Sine Mora (2012)
Induction Dates: 11/09/2012, 03/21/2012
Besides Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun, both being Treasure masterpieces, Sine Mora is the only other shoot-'em-up that is successful in delivering intense yet highly emotional shooting action. The game borrows its presentation heavily from very many of the genre's finest games - it even manages to include a reference to Contra: Hard Corps - but this side-scroller is able to turn the hodgepodge of ideas and nods into a coherent whole.
When you commit to revenge, you will do anything to achieve it.
The game is very restrictive in terms of how it is properly played. Everything is attached to a timer that can be extended by destroying enemies as well as picking up time extension spheres. Whenever you are hit, time will be deducted and if it reaches 0, the game is over. Even at the lowest difficulty, this gameplay design forces you to play very aggressively while minimizing damage to your ship and at the higher difficulty settings, you will not be able to survive very long without managing this with nothing but the purest of perfections. To help you survive a little better, you are given the ability to speed up time, which is interchangeable outside of the Story Mode, and triggering this ability will make everything else on screen slows down to a crawl. But unlike other games that feature enemy bullet management mechanics, using this ability will cut off your score multiplier, which means that you cannot rely on it. If you are able to survive the onslaught without ever using it, then you know that you're going somewhere with the game. In addition, you are also given a special weapon, which varies by ships, but even using this will stop your score multiplier. The only things that you can really trust are the power-up pick ups that will permanently boost your ship's firepower, as long as you don't get hit that is. Sine Mora is certainly custom made for the hardcore shmup crowd.
In the air or under the sea, you won't escape the billions of bullets.
The rigid gameplay is fun enough but the things that made the game impressive are its engrossing story and beautiful graphics. The game tells the story from the perspectives of multiple pilots who are part of two groups of time travellers, both with their own end goal. One group is lead by a father who is out to exact revenge on those who he thinks are responsible for his son's death while the other is a band of rebels who are out to save their people from the destruction caused by their enemies. The most intriguing part of the narrative, aside from the fact that it doesn't follow a chronological timeline, is that it's quite a dark tale. You will be questioning the motives of the characters and your emotions will be toyed around with as the story progresses. There are deep themes of loyalty, sacrifice, revenge, as well as cause and effect blanketed around the whole notion of time travel versus power struggle. The game does like to use foul languages though thus it's "M" rating, but then again, there is a situation of a sexual nature somewhere in there that would have caused that. The story can be confusing at times but I think that it's great that it doesn't try to explain itself - you have to find the meaning of everything on your own. Graphically, this is easily the best looking game in the shoot-'em-up genre thus far. The "steampunk" look is represented masterfully in the stage layouts, the ships, as well as the game's ridiculously huge bosses. The game uses a full 3D engine though it is basically a full 2D game in its design. There are plenty of cinematic sequences where the camera moves freely to capture the scenery. I do feel that these cut-scenes are unnecessary however because they interrupt the flow of the gameplay. Speaking of the cinematic, notice from the screenshots that the game is even presented in a 2:39:1 aspect ratio, which to be honest, is a bit of an overkill. The game would have still worked without it. As if the visual delights are not enough, the game has a seriously offbeat and disturbing soundtrack that further strengthens your involvement in the game's depressing storyline.
Time travel has its rules and it also cannot flourish without absolute power.
Sine Mora offers enough play variations to keep one busy for a long time, which is necessary for a single player game. I like playing the Story Mode because it's a fulfilling and complete gaming experience that lasts about an hour and a half without skipping the cinematic. The higher difficulties however can only be played via the Arcade Mode. There is also the Boss Attack to practice fighting against the game's crazy monstrosities. The game will take a long time to master but the stringent time extend mechanics can be frustrating to deal with, not to mention that it is a little too gimmicky. Still, Sine Mora is one remarkable shmup that must be played by fans of the genre.
RATING: 4 out of 5