Sine Mora, the Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality 2.5D shooter, is coming to the PSN and PS Vita sometime this year. The title was already released on XBLA earlier this year, and barring any additions to the upcoming versions, what can players expect from a disel-punk inspired shooter with anthropomorphic characters?
Ronotra Koss has one goal in mind: revenge. Once a member of the Layil Empire, Koss is on a rampage after the death of his son. Meanwhile, the last of the Enkie resistance is bent on stopping Koss’ bid for total destruction. At least, that’s what I can gather after a few playthroughs.
You see, one of Sine Mora’s most interesting and weakest points is the story. Don’t get it twisted: beneath this shooter is a complex storyline that would put most modern dramas to shame. This isn’t a shoot-em-up with a simple structure of bad guy must be blown up because you’re the good guy. Instead, the plot’s use of adult fare like murder, betrayal, sacrifice, and treason deliver an expansive Game Of Thrones-like web. Throw in the concept of time and now the web only expands bigger.
It’s heavy stuff for a shmup, and it would work if the delivery was better. In Sine Mora’s Story Mode, you change characters throughout each level, taking on not only a different plane but also another perspective and piece of the story. This rapid shift doesn’t make the narrative’s delivery easy. Loading screens, which come with bits of character explanation and back story do become your best friend, though, if you’re trying to get a sense of exactly what the hell is going on.
Admitdly, while the character switches confuse the story, it’s also a clever way to introduce you to the game’s interesting main cast, as well as their planes.
When it comes to nearly everything else about this title, Sine simply knocks it out of the park.
Graphically, you’d be hard-pressed to find a beautifully designed side-scrolling shooter with disel-punk aesthetics. You may be playing on a 2D plane but the 3D rendered backgrounds are so full of lush colors and vibrant life that it’s hard not to take notice while playing. At times, the game feels more like an interactive painting that explodes with warm color and, well, explodes brilliantly with the death of enemies.
The sound is just as alive as the visuals. The roar of plane engines and robotic wheeze of the mechanical constructs that oppose you sound convincing. Akira Yamoaka’s 1970’s electronic inspired soundtrack feels ambient at times but revs up appropriately during some boss fights.
And having the characters voiced in Hungarian adds in another unique charm to the title. It’s another small point that’s makes the title stand out.
Gameplay, however, really shines.
Sine’s game director, Theodore Reiker, would probably contend that this isn’t your typical bullet-hell title. And after playing, one would have to agree. While arcade mode and score attack mode could be seen as for the experienced, for the most part, the game’s story mode is highly accessible to those not familiar with the genre. Still, there is enough forward and accessible thinking in the vein of shooters like Ikaruga and Einhander to perhaps grip grizzled vets.
Sine Mora, which is Latin for Without Delay, eschews the standard one-hit kill rule or health bar by using time. Every hit takes away from the counter ticking away. Get to zero and your plane explodes. On the other hand, kill enemies and you add more to your time. It’s a unique mechanic that’s at time’s just as frantic as dodging a screen full of bullets. There’s just something so arcade about it, especially when dismantling the memorable bosses that often fill half the screen if not all.
Speaking of a rain of bullets, time once again plays as a factor to cushion that particular blow as you also have the ability to slow down time.
Add in the option to combine the numerous planes, characters and abilities in a variety of ways in the game’s other modes, and you’ve got a title with high replay value.
Influenced by titles like Einhander and Under Defeat, Reiker once said during an IGN interview:
“Everybody in the team is a fan of the genre, and Sine Mora is our tribute to the amazing games that we played over the last 30 years. It includes what we think this genre would ideally deserve.”
For the most part, I’d have to agree.
GO Rating: 4/5