The Xbox 360 certainly wasn’t short on arcade-style shooters. In addition to frequently popping up on XBLA, publisher Rising Star brought the likes of Deathsmiles, Akai Katana, and Under Defeat HD to our shores. If that wasn’t enough, the majority of shooters left in Japan were region-free. Pricey but precious, you didn’t have to look far to get a bullet hell fix. Well, no further than eBay.
The same can’t be said for the Xbox One, with thoroughbred Japanese shoot’em ups being few and far between. We can at least now add Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire to the list. This is a spiritual successor to the Castle of Shikigami (aka Mobile Light Force 2) series. A bona fide spiritual successor, we should note – this isn’t a tribute act but rather a genuine follow-up, not just created by the same team (Alpha System) but also featuring the return of a core character, albeit as DLC.
It also sees the return of the Tension Bonus System – flying close to enemy bullets notably increases firepower, racking up score multipliers and making enemies spew countless collectable coins. All five characters have three unique attacks – the standard shot, a summon spell and a bomb, each with different patterns and ranges. Many attacks are delightfully overpowered – including a glowing ghost which homes onto enemies – and as such, they’re entertaining to experiment with.
The presentation is bright and colourful, including liberal use of the colour pink, while the music is upbeat with a swinging sixties vibe. The plot is equally silly, involving five feuding sisters trying to win the heart of a devilishly handsome fellow, with the fifth and final stage set during a wedding. The girls face off during boss battles, involving some petty squabbling and plenty of hypnotic bullet formations.
Other stages – all of which last less than five minutes – have environmental hazards to overcome, including slippery patches of ice and bellowing fans, as well as an outlandish range of enemies. We’re rather fond of the tiny yetis on the snow stage.
In this instance, looks are deceiving. Sisters Royale can be easily beaten (even hard mode has infinite continues, taking around 20 minutes to finish) but to achieve ‘S rank’ and one credit runs takes an immense amount of practice. Even beating the first stage unscathed takes a degree of skill. If you’ve ever contemplated knuckling down and perfecting a shooter, this is a good place to start – it doesn’t take itself seriously and it has plenty of stats and options to assist in achieving that goal.