Inspired by the 2001 anime Castle of Shikigami, five sisters fight each other over a guy in this bullet hell vertical shooter. The story might not make much sense and acts as filler between each stage, but shooter and anime fans will enjoy what is here.
By looking at any screenshot or gameplay trailer, it is easy to see that Sisters Royale stands out thanks to its brightly colored visual presentation. Although it shouldn’t be defined as a “cute’em up,” it rides that line pretty hard with heart icons and bright bubblegum pink used constantly. The story is also very anime, with a pack of sisters trying to fight for the love of one hunky angel. Each sister is playable and follows a unique storyline, fighting each sibling along the way. The ending, spoiler alert, all the sisters come together to defeat a greater evil. The plot is nonsensical but can be skipped entirely but players will receive a Trophy for sitting through all cutscenes. The opening text crawl is particularly long and boring.
Sisters Royale is a pretty tough shooter, with bullets often filling the entire screen especially during boss battles. Although this isn’t anything new, there is one gameplay element that makes the entire experience standout – distance. If the player is close to the enemy when attacked, more damage is given and a higher score is earned but then runs the risk is being killed more easily thanks to a diminished response time. Camping at the edge of the screen usually allows for more response time and wiggle room, but will take a while to chip away at enemies. This risk/reward system will make or break positions on the leaderboards and should make for impressive YouTube clips. Playing through the campaign only takes about 10 minutes but casual players will easily need a couple dozen continues to see the end. Thankfully, the player resumes at the point of death, only the score suffers. Even though playing through one campaign doesn’t take long, it is unfortunate there is no save function to continue the quest another time.
Combat also stands out not because of the hectic amount of shrapnel constantly attacking the player but from the offensive options available. Each character has completely different abilities, making each run very different. The circle button is the basic machinegun-style attack whereas the “X” button unleashes a summon ability. Both types of attacks have their place and shouldn’t really be used more often than the other. The square button also unleashes a bomb but appears only in limited quantities. By the time the end credits roll, scores can easily swell into the hundred millions and the end screen tallies all stats including number of continues used; it isn’t just about score but also staying alive.
If the unique combat wasn’t enough, there are plenty of optional gameplay modifiers available in the main menu. For example, if gameplay is too difficult, players can activate bullet time where the game slows down when near incoming attacks. The speed and size of bullets can also be adjusted, something not usually found in most shooters. These are actually really cool features but it seems bizarre that they are tucked away deep in the menu options and players will need to seek them out. It is also worth pointing out that this is a vertical shooter on a horizontal screen. Therefore, the gameplay screen only fills 1/3 of the overall screen with the remaining 2/3s dedicated to housing the UI and scoreboard. I didn’t have a chance to the play the Switch version so maybe that version runs in Tate mode.
Sisters Royale isn’t the best shooter ever made but is surely is an enjoyable one. It seems to know what players want in their shooters: quick gameplay, with a ton of options, massive scores, an intriguing risk/reward combat system, complete with a cute coat of paint. While there are no RPG leveling features or addicting unlockables, anime and shooter fans should probably check this out if given the opportunity.
Also available on Nintendo Switch. The developers also stated this game might appear on other platforms in the future.
Not As Good As: some CAVE shooters
Also Try: any of the Pocky & Rocky games
Wait For It: more horizontal shooters to fill modern HDTVs