a cross between Metroid and The Legend of Zelda. Players alternate between exploring a large, interconnected overworld, towns, and puzzle and monster-filled dungeons. This is a refreshing return to form, as Half-Genie Hero utilized a linear, level-based structure and Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse was sort of a halfway point between a level-based progression and Metroidvania structure. In regards to the world and exploration, fans of Super Metroid will feel right at home.
Of course, a large world isn’t much good if it’s a chore to explore. Thankfully, the various locales in Seven Sirens are easy to traverse quickly, with multiple routes to any one point and several, evenly-spaced warp rooms and plenty of save points for added convenience. This is further helped by the fact that Shantae herself controls perfectly and her transformations—while relatively basic this time around—are all very intuitive to use.
This does lead me to my first complaint, however. While it’s relatively easy to get from one end of the map to the other, it’s not always easy to know where to go. The map only provides the barest essentials to be useful, with the only markers on map being the locations of warp rooms, save points, towns, and dungeons. While this may sound like a lot, it isn’t helpful at all when backtracking in search of items. Several items in the game are hidden in optional puzzle rooms that require a certain ability to complete. The entrances to these rooms—which are never hidden, for the record—aren’t marked on the map—nor does the game give the player the ability to place markers on the map. This left me wandering in circles desperately trying to remember where that one specific puzzle room I had just obtained the power for was on multiple occasions.
Another related issue is that the game doesn’t feature any sort of summary of the player’s current objective on the pause screen. If you happened to forget what exactly you’re supposed to be doing or missed an important detail, you’ll have to remember who gave you your current objective and backtrack all the way to their location to ask them again. Likewise, the game provides no easy way for the player to track their progress, which makes tracking down every item in the game somewhat tedious.
Shantae has a bevy of new abilities. This time around, all of her transformations are instantaneous, working more like the pirate gear from Pirate’s Curse or Risky Boots’s mode from Half-Genie Hero. This is way more intuitive than transformations in previous Shantae games and helps gameplay maintain a consistent flow.
That said, the game’s protagonist retains her signature belly dancing ability. This time, however, dances come in the form of screen filling magic spells. This works really well as a compromise, as having Shantae plant her feet and spend a few seconds dancing to activate a screen-wide effect feels way more natural than having to constantly stop to transform. These abilities also have a surprising number of uses, affecting enemies and the environment in a variety of fun and surprising ways that reward experimentation.
Best of all, Shantae and the Seven Sirens fixes a long standing issue I’ve had with previous games: there are no useless abilities! There’s no pointless back dashes or power kicks, and every power Shantae obtains remains useful until the end of the game.
New to Shantae and the Seven Sirens are monster cards. After defeating a monster, it might drop a card bearing its likeness. Three of these cards can be equipped at a time, with each one granting a special ability. None of these abilities are particularly creative: decrease how much magic a certain power uses, increase damage of a particular item, etc. As you can probably guess, most of these are situational at best. That wouldn’t be too bad if it was easy to quickly equip cards as the situation demanded. Unfortunately, the cumbersome interface makes the process of equipping and unequipping them very tedious.
Having said that, equipping cards is about as hard as this game gets. Enemies frequently drop healing items, meaning that the player is never without a means of restoring health or magic. To put it in perspective, I managed to go the entire game without having to use any store-bought restoratives; I always had more than enough just from what I picked up from enemies. On top of that, powering up Shantae herself and maximizing her damage output takes very little effort. I managed to get all of the upgrades for her standard attack before the second dungeon. This just may be the easiest game in an already fairly easy series.
The story begins with Shantae and her friends arriving on Paradise Island to attend a half genie festival and to enjoy a much needed vacation. Shortly after arriving, Shantae meets five other half genies who inform her that they all are expected to perform in show that night. However, Shantae’s fellow half genies all suddenly vanish during the performance. Being the only one left, it’s up to Shantae to discover what happened to her peers and uncover the island’s long lost secrets.
As to be expected from a WayForward game, the writing adopts a light-hearted and humorous tone, with a strong emphasis on character-driven comedy. While WayForward has proven time and again that they have this style of writing down pat, this game stands out as some of their funniest work yet. Just about every conversation had me at the very least cracking a smile, if not laughing outright.
Because the game ditches the level-based progression of Half-Genie Hero and its episodic plot structure, the overall plot also feels much more cohesive. This benefits the humor as it’s now allowed to set up jokes well in advance, only to call back to them later. That said, some of the subplots between dungeons, while humorous and all-around entertaining, tend to come out of nowhere and don’t really fit into the game’s overarching narrative. They’re something players will do because they know the game expects it, not because it makes sense in the context of the story. Additionally, the dungeons oddly get little build up; the player just kind of stumbles across most of them.
Lastly, the game’s plot reminds me of Mega Man Legends in a lot of ways, which is always a good thing.
Unlike its predecessor, Half-Genie Hero, Shantae and the Seven Sirens returns to a fully 2D world, with both 2D characters and 2D environments. While I think the 2.5D graphics of Half-Genie Hero were a bit more visually interesting, the visuals in this game are still very good. My biggest complaint is how small all of the characters are on the screen, not because I had trouble keeping track of where they were, but because it makes it harder to admire all of the silky smooth animations. You know the game looks good when my biggest issue with the visuals is my inability to properly admire them.
An additional facet of Seven Sirens’ visual presentation, however, is the inclusion of 2D animated cutscenes. While much of the game’s story is still delivered the old fashioned way, with text boxes and character portraits, these animated cutscenes depict the key moments of the game’s story and provide a little extra flare. The game starts with an intro cinematic by esteemed anime studio, Studio Trigger, while the rest of the game’s cutscenes are by WayForward’s animation team.
The intro features snappy, expressive, and frenetic animation, making for a tough act to follow. For the most part, the rest of the game’s cutscenes look great, but the quality isn’t entirely consistent. A few cinematics feature disorienting transitions between shots, noticeable lack of movement, and odd shot composition. Also, this game features some of the worst looking lip flaps I’ve ever seen.
Fortunately, these issues are the exception rather than the rule. The cutscenes make the game’s big moments stand out and the game is ultimately better for their inclusion.
Just as this is the first Shantae game to feature full-motion cutscenes, it also introduces voice-acted dialog. It isn’t fully voiced, however, as many scenes still rely entirely on text and the occasional, short, emotive utterance. In fact, the application of voice acting is somewhat inconsistent, with conversations often being mostly text only to have a few voiced lines in the middle. The acting itself is quite good and each character’s voice fits them well. This is especially true for Shantae and Ricky Boots, both played by Christina Vee.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens is the first Shantae game not to feature music by Jake Kaufman. I have mixed feelings about the soundtrack. Some of the songs, especially the ones in the early areas, sound painfully generic and don’t have that signature Shantae energy. At other times, the music fits in perfectly with the rest of the series’ best tracks. While I wouldn’t say the music in this game is quite as catchy as Half-Genie Hero’s, it’s still overall an excellent soundtrack that complements the game quite well.
Before I wrap up this review, there are just a couple of technical issues I’d like to address. While playing this game, I did experience some slowdown when there was a lot happening on screen at once, though that was very rare. Also, during my playthrough, this game did crash one time.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens continues the series’s excellent track record and in many ways out does it. It features the franchise’s best gameplay with well-utilized abilities, great exploration, and the return of many of the series’s best ideas; and is only held back by inconveniences such as cumbersome menus and a lack of quality-of-life features for completionists. The writing is rich with charming characters and hilarious dialog. On top of all of that, the game features a great soundtrack and the added flair of good voice acting and a few fully animated cutscenes. All in all, I would say this is Shantae’s strongest outing yet.
Overall, I would give this game a rating of “great”.
As for the price, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is priced at $30 (U.S.). While the game is on the shorter side, with my playthrough clocking in at ten and a half hours, I think that’s a fair price. However, I do feel obligated to point out that Shantae ½ Genie Hero: Ultimate Edition’s digital version goes for the same price but includes a lot more content. That said, I would say Seven Sirens is the superior game, and you in no way have to play the previous games in the series to enjoy this one.
As we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, we reflect on the fact that Nintendo has been no stranger to the idea of the apocalypse. Indeed, many of their games have featured long-since destroyed settings, or the ruins of extinct civilizations. Why does Nintendo seem to focus on these elements and weave them into the backstories of their games? Does Japanese history play a part? Join Glen and Simeon for a deep dive on Nintendo and The Apocalypse!
Enjoying the TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show! Drop a comment, leave a like, or share with a friend.
Check out our old YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew
I arrived at the airport around 9 A.M. Upon entering, I was greeted by two young raccoons who immediately got to work arranging my trip. We boarded the plane not long after that. Once finished suffering a long, boring flight during which there was nothing to do except watch an informational video and avoid eye contact with the other passengers, we arrived on the island. The two young raccoons informed the other residents and me that there was an orientation meeting nearby and that our presence was requested. Needing to retrieve my tent and other supplies, I begrudgingly followed the others to what appeared to be a construction site. There a middle-aged raccoon delivered a droll and poorly-rehearsed corporate monolog. Read more Hideaway IslandAn Animal Crossing: New Horizons Narrative Let’s Play ›
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is here. After several series missteps, the franchise is back, and it’s on Switch in a big way! Scott, Glen, and Ryan get together to discuss the latest Switch sensation, check in with each other’s island progress, and discuss all of the game’s mechanics in depth.
Ready for more TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show!
Check out our old YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew
I’ve mentioned it a few times on the podcast, but I love the Virtua Fighter series. Unfortunately, as a Nintendo fan, that puts me in a difficult position. See, the Virtua Fighter series has been absent from Nintendo consoles. There is, however, one noteworthy exception to this history of Nintendo exclusion: the action-R.P.G. spin-off game, Virtua Quest.
Virtua Quest was developed jointly by Tose co. and Sega AM2 and published by Sega. It was released in Japan under the name Virtua Fighter Cyber Generation: Ambition of Judgement Six on August 26, 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. It was later released in North America on January 18, 2005. As mentioned before, it was a departure from the standard Virtua Fighter series in that the game is a beat-em-up with R.P.G. elements.
My history with this game is a little different than previous installments of That Was a Thing, as I’ve never actually played this game before. Well, not the full version at least. I knew about it way back when it first came out, due it being playable at the GameCube demo kiosk at my local Target. At the time, I thought the idea of a martial-arts-based action-adventure game was intriguing, but after seeing the middling review scores it received in the now-defunct Nintendo Power magazine, I ultimately decided to pass on it.
It wouldn’t be until a few years ago once I got into the Virtua Fighter series that I developed a renewed interest in this title. After over a year of searching, I finally stumbled across it while revisiting the GameXChange in my old, grad-school stomping grounds. Read more Virtua QuestThat Was a Thing ›
Vitamin Connection brings new meaning to the word cooperative.
Most games are pretty content with just putting you and a buddy in the same space and letting you play together, working in tandem and exploring the same areas. Even though you are working together, what you or your pal are capable of doing isn’t beholden to what the other does. In Vitamin Connection you have a truly symbiotic relationship – you play as a couple of ridiculously cute cartoon bobbins who save a family from their literal ills by way of a two-pilot capsule ship that can’t function without full communication and cooperation from your friend.
Well, you could by playing the game solo, but what’s the fun in that!?
Each stage is set-up like an episode of an old Saturday morning cartoon – a member of the Sable family is on their way to an outing when disaster strikes as they step out the door and they become sick. It is then up to our heroes, Mina-Girl and Vita-Boy, to get them back on the healthy train by attack the bacteria plaguing them so they can get about their day. You travel through their interiors on mostly predetermined paths (with occasional branches to help you find secrets or pick your own route) and find and suss out that level’s big baddy by taking on what amounts to boss battles in pivotal areas of the body.
As you’re traveling, one player is in control of moving the ship in all directions and also the trigger to the Vitamin Beam which you use to clear your path. The other play is in control of rotating the ship, which is crucial in navigating your human host as well as aiming the Vitamin Beam. Both jobs are not created equal, with the person in charge of rotation and aim has to use motion controls which makes for some harrowing moments. The challenge of the game can be mitigated by one simple trick – communication. If you talk to each other and work together, it becomes a breeze!
The aforementioned boss battles are less your typical “find the weak spot and attack” nomenclature and more like mini-games. These too often make use of the Switch’s oft-forgotten gimmicks by having players play Irritating Stick-like obstacle courses and the IR sensor camera to extend a hand through a highway of viruses. It’s a nice break for the most part and yet another fun way to test your communication skills, but it felt like the game would ramp up the difficulty of these segments rather quickly, with my son and I getting stuck on the second level because the IR camera was finicky and the bad guy’s patterns being rather unforgiving. It was frustrating and could have done with maybe a different control option, but it doesn’t dilute the enjoyment we were having.
If nothing else, Vitamin Connection’s presentation compelled us to keep going as the saccharine storyline and infectious music kept us entertained so much that we had to see it through to the end!
Much like Affordable Space Adventures on the much-maligned Wii U, Vitamin Connection feels like an essential on the Switch. The game can be played solo, but it’s use of motion control feels important to the experience as a whole, thus making this game a tough sell for people intending on playing by themselves but imperative to those who have a friend or kid on hand. It has that WayForward charm permeating the whole experience and was so much fun I plan on playing through it again soon with a different son!
Vitamin Connection is a worthwhile way to spend a sick day, especially if you’re stuck at home with a co-pilot.
Now that Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is finally complete, it’s time for the TBC team to get their opinions on the record. Join us as we discuss Shovel of Hope, Plague of Shadows, Scepter of Torment, King of Cards, and all things SHOVEL KNIGHT!
Ready for more TBC Podcast? We are an ad-free show, and you can support us on Patreon: http://patreon.com/twobuttoncrew
Get Your Daily Nintendose of Fandom on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/TwoButtonCrew
“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor an expert on sleep disorders. This article is for entertainment purposes and should not be consulted for medical advice. If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, please consult a specialist.
It’s January again, a time of year when many people resolve to improve themselves and their lives. Long-time Nintendo fans are no strangers to the subject of self improvement. From the Brain Age games to the recent Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo has a history spanning over a decade of releasing products to improve the health and cognitive well-being of their fan base. There was even a time not too long ago that the Big N toyed with the idea of building a third pillar to their business around the idea of quality-of-life consumer electronics. The only product in this line that we fans ever even heard about, however, was a device that was supposed to improve the user’s quality of sleep. As someone who has trouble maintaining a healthy sleep cycle, I was disappointed when they announced that the project had been canceled.
Now that I think about it, though, I’m not the only one with an odd circadian rhythm. One of Nintendo’s most iconic characters has exhibited strange and potentially worrisome sleep behaviors on multiple occasions: Mario. Ever since his landmark 3D debut, Super Mario 64, Mario has often been depicted as nodding off in a matter of minutes if left inactive. This leads to me wonder: how does he do it, and is it cause for concern? Read more Mario’s Express Ticket to SubconAn Examination of Mario’s Sleep Habits ›
Are you buried in unplayed games? Do you keep purchasing new titles, knowing full well that you don’t have the time to play them? Are you drowning in a long list of classics that you want to try and make time for… someday… eventually? If any of this sounds familiar, we know exactly how you feel. And we’re here to discuss a strategy and make that backlog manageable. Hop on board the TBC train!
“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Glen and Scott are back to discuss Luigi’s Mansion 3, a beautiful game and strong Game of the Year contender. They have a lot to say about the game’s pros and cons, so get cozy and listen to their deep dive on Luigi’s newest solo outing.
“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Back in August, I finally managed to complete Super Mario Odyssey. While I found much to love about it—the gorgeous and eclectic visuals, the fast-paced story, the fact that Mario is weird again, the myriad of accessibility features, etc., etc.—there was a reason it took me nearly two years to complete. While I definitely intend to replay the game’s story someday, I can say with confidence that completing it is a task I will never undertake again.
As the number of remaining moons dwindled, so too did my enthusiasm. In fact, by the end of my run, I was having more fun grinding for coins in Luigi’s Balloon World so that I could afford the last few moons needed to max out the counter than I did hunting for the ones populating the game’s various worlds. Why was that, and what could Nintendo have done differently to avoid the slog? That’s exactly what I intend to answer in this edition of Spit Shine. Read more Super Mario OdysseySpit Shine ›
Glen and Scott sit down to discuss the recently released Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch. How did Nintendo’s latest remake sit with us? What was improved, what was memorable, and what left a bad taste in our mouth? At the end, each host shares a surprising game they would like to see remade next from the Legend of Zelda series.
Untitled Goose Game by House House is a unique, charming game for Nintendo Switch.
Disguised as a goofy goose sim, this stealth/puzzle game has you work your way through to-do lists, perfect for a productivity nerd like myself. But these tasks are all mischief related, and involve messing with innocent people’s things without getting caught.
There are four areas to explore, so while you may have an ear-to-ear grin throughout the experience, the credits could roll before you feel that your investment has been returned. It took me under two hours to complete (though post-game content in the form of additional to-do lists should effectively double your play time).
Everything is quite sound here, whether we’re talking about controls, music, systems, graphics, etc. This game took awhile to release considering its short length, and it is evident that the developers made the most of that time to iron out any potential kinks in the gameplay.
While I would love to praise the game in specific ways, it’s difficult to do so without spoiling the moment-to-moment gameplay, which is often humorous and always inventive and charming.
I had a great time solving all the puzzles as they progressively got more complex. Making someone spit their coffee out as a troublemaking goose was an experience I won’t quickly forget.
Making someone spit their coffee out as a troublemaking goose was an experience I won’t quickly forget.
Untitled Goose Game is clearly lacking one feature, however, and that is a hint system. After having just played BoxBoy + BoxGirl, I can’t help but think of how helpful that hint system could have been if implemented in Untitled Goose Game.
Without an option for hints, some puzzle solutions just will not present themselves to you, no matter how long you waddle around the level flapping your wings and honking to no effect. You can always Google a walkthrough, but something more subtle and built-in would have been a worthy inclusion.
The value proposition for Untitled Goose Game is… well, suspect. House House is up against a lot of great competition on the eShop, especially around the $20 asking price. My gut tells me that the game will perform well during sales, but otherwise will have a hard time convincing people to part with a crisp green Jackson.
Conclusion: Untitled Goose Game is a tight, fun, memorable experience that leaves the player wanting more.
Please note that I played the P.C. version of the game. The following review is for the game itself, and does not cover platform specific details such as performance or glitches.
Developed by Wayforward Technologies and published by Arc Systems Works, River City Girls is, as the name would imply, a spin-off of the N.E.S. classic River City Ransom. Much like its 8-bit predecessor, River City Girls is a blend of side-scrolling beat-em-up combat and open-world action-adventure exploration with a sprinkling of R.P.G. elements on top. The game follows the adventures of the tough, temperamental, and sarcastic Misako and the cute, bubbly, and emotionally unhinged Kyoko as the two set out to rescue their respective boyfriends from being kidnapped. Read more River City Girls: Review ›
Glen and Scott are joined by Zelda expert GameOver Jesse! What brought about such a momentous occasion? Why, the announcement of the sequel to Breath of the Wild! Join us for a podcast packed with hype, speculation, analysis, and complete guesses.
On Tuesday, August 20th, a series of tweets from different Game Informer writers made it clear that something was amiss. One after another, employees of the longstanding gaming magazine informed their followers that they had been let go. The first tweet I saw made me sad. When I started noticing more, I became worried. They all had a common theme: the parent company, GameStop, had unceremoniously dropped seven staff members from the editorial roster. Via email, no less.
As part of the gaming industry, you and I have known that GameStop has seen better days financially. Even so, the sheer number of layoffs that hit the GI office, and the unprofessional and scummy way in which these employees were let go, was shocking.
Here’s a sampling of the injustices that took place:
GameStop also let go several GameStop associates on the same day, equalling a staggering 14% of their personnel. However, they fired a disproportionate amount of GI staff when they gave the axe to 7 out of their 19 editorial team members, crippling the magazine’s manpower in one fell swoop.Javy was notified of his employment termination while overseas, covering Gamescom in Germany. Can you imagine being on a business trip, giving up evenings and weekends at home for a company, only for them to fire you in the middle of the convention you’re covering?
Jeff Marchiafava received his notice while he was on vacation. And I sincerely hope he was able to find some enjoyment during his travels, meanwhile having to deal with this terrible and life-changing news.
GameStop proceeded to lock these employees out of Game Informer headquarters, so they couldn’t even grab their own belongings without setting up an appointment like some kind of outsider.
The corporation couldn’t even be bothered to allow the employees’ health insurance to remain intact through the end of the month, a mere week and a half, forcing these former staff members to go without coverage for the time being or purchase extremely expensive COBRA plans.
Not only were the seven ex-employees given no advanced notice, but the layoffs also appear to have taken the Game Informer Editor in Chief, Andy MacNamara, by surprise, giving him no time to prepare for print deadlines and Human Resources nightmares.
GameStop also let go several GameStop associates on the same day, equalling a staggering 14% of their personnel. However, they fired a disproportionate amount of GI staff when they gave the axe to 7 out of their 19 editorial team members, crippling the magazine’s manpower in one fell swoop.
All of the factors I cited lead me to believe that GameStop was completely and utterly out of touch with the GI side of their business. The ignorance and uncaring attitude that would cause someone to be let go while overseas is disgusting! The fact that Andy had no say in who was more or less crucial to the team is unbelievable!
I understand that layoffs are an unfortunate reality of business sometimes. But they don’t need to be handled this horribly.
On Monday, the Game Informer office was made up of 19 editors, with a few people gone for vacation or work trips. On Tuesday, 12 remained. It was as if Thanos grabbed his Infinity Gauntlet and snapped a huge portion of them out of existence. This is the type of event we would expect in an Avengers movie—in a fiction story. But it was their reality.
After such devastating blows, fans of Game Informer were reasonably wondering if this spelled the end for the publication, but we have received confirmation that GI issues will continue to be produced.
The Editor in Chief also laid to rest concerns that the print edition had become unsustainable, saying that the magazine will continue to be available in physical and digital formats.
The fact that the magazine is continuing is a testament to the team’s tenacity. But the scars of GameStop’s betrayal remain; destroying remaining team’s morale, their trust, and their sense of job security.
Continuing to cover all the news in the industry, pumping out entertaining podcasts and videos, all the functions of Game Informer now seem like monumental tasks on an emotional level in the wake of “corporate restructuring.”
So what does this mean for me?
I will not support GameStop. Honestly, I haven’t stepped foot in their stores for a long time, and I won’t ever need to. There are better deals everywhere and I can’t give my money to a dying business that treats its staff members as expendable commodities.
I will, however, increase my support for GI. I will subscribe digitally, or get the more expensive print subscription directly from their website, avoiding the PowerUp rewards program through Gamestop.
I’ve already started networking with some of the industry professionals I know that may be hiring, recommending the excellent writers who are now looking for work.
And I will also continue to be vocal with my gratitude for the GI team. Their podcast has always been severely underrated; it’s long, consistent, has zero ads (they never mention GameStop, and they don’t even plug their own magazine!), they have a rotating panel of experts, always give a generous amount of time for listener mail, they include detailed timestamps in their shownotes, etc.)
As a whole, their outlet deserves more respect. It’s one of the only gaming industry mediums that has remained pure, largely avoiding politics and entertainment focus, keeping games first and diving deep in journalism, traveling the world for expansive cover stories.