If you’ve read some of my other reviews, it should be no shock that I’m a big fan of the Shantae series, by WayForward. Shantae, which hit its 17th birthday this year, originally began as a platform game on the Gameboy Color in 2002. With its release toward the end of the GBC era, it didn’t quite get the attention then that it really deserved, but it certainly was well-received, and the little platformer quickly became one of my favourites. In 2010, we saw the release of Risky’s Revenge, followed by two more sequels in 2014 and 2016. All of these sequels have done fairly well, and been a wonderful experience. And, lucky for us, in 2019 WayForward announced Shantae 5, which has now been officially titled as Shantae and the Seven Sirens.
Shantae and the Seven Sirens was one of my must-see demos at PAX, and I actually rushed up to the 6th floor one morning to make sure I’d get a shot at it before the WayForward booth filled back up (there was a line all weekend, which is no surprise considering they featured both River City Girls and Shantae). The details so far have been pretty sparse, but according to WayForward’s official announcement, Seven Sirens will take us to a new tropical location with half-genie allies to meet. Unfortunately, paradise is never perfect, and undoubtedly something will go wrong.
Along the way, you’ll visit towns, plunder dungeons with ferocious bosses, and meet quirky new characters – as well as some old favourites, such as Rottytops and Risky. Along with the familiar usuals, Shantae and the Seven Sirens will feature a new card system that will be used to augment Shantae’s powers, but we didn’t get a look at this in the demo quite yet.
So what about the demo itself?
The demo sends us straight into a dungeon and into the midst of the action. For anyone who has played the Shantae games, Seven Sirens will feel pretty familiar, but it shouldn’t be difficult for newcomers to handle. In true platformer fashion, much of your time will be spent jumping and using your ponytail to whap pesky enemies. Of course, you’ll also gain various abilities via items and magic. You’ll also unlock Shantae’s signature special move – dancing! In every game, players will eventually find themselves walled by some seemingly impassable area. Spikes will line a long floor, or a tree rises far into the sky, or maybe even giant stones block the passage. Hidden throughout the world are powers that Shantae can receive, which allow her to dance in order to shapeshift into another creature. With an elephant, that block might be movable. With a monkey, perhaps you can climb the tree! The Seven Seas demo showed off an adorable newt transformation, allowing you to surge across the room and stick to walls.
Much of Seven Sirens’ gameplay is very intuitive, and the demo puzzles (or at least, how to move forward) were easy enough to work out without too much trouble. I think my only complaint is that I found the demo’s boss battle a little annoying – either I completely missed one possible way of attacking, or it involved some painstaking mechanics that felt a little too long. The solution was actually really clever and graphic clues help the player realise what they need to do, which I always enjoy. It just felt as if it stretched out a little too long. Of course, it’s early right now, so who knows what could change in the future – or if I just botched something along the way.
One of the things I always love about Shantae is that each game feels like returning all over again – just with new stories to enjoy and new graphics that keep the game feeling modern. The signature, bright graphics are back, as is a wonderful soundtrack. Theyre features I know by now that I can expect from the series. Each game is certainly a new experience, but it does it within the nostalgic, familiar framework of Shantae that I originally fell in love with. This demo certainly hit that same sweet spot.
For Shantae lovers, Seven Sirens is setting up to be another great adventure into Sequinland. For those who haven’t checked out Shantae yet, it is completely worth it if you enjoy a good platformer with a lot of fun and heart to it. While the original is difficult to track down now, Risky’s Revenge, Half-Genie Hero, and the Pirate’s Curse are all available across multiple platforms and should provide plenty of fun.
There’s no release date announced for Shantae and the Seven Sirens just yet, but you can bet we’ll be staying on top of further details!