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Review: Sine Mora for PS3

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Title: Sine Mora
Price: $9.99
System(s): PS3 (Also for Xbox 360, Windows, PS Vita)
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Digital Reality (Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Strong Language and Sexual Themes

I died in Sine Mora because I was marveling at a boss.

It was a boss that appeared to be a moving village on top of a train and was raining bullets down upon my fighter. I have no excuse for my demise, since it didn’t happen during a particularly difficult part of the battle. I was just so enthralled with my opponent’s design that I had to get up and look closer at the screen so I could see every detail.

That’s when I ran out of time and had to use a continue to keep playing. I don’t regret it, because you have to accept that this kind of thing happens with Sine Mora. It’s a gorgeous, but difficult, game and it’s so good and pretty that you might have to stop and marvel at your surroundings, even if it will get you killed.

Time traveling to stop extermination

Sine Mora has a story that’s pretty hard to follow, but I’ll do my best to explain things. The action is taking place in two periods of time, with characters in each time period able to do some minor time-traveling to achieve their goals.

One is Ronotra Koss, a buffalo character who used to be a Layil Empire ace. He is no longer, due to an accident that left him an amputee. However, he’s started flying again to avenge his son, who was also a pilot for the Empire. His son was a good man and the only one who stood up against the Empire when it decided to drop nuclear bombs on the Enkie race. He didn’t drop his, and was killed as a result. Koss’ side of the story has him seeking revenge to avenge his son, even if it means blackmailing one of the last Enkies to ensure her cooperation.

The other side follows Akyta Dryad and her group of Enkie rebels who are attempting to travel through time and get revenge on the Empire for its treatment of the Enkie race. This means Akyta and other members of her group like Durak and Lynthe are fighting to set captured Enkies free and stop the Empire at all costs.

Timing is everything

Anyone who has ever played a shoot’em up knows that the key to survival is precise timing. You need to know when to evade, when to use special attacks, standard attacks or subweapons and sometimes even how to pace yourself in case you’re being timed. Sine Mora takes that a step further by being a shoot’em up where characters are time travellers capable of manipulating time. So not only is it taking place in two periods of time, but players are trying to get through levels within a certain amount of time and also hoping to scrape together enough bonuses to enable the ability to slow down time to avoid bullets or restart.

Yes, time is that crucial in Sine Mora. If the character is attacked attacked, it takes away time rather than health. Players get one life at a time, and a set number of continues depending on the difficulty level and gameplay mode chosen. Survival relies on defeating enemies, which adds time to the clock, and collecting powerups from fallen enemies that refills a gauge that allows a player to slow down time to avoid bullets or rewind time to prevent a character from dying in the middle of a level.

All these tactics are employed in multiple scenarios. Sine Mora provides an ample amount of action for the money. The PS3 version has five gameplay modes, Story, Arcade, Challenge, Score Attack and Boss Training. Story follows an actual storyline and forces players to use certain characters for certain segments, while other modes allow players to use any combination of pilot and plane. Arcade is a more difficult version of Story mode with no story elements and fewer continues. Challenge tasks players with completing certain objectives. Score Attack gives players one life and lets them see how high a score they can get on an unlocked level. Boss Training allows people to fight unlocked bosses to learn their attack patterns so they’ll be better players when going back to the Story, Arcade, Challenge or Score Attack modes.

As good as all the Sine Mora modes are, I wish the story had been conveyed with a bit more care in Story Mode. Between levels, players are presented with blocks of text that tell what’s going on and why the factions are fighting. The thing is, these pass quickly and are a chore to try and read when they are available. While they are supplemented by dialogue exchanges between characters during the actual levels, these conversations don’t provide the detail necessary to really understand who the characters are and why they’re fighting. If it weren’t for each one being a different anthropomorphic animal-creature, I doubt I’d have been able to tell the difference between them when their ships weren’t shooting.

Finally, Sine Mora looks fantastic. It’s an absolutely beautiful game with gorgeous environments and incredible bosses. The standard enemies, pilots and planes look good, but they aren’t what really draws players into the game’s world. It’s these vivid backgrounds that seem to pop out at you. Which is no wonder, since environments are rendered in 3D, as are enemies. I especially liked how the viewpoint would shift prior to every boss battle, as it would provide a better opportunity to get a good look at the extraordinary opponents.

The story may be confusing, but Sine Mora is solid

Sine Mora is a beautiful shoot’em up. From the elegant bullet patterns that are both intricate and deadly, to the lush, detailed environments, it’s unquestionably gorgeous. That beauty is more than skin deep, as the game is also a joy to play. It’s unquestionably challenging, but in a way that isn’t overbearing. The ability to choose between four different difficulty levels and train across five different modes provides ample opportunity to learn how time matters in Sine Mora. It’s a welcome addition, since the time mechanic works so well, allowing people to control their fate and survive by slowing, rewinding or earning more time. If you enjoy bullet hell games, then you need Sine Mora in your life.

Site [Sine Mora]

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