Sister's Royale

You might’ve heard of Alfa System before if you’re a fan of game franchises such as “Tales Of,” “Castle of Shikigami” or “Phantasy Star Portable,” but if you haven’t it will suffice to say that they aren’t a new face to the gaming industry. Founded in 1988, Alfa System has an extensive history of game development across a variety of platforms including PC, handheld and home console systems.

Alfa System’s newest title “Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire” is a vertical-scroll bullet hell game slated for a Nintendo Switch release on Jan. 30. The team at Chorus Worldwide Games, the title’s publisher, were kind enough to send me a review copy, so I could feel out the game before it hit the Nintendo eShop.

That being said, my analysis of the game is reflective of the preview copy I was given, not the state of the game upon release.

Being a bullet hell game, the basic formula is simple: point, shoot and destroy. Alfa System is no stranger to the genre either, as a result of their work in the “Castle of Shikigami” franchise. However, the last bullet hell I played was Galaga, so as I began this game, I was headed into relatively unfamiliar territory.

The game offers five player characters to choose from when you begin your run. They are the five sisters who are the focal point of the story’s conflict: Sonay, Selma, Ece, Nur and Lale. Not only does each sister have a unique design aesthetic and personality, but they each come with unique magical powers. However, this choice really only dictates the way you destroy your enemies and the banter you see from each sister.

Furthermore, with five sisters comes five stages to play through but nothing more. Even then, there is very little stratification in the sorts of enemies you fight against.

There are some unique stage hazards to be wary of at every level, and the stages do have unique themes and color pallets, but it’s all just wash, rinse and repeat.

The standard enemies pretty much do the same thing every time, and the mid-stage mini bosses are just re-skins of one another. Stage bosses, while having unique bullet patterns, use the same attacks and do the same amount of damage that any other enemy does to you. There is one exception I can think of as far as what kind of bullet a boss uses, but it too does the same amount of damage any other attack would.

The mechanics are far from complicated as well. Press A to shoot, press and hold B to utilize your summon, press Y to use your bomb and avoid incoming bullets by simply moving out of the way.

A broader variety of playable levels, enemy types and unique boss battles would go a long way to giving the game more depth.

Artistically, the game does look good with clean graphics and smooth gameplay. However, to keep a stable frame rate with all the bullet particles flying around, the simplified models and lack of variety gave off the impression of a mobile game.

Despite that, the game’s graphic design and sound track were on point, creating an inviting and appealing atmosphere that made me want to play the game.

For me, the biggest flaw the game had was in the way level progression was executed.

No matter how many times you die, it is impossible to lose the game. Upon running out of life, the game simply asks whether or not you’d like to continue or quit. Selecting continue then resets the game to where you left off — the loss of all points is the only penalty.

Therefore, because of the minimal number of stages and the impossible-to-lose game design, the player can finish the game in about an hour or less. Of course, what the game wants you to do is try to improve by minimizing your deaths and beating your own high score.

But what I found after beating the game with each of the sisters on hard mode was that, even though the game wanted me to beat myself, I was not motivated to try and do that. Sure, getting better at the game is satisfying, but the lack of depth gives little to anyone who isn’t a dedicated bullet hell player to get invested in.

There were a few game customization options that I didn’t have access to, like the ability to alter the size and speed of the bullets fired at you. They hadn’t been added into the game yet and I think once integrated will add a lot of fun.

I enjoyed the game the more I played it. It’s certainly a game I would continue to play in a casual, on-the-go setting. At a price of only $13.99, it’s an easy pick that offers a visually and audibly appealing way to kill some time.

2.5/5 stars

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