PLATFORM: NINTENDO SWITCH
RELEASE DATE: January 30, 2020
DEVELOPER: Alfa System
PUBLISHER: Chorus Worldwide
NOTE – A copy of this game was provided to Gaming Instincts by Alfa Systems for review.
The bullet hell genre of games has come a long way in the past few years, with games such as Cuphead making way for other bullet hell shooters and the insane difficulty they usually bring. Not only were the bullet patterns overwhelming at times, it created some unique attack patterns in which players had to think critically in order to beat the base level or boss battle presented.
Even if Cuphead is more Contra-like than a true bullet hell like Ikaruga, released in 2001, similar bullet hell games should capture the same use of strategy and critical thinking that Cuphead had when it first released.
Now the Nintendo Switch is bringing more games to the bullet hell genre with Alfa System introducing Sisters Royale: Sisters Under Fire, a.k.a. Sisters Royale: I’m Being Harassed by 5 Sisters and It Sucks in Japan.
The story for anime hell shooters like these is fun and goofy with a bit of gravity to go with how dangerous the levels can feel as the game progresses. The whole story of Sisters Royale acts more like an outdated cliché than anything else as the main conflict at hand takes a backseat.
The game is about the land of Pultima, which is in danger of being conquered or destroyed by the evil demon Seytan. The sisters could overpower anything in their paths, if they were to work together. However, the girls despise each other and never worked together to stop the demon lord.
Now the five sisters—Sonay, Selma, Ece, Nur, and Lale—are fighting over who gets to marry Lord Yashin.
After choosing one of the five sisters, players are greeted to a top-down view similar to the Ikaruga series while controlling the character. Whoever the player chooses runs forward while shooting magic bullets at enemies.
There are multiple types of shots for each sister. The first one is their typical bullet spread, which can come in a variety of forms—spread shots with Sonay, homing shots for Nur, and piercing for Selma.
Their second ability is the character’s summon, which acts as an instantaneous way to take out stronger enemies, such as using close-range swords, causing a small explosion, or shooting a laser.
Their third ability is the traditional bomb, which can not only clear out enemy bullets, but annihilate anything on screen. However, there is a limited amount of bombs, but if a player dies or survives long enough, bombs can be replenished.
There are a few gameplay features that set the title apart from other shooters, such as the Powershot system, where each character’s main shot becomes stronger by turning red with a little bit of homing to clear out enemies.
The Tension Bonus System multiplies the score and number of coins based on the sister’s distance from enemies and attacks. Moreover, Secret Fairies are hidden throughout each level to grant more points and bombs. This isn’t much as there’s no benefit in time, coins, or keeping lives as they only amount to the score at the end of the game. Everything the game has to offer is readily available, which is disappointing given the stages themselves and the levels almost feeling the same.
The stages are unique for each sister, with unique quirks specific to the sister fought at the end. Selma’s stage is full of ice, and since the sisters run through each level, the floor can become slippery, causing a special situation for a hell shooter, where the player can’t move as precisely as needed.
Despite each level’s quirks and obstacles, that doesn’t save it from the flaw that each stage follows the same formula: fight a few weak enemies, get introduced to the level’s gimmick, fight a Cube for no reason, fight a bit more, then fight the sister at the end. Since most of the levels are around five minutes at most, this can be tedious going from level-to-level.
The game looks alright for Nintendo Switch standards. The characters, stages, and enemies serve their purpose while the sisters themselves are set apart with unique portrait art shown at the beginning and between dialogue.
The levels use cute 3D models akin to Nendroid figures. In turn, enemies are also goofy and cutesy. They suffer from one problem, however: they’re all basic reskins of the same archetypes. The same slimes, birds, big pumpkins, and cubes all appear in every level in some shape or form.
Even if all of the enemies look the same, their bullet patterns prove to be a challenge, if a player decides not to use a bomb to stop the bullets. The main problem with the graphics is there can be so much going on at once. If the player gets hit by a single attack, they drop a huge amount of coins, which obscures the part of the stage in which the player is dodging. These coins are a huge hindrance, as it’s impossible to dodge any bullets as they seem to blend together, further punishing gamers for getting hit and not seeing the enemy bullets afterwards.
The music in Sisters Royale is rather bland; for a game that’s generally going to be replayed once for each sister, that’s not good. While each stage has its own tune—which represents each sister the player is going to fight—it falls apart after the first playthrough.
Another reason the music is forgettable is that each boss fight uses the same song. Music in a high-stakes fight, which most hell shooters have, should usually be unique and fun for each boss. Sisters Royale makes these fights seem more commonplace due to the music and how repetitive the game is in the end.
Sisters Royale ends up being a short and generic mess. Even with five different sisters to play as and how different their mechanics are, the game ends up being too repetitive. Pair this with a huge lack of unlockables and the shortness of each play session for each sister, Sisters Royale ends up feeling like a cheap mobile title rather than a full-fledged shoot ’em up.
For more reviews, you can check out our review for Journey to the Savage Planet here.