What hidden gems are in your video game library? A gem in mine would be “Sine Mora” for the Xbox 360. Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Digital Reality Sine Mora was released in 2012 for the Xbox 360 and later for the PlayStation 3. Sine Mora features a very mature plot to go along with great boss fights in this epic bullet hell shoot ’em up.
Most shooters are very predictable with their stories. Aliens have invaded and you need to save the world or there’s an evil military taking over and you need to stop them etc… That’s why it was so refreshing to learn of the plot to Sine Mora and have such mature elements throughout the dialogue and story.
Sine Mora takes place on a planet similar to Earth with humanoid animals inhabiting the world. There are probably more species but the characters that I saw were bison, lizards, foxes, rabbits, and cheetahs. Two factions of these nations are at war in the “Eternal War”. There’s the Layil Empire and the Atarach Kingdom. The Atarach Kingdom is composed of a race called Enkies who can manipulate time where they can go back into the past or forward in the future. The Layil Empire wants to wipe out the Enkies so they’ve created a machine that will halt time travel allowing them to nuke the Enkies and end the war.
Throughout the game, you’ll play two separate narratives each in different eras. When the Empire went to nuke the Enkies, there were four nukes to be dropped. Three of them were successful but the fourth was never dropped as the pilot decided against it. This pilot named Argus Pytel was assassinated as soon as he landed from his co-pilot and the rest of the crew. Rontora Koss, the father of this pilot is seeking revenge on the Empire and the entire squad that carried out the attacks. In this timeline, Rontora tracks down each pilot who killed his son and takes them out.
The other story revolves around the Enkies and their resistance. You’ll take control of numerous pilots as you execute missions and destroy the Empire and their army. As it turns out Argus Pytel was responsible for everything during these timelines as he was the one that actually killed his co-pilot and took a different alias as he set up an intricate plot for the Empire to survive the attacks and wipe out the resistance. In a twist of fate, he kills his own father as his father mistakes him to be the killer of his son.
It’s easier to pick up on what is going on when you play the game but there are many dark elements to these stories, especially with the resistance crew. One of the members was raped and they don’t shy from exploring that theme and other dark plot points. There’s also plenty of naughty language where characters drop the “F-bomb” from time-to-time. Overall, the plot was great and I was surprised to see such a great story from a shoot ’em up.
The game’s audio is not in English, at first I thought it was Japanese, but then I thought maybe it was French and after a while, I gave up and thought maybe they just made up the language. I don’t know what the language is in but it doesn’t matter since you read their dialogue too.
As a shoot ’em up Sine Mora is a unique one. Instead of health or one-hit kills, your ship will be judged on how much “time” it has left. The mission will start with about 25 seconds on the clock and tick down. If it reaches zero, you die but you can gain time by killing enemies. If you get hit your timer will be penalized and large segments of time will be erased. I loved this and thought it was brilliant.
You’ll play as different pilots throughout the game and each has its own sub-weapons that you can unleash. Enemies will drop powerups for you to snag like upgrades for your main weapon, more time, points, and will fill up your power timer. I’m not sure that’s what it’s called but the power time will allow you to slow down time so you can navigate the crazy bullet fields that are heading your way or focus in on a large target quickly. Time is obviously a key contributor to Sine Mora.
As you play through the three chapters and epilogue, you’ll have time checkpoints where the time resets and saves your progress. I played on normal and it will give you eight lives to beat the entire game but if you use them up you can start the game at the latest chapter you beat. It’s a short game but for a shooter, it’s actually somewhat long. I beat the game in just over an hour and a half but you can play through the game again for an alternative ending. Most deaths I wasn’t killed by the timer, but by instant deaths that I didn’t see coming. I was hit by a train a few times, a large laser evaporator, and was destroyed by some red lasers after not disguising myself as junk through the shoots.
The best thing about Sine Mora is the boss fights. They all are different and all of them were so much fun. There’s a spider boss that was difficult to defeat but once you take it down its body opens up and tiny spiders come out of it and attack you. It’s these details that I thought bring the game together. The boss fights are so much fun and there’s a mode that allows you to fight nothing but bosses so if you want to play or train against them you can.
Never heard of this game until it was a free game for Xbox Gold members. Glad I played through it.
Sine Mora is an excellent shooter in an era where shooters are an afterthought. A fantastic mature plot, interesting and new elements in gameplay, and epic boss fights makes Sine Mora a can’t miss for shoot ’em up fans.
Sine Mora scores an 8.8 out of 10.
Do you remember when Sine Mora first came out? Did you miss this gem when it came out or were you one of the first to play it? What hidden gems are in your game library? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!
If you’d like to own a copy of Sine Mora, you can purchase a used copy of it for Xbox One from eBay for around $15.