Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture
March 21, 2012
Bearing that epic logo that reminds us all a little bit of “El Mariachi”, The XBLA exclusive Sine Mora flys in to steal our focus with its over the top gameplay and stunning graphics. Merging the concept of time in with gameplay that personally reminds me of the “Raiden” series, Sine Mora is the outcome of every chemical reaction containing the awesome element.
At any given time in Sine Mora’s very hard to follow story, there is two events happening. On one hand you have the rebels who are fighting the very essence of “the project”, a genocidal experiment with the task of genetically modifying the Enkies. On the other you have a very pissed off father running around with a personal vendetta against anyone aboard the ship when his son was shot in the back for refusing to the orders to bomb the Enkie capital.
They tell much of the story through narration while you’re waiting for the next level to load, and through the in game chatter between the pilots, which can also get confusing when in the next level you’re playing the pilot they were talking to and you hear the same conversation over again from a different perspective. This wouldn’t be such a problem if I wasn’t trying to follow two main stories at once. The kicker here is that only in a few occasions can I actually remember them telling where I’m at in relation to everything else that is happening.
With a concept like time travel, even with one story, I feel like being told when you are isn’t too much to ask for, and is actually quite misleading to the average player when this isn’t done.
Holy crap, for an arcade title, Sine Mora is rocking some pretty sick graphics. You’d think that having blue bullets on a blue sky background would be hard to see, but you’d have to be literally blind to not notice these. All the stages are beautifully designed, and in actuality the gameplay does the level design a dis-service. Words I never thought I would hear myself think. The gameplay, being as hectic and focus grabbing as it is, forces you to miss some of the more beautiful aspects of Sine Mora. Anyone else remember what turning on the “Juicy” effect from Halo’s Forge is like, times that by thirteen and turn down the brightness by half a notch, there you go, primo Sine Mora graphics.
You’re going to be hearing a lot of what you would expect to be hearing from a game based around shooting down other planes, a lot of shooting. But on top of that you’re going to be forced to listen to the narration of the characters, as well as the in game chatter, in Japanese. Not against this at all. I think it’s a pretty nice touch as I think the best animes are the english subtitled ones.
The music is a weird mix of that same creepy techno I found in Binary Domain, really fast paced but quiet and eerie in parts. After a few hours, I found it more beneficial to throw on my own music and just rock out to that. Might I add that playing any game where you can play “Take a Chance” by ABBA and be better at the game, is a win in my books.
This is one of those games that challenges you in everyway. It requires you to be able to react quickly to large incoming attacks while also being able to move ever so slightly in any direction to avoid a pattern of bullets. What’s more is that being centrally focused on the time concept the game doesn’t feature a health bar, but one of the most stressful things, a time limit.
Just like the movie “In Time”, your time left of this earth is represented in the most literal sense. Taking hits from anything will decrease the amount of time you have left. While on the other hand, killing opponents grants you additional time. This makes for some truly exhilarating moments when you’re fighting the bosses and your timer is running close to your deadline. This is just one of the aspects of the game that trains you to look for the weak spots on a boss, because this game doesn’t hold your hand and always point them out for you.
Of course, this isn’t the only time aspect that is present in this title. Packing them in like fudge in a not-so-bad-right-now sounding brownie, there is a way for you to alter time in a more direct way. There exists three ways of altering time to your advantage, and while only one is available to you in the story the first time around, they help immensely. The ability to slow down time is instrumental in completing the missions, even if you only use it like I did, just to re-grab all your firearms power ups before they disappear. The others, unlocked in the arcade mode give you to ability to reverse time, or the less sense making, ability to reflect bullets back at your would be attackers. Of course, you’re only permitted to have one of these upgrades on well, cause having all of them would be too easy, I mean, this isn’t “Prince of Persia”.
Sometimes after killing those that stand in my way, I like to unwind, grab a cup of tea, maybe some beer. The pilots in Sine Mora like to collect upgrades that refill their meters, allowing them to keep going forward. This means that you’re going to have to do some sweet dodging in order to collect the tokens that our late enemies drop. These tokens come in a wide variety and are not sold anywhere else. They include such things as score tokens as well as power-ups to our armor, but more notably, and more important, our firepower. Getting your firepower to the ninth degree is an accomplishment not many can share with you, but if you happen to make it you’ll decimate everyone on the screen before they can fire the first shot, hence why I like to keep my upgrades and will spend time to collect them.
At the heart Sine Mora is an arcade game, and as everyone from the 80’s knows, Score is everything. I mentioned that there is a score token to pick up. That works much like a multiplier, killing large number of enemies in succession grants a score token being dropped in the midst of all the other upgrades. These all work towards the end of the level where you’re graded on your performance. Things like avoiding penalties and banking time will increase your score and consequently give you an A or even an S rating.
In truth, Sine Mora is not a long game, really taking only some the of the best at these types of games less then a sitting to complete the first time. But for the rest of us E class gamers, it’s going to take us a few more hours. the joy of playing again comes from the challenge. More then once I ended the game because I was just playing terrible in my eyes, but the challenge, and need to play so I can review, called me back.
On top of the story mode there is an Arcade mode where you’re able to select any of the pilots from the story, provided you have beaten their levels. You’re also able to select any of the planes, which do in fact make a difference. The firepower upgrades change for each plane, thing like spread and speed of the bullets make each plane stand out from each other. For even more customisation you’re able to select any of the three time powers to add to your plane allowing you to dominate the skies. The only catch to playing on the Arcade is that the lowest difficulty that you can select is hard, which will spank any and all except the best players.
If you wish to dive further into the story there is somewhat of an encyclopedia, that once you have completed the story, will provide a bit more background into the extremely convoluted story.
Sine Mora is a straight-up throw back to the happier, and more frustrating, days of gaming, where the companies didn’t try to force to empty your wallets, because they didn't need to, the quality of their games did that for them. The gameplay, utilizing time as the main game mechanic forces you to get better or die trying, over and over and over. Words cannot fully express what should be said for the graphics and the only weak point I can think of is the story. If it was a little more accessible and less all over the place then more people would be able to delve into the rich world of Sine Mora. The opening of the game asks, “What would you do if you knew exactly how much time you had left?” I’d play this and become a gaming legend. What about you?