It has been twelve years since Alfa System released a new shooter in the West. Their last effort was Castle of Shikigami III, a bullet hell cute-em-up with a very Japanese, anime style. Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire is a spiritual successor of sorts and was originally released in Japan in 2018. It has now made its way to Western audiences. Available for download in Nintendo Store and PlayStation Store, Retro Faith is blasting hearts and rainbows on the Switch version.
We love a good shmup in the Retro Faith offices so we were glad to be able to review this one. For those unfamiliar with the term cute-em-up it is a shooter with a cute design and usually a silly story that makes little sense. Great examples of the genre are Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams and TwinBee. If you are a fan of colourful worlds and quick blasting action Sisters Royale is a delightful romp of comedy, explosions and bullet hell drama.
The story in Sisters Royale will make little sense to those who have no experience with Japanese anime games. But it is the story of five sisters battling to be the bride of the angel Yashin. Although the story takes a firm backseat to the main action, you choose a sister to control who then faces each of her sisters one by one. They are marked by boss battles with one level being a mirror match with your subconscious.
Once you defeat each of your siblings you have the chance to talk with Yashin who turns out to be a demon. As we said, you really do not need to worry about the story but if you’re a cutesy anime fan the humour will be familiar to you. Between levels you banter with your sisters who each have their own personality. Although the generic character design does make this tiresome after a while, there are some good jokes to be had along the way.
The main action is set over very short levels each with its own theme. There are a limited number of enemy types for you to battle but they are varied. If you are a bullet hell connoisseur you will appreciate the tight gameplay presented. There is a lot going on constantly and you will be under pressure from the get go. You have limited health that is depleted with each hit, the last causing the loss of a life.
There are infinite continues during the story mode but this blaster is all about the one credit. Can you finish the whole game without needing to continue? Those who crave high scores will be pleased to know that online leaderboards are present and correct. The score ramps up as you progress but will reset at the end of each life. You’re also granted a grade for each level completed. Getting a top grade is tough going and you will need to learn all the games nuances.
Sisters Royale has a great combat system. Your main weapon can be charged and a secondary fire allows you to get close to your enemies. Your armory is rounded out with limited special bombs. Each sister has their own primary and secondary weapon so learning the pros and cons is vital. A combo system is used to determine how risky the player is. Destroying enemies closer will result in bigger scores. The gameplay has all the hallmarks of bullet hell heaven for those willing to explore.
Completing the story mode with each sister will not cause you many difficulties. However, shmups are not about whether or not you can complete the game, it is about how you complete the game. Top players will take on the challenge of clearing the whole game with SSS grades and without losing a life. High Score chasers will want to perfect their runs and destroy every enemy they can.
Graphically Sisters Royale is a feast for the eyes. You will be mesmerized by the colours on show and dazzled by the amount of bullets pinging around. Alfa System have gone to great lengths in providing a glitzy ride. This style may not be for everyone but you will be transported to a magical fantasy world of bright, bold visuals. Some of the enemies are a little bland but you will hardly notice this due to the ferocity of the gameplay.
The artwork that accompanies the story sections is defined, if generic, with each character having a distinguished look. If you enjoy anime art then this will be right up your street. Those that are not fans of scantily clad cartoon characters throwing insults at each other should look away now. The graphics, artstyle and overall presentation will probably be the deciding factor here. This is a very Japanese game.
One of the standout aspects of Sisters Royale is the music. If you are a fan of toe-tapping, fun and fast scores this one’s for you. The tracks skip along and match the style of the game. You will notice the music ramp up as the levels unfold and some of the music is high quality for a game at this price point. We found ourselves just listening to the music at times and that says a lot about the effort the developers have gone to.
Sound effects are what you would expect. Explosions and blasting is all around and although the effects do not stand out they work well. The effects from each sisters special weapon is particularly decent here. Overall the presentation of Sisters Royale is good quality and stays true to its genre. It will not be to everyone’s taste but the great gameplay will help you overlook the colourful, noisy onslaught.
There is a lot here for shooter fans to be getting their teeth into but aside from the story and practice modes Sisters Royale is a little light on content. The high score chasers will have endless hours of fun but casual shooter fans will be done with this one quite quickly. You do of course have five different characters to play as but the short length of the game makes this a mute point. The only longevity here is replaying to get better and beat your high score.
There is a lot to love about Sisters Royale. Great gameplay with a fantastic anime presentation bring this cute shooter to life. The game is aimed at high score junkies and those looking for something different. In a genre normally flooded with spaceships and aliens, Sisters Royale stands out with bold, bright visuals and an apologetic silly story. It is great to see these, usually Japan exclusive, shmups getting a release in the West and long may it continue.
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