With bullet hell games, people tend to expect titles that focus on survival and racking up loads of points. But there are also titles that have other incentives. Cave’s Deathsmiles tells a story of young girls who dealt with terrible traumas before coming to Gilverado and becoming its Angels. Touhou tells the stories of multiple Incidents with characters who become increasingly popular. Sisters Royale, from Castle of Shikigami creators Alfa System, is a game along those same lines. It’s a personality driven game where the five heroines and their quest to find love and beat each other out is perhaps its most compelling element.
Sisters Royale draws its name from the fact that there are five sisters destined to save the world from a villainous foe named Seytan. Except Sonay, Selma, Ece, Nur, and Lale can’t stand one another. Each one delights in doing what they can to torment the others, be it with wayward magic or merciless teasing. They all split up, but something has drawn them together: a man. Each one is in love with a man named Yashin, and the five sisters are forced into the same space as they all race to reach him and perhaps get his attention before their smitten siblings.
Each one of these heroines falls into a certain stereotype, which molds her personality, determines her interactions, and influences her bullet type. For example, Sonay is direct, dominant, and aggressive. Her bullets go in a straight PowerShot barrage with increasingly focused intensity. Ece is a bit scatterbrained and flighty, which makes it somehow appropriate that her shots aim diagonally to the left and right at the same time, leaving the space in front of her wide open. They’re figuratively and literally sniping at each other throughout Sisters Royale.
You could even say each character’s recklessness and passion comes through in one Sisters Royale’s gameplay mechanics. In some shoot’em ups, there is a grazing mechanic. This is where you purposely try to get as close to enemies’ bullets as possible in a risk-reward system. Sisters Royale has it, and it can be critical to survivor. If you have your heroine get as close to enemy fire as possible, her rate of fire increases and you get a score multiplier. Considering all of the sisters are determined to get close to Yashin and are highly competitive with one another, it feels like more than a mechanic to make gameplay more interesting. It feels like a manifestation of their determination to “win” his heart.
This personality comes through for more than just the characters. It comes up in Sisters Royale’s levels. Each one has distinct nuances that make them more unusual or inviting. Lale’s stage is completely dark with only the bullets’ light cutting through the shadows. Nur’s stage is filled with gusts of wind that could blow you into an opponent or their projectiles. Selma lurks in an ice cave, and moving over frozen portions slows you down. These stage gimmicks make the whole affair a little more enticing. Especially since the game is rather short otherwise.
I would consider Sisters Royale the sort of shoot’em up you play when you want to practice your grazing skills and enjoy a quick run, but maybe when you aren’t taking things too seriously. It’s a quick romp where the real draws are seeing how the sisters interact with one another and their environments as they fight to get close to the man they’ve all somehow fallen in love with. But, while it might not be as extensive or challenging as something like Ikaruga, it can still be a lot of fun and the stage gimmicks could push you to come back on a higher difficult and attempt to earn better scores.
Sisters Royale is available for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.