Sine Mora is a perfect example of combining the classic horizontal shoot’em up genre and the aspects of an “Art Game.” Right out of the box, you might think that this game is simply about putting cute anthropomorphic characters in a dieselpunk setting but when Grasshopper Manufacture, Suda51 and Hungarian developer Digital Reality come into play, it is much more than that.
As far as back as I can think of, Sine Mora is the only STG (short for shooter game in Japan) I can think of that actually features a full fleshed out story including revenge, tons of irony and time travel. Presented with levels taking place concurrently of each other, you’ll be swapping between different planes and pilots as you not only get to play with different ships but also learn a bit about their motives. Between each stage, you’re given a monologue that goes into deeper detail. Everything story related is presented vocally in Hungarian but at least there’s subtitles to help.
Throughout the early parts of the game, I remember Sine Mora was given an M rating. Sure, there’s some cussing that even extends to the F-word but nothing was really gory or even any. No, the real reason this game has an M rating is because one of main characters in the game blackmailed a raped woman into helping him and his endeavors to enact revenge towards the death of his son. Did I also mention that this character is also a buffalo without legs? Some mature themes going on here!
The amount of detail just in the lore for this game is amazing. After beating the game, it unlocks an encyclopedia that lays out more than you ever wanted to know about the world and the history of it all. Beating the Story Mode on a higher difficulty will give you alternate narratives and shows you the true ending.
Now, before you start worrying about needing to be exceptionally good to see the whole story, let me explain the game play.
You don’t have lives in this game in the traditional sense. Instead, you have a time limit that counts down but also reduces itself in chunks if you were to get hit by a bullet or slammed into some wall. You can extend this time by killing enemies or picking up time extension power ups. When you reach a checkpoint in a stage, your time will reset. It’s a good thing they added this checkpoint system as it would otherwise present issues where you won’t be punished so harshly if you screwed up slightly early in the stage and have repercussions later. You’re also given the ability to use a capsule power where you can use it to manipulate time to either slow down, rollback or have it act as a reflecting shield.
Everything is separated for the two separate camps of potential players of this game: The Casual and The Hardcore. The Casual will find their home in the Story Mode where they can go through the game on Normal and should have absolutely no issues trying to beat the game. If you aren’t good at these types of games but you still want to see that story, this difficulty is for you. Then there’s the Challenging difficulty which is a good borderline but you’ll still find yourself breezing through it if you’re anywhere near decent with bullet dodging.
Those looking for the challenge will want to tackle Arcade and Time Attack Modes. As evidenced by only being able to select “Hard” and “Insane,” be prepared to apply a lot of trial and error as the game will throw everything at you. It’s recommended that you go through Story Mode first just simply on the fact that the game does feature some situations where you must take in mind your position lest you want to instantly die. That, and from what I’ve seen it is the only way to unlock the rest of the pilots in the game.
Unlike Story Mode, you will be given the chance to use any plane (determines your main weapon), pilot (determines your sub-weapon) and capsule power up of your liking. Also unlike Story Mode, there is a ranking system that determines how rough the enemies will attack you based on how well you’re doing but also will reward higher points. However, getting hit, using your sub-weapon or your capsule will result in dropping in rank. You will start off with C then slowly raise your way up to A if you do well. Of course, all of this is going on while you’re avoiding death.
. It’s an amazing game to play with a story that has plenty to explore and a shooter that will ring a few cheers for the old school fans of R-Type and Gradius but also to the hardcore STG specialists that have been hanging around the Japanese STG scene for awhile. I would not go as far as say that this would be my favorite STG but it definitely has its place on my top list.