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Sine Mora (Vita) Review

Brad Gallaway's picture

You got Your Bullet-hell in My Side-scroller!

Sine Mora (Vita) Screenshot

HIGH It's… so… damned… pretty…

LOW Flying through the debris chute and failing to avoid the lasers.

WTF Why are the other powers not in story mode?

Earlier this year, my fellow reviewer Brandon Bales covered the Xbox 360 version of Sine Mora and found it worthy. This little-known shooter has now made its way to the PlayStation Vita, and after getting my hands on it, I can only agree with Brandon's evaluation. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that this new version is even better, since the subject matter is perfectly suited to being played in short sessions while on the go.

While the nuts and bolts were covered in the main review, I don't think the other B gave enough credit to the game's core design. Although there are infinite variations, I think it's safe to say that the shooter genre basically breaks out into two main camps: the side-scroller, and the bullet-hell. Although I'll play both and have enjoyed many, I was incredibly pleased with the way Sine Mora blends them into one harmonious package. Reserving frantic projectile orgies for the boss encounters while turning the intensity down during other parts of each stage gave the game a near-perfect balance that never felt repetitive or exhausting.

Apart from the smart design, I was in awe of the absolutely beautiful visuals. I wouldn't say that I was a graphics whore and I don't often make a point of bringing up technical bells and whistles in my reviews, but Sine Mora is arrestingly delicious on the Vita's sharp display. So much so, in fact, that I often caught myself flying into a game over because I was so taken with the sights. This title is absolutely stunning, and would be a great candidate to show friends who are curious as to what the Vita can do.

Graphics aside, longevity and replay have always been concerns for shooters, and I was impressed to see that this one can hold its own. Although there are no extra stages or new challenges outside of what's covered in the Story mode, the developers included Score Attack and Arcade modes, and there are a couple of twists to them. The first is that players can select any aircraft and any pilot that they've unlocked in the campaign. The second is that the non-Story modes add new Rewind and Reflect abilities to the standard slow-time from the main game. Changing these variables makes the game feel fresh for much longer than a shooter usually would, and learning to master the new powers is a challenge unto itself.

If there was anything to criticize about Sine Mora, it would be the story. Unlike the majority of its shooty-shoot brethren, the developers have actually taken the time to craft an intriguing plot to go along with the action. The gist is that a time traveler's son is killed in battle, so he gathers allies and decides to rewrite history in an effort to get revenge on the one who pulled the trigger. Although it's a solid premise and I was genuinely interested, the tale is told in vague snatches with a lot of names and places that don't mean anything without context. I suppose it's a small complaint since this type of game has never been about storytelling, but it's a shame to see the elements of a good story fail to come together.

My very minor disappointment with the story aside, Sine Mora is an outstanding shooter that excels in every other area—the design, aesthetics and mechanics are all top-notch, and couldn't be a better fit for the Vita. For players who own Sony's machine and have an appreciation for games of this sort, they honestly don't come better than this. Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Vita. Approximately four hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains strong language and sexual themes. There are a few strong curse words during some speeches from the pilots. Sexual themes are only hinted at in dialogue, and are not overt in any way.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue in the game is delivered through text, and there are no significant audio cues necessary for play. It's totally accessible.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   Vita   PS3   PC  
Series: Sine Mora  
Genre(s): Shooting   Piloting  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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side scrollers and bullet hells

Great review, Brad. Thanks for covering this underrated gem. I must admit, I completely missed this game the first time around, until it came available for the Vita. I've been enjoying it in between games of Persona 4 Golden.

A couple points I need to take issue with:

"Although there are infinite variations, I think it's safe to say that the shooter genre basically breaks out into two main camps: the side-scroller, and the bullet-hell."

A false dichotomy. I understand what you're trying to say. But historically, the "bullet hell" style and the side scroller are not mutually exclusive. CAVE, modern propagator of the bullet hell shooter, has released three horizontally scrolling shooters (four if you count Deathsmiles 2): Storm of Progear, Deathsmiles, and Akai Katana. The latter two are available now in the US for the 360.

When you say "side scroller" you're probably referring to Gradius-style, deliberately paced shooters that tend to focus on environmental hazards rather than bullet pattern deciphering. That type of shooter is less common. And at times, Sine Mora does seem a little like Gradius, especially with the "slow time" element.

And finally:

"Graphics aside, longevity and replay have always been concerns for shooters...."

I disagree. The longevity of any shooter is in its score mechanics. A good shooter offers just as much longevity as a solid RPG. "How challenging and enjoyable is it to play a shmup for score?" is the key question. So far, in the first few hours I've spent playing Sine Mora, I've enjoyed the scoring aspects and the challenge. But it's a little early for me to say how well it'll hold up over time.

Sine mora...

... is just more evidence of the industries lack of creativity.

Sine mora has to be one of the worst games in terms of gameplay mechanics released in a long time. Powerups don't stay on screen they can fly off the screen permanently. That is a big no-no, reeks of developer newbdom or a total lack of understanding of the genre. There are just so many idiotic mistakes made by the developer in this game.

The game has way too much cut-scenes and fancy graphics and too little depth in terms of gameplay. While the graphics are beautiful and well executed they didn't think through how to identify objects you can collide with visually. When I first played it I accidentally ran into stuff because it wasn't obvious where the hit boundaries were in some of the more detailed levels because of the pseudo-3Dness. The psuedo-3dness of some levels don't have proper visual aids for the player to figure out where the boundaries are.

That and there are games almost a decade old that are much better like Gradius V.

If you've played a lot of shooters, sine mora was a big ho hum and it's obvious it caters to gaming illiterates who haven't played many games.

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