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Sine Mora (Grasshopper Manufacture/Digital Reality)

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Many would tell you that the shmup is officially dead in the United States, especially when you consider that we’ve never been all that hot at creating titles for the genre and recent sales for retail titles (Deathsmiles, Otomedius) suck.  Fortunately a venture between the eccentric Suda 51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) with his development team Grasshopper Manufacture and Hungarian developer Digital Reality (mostly PC MMOs) brings one of the best contemporary shmups to date.

Sine Mora is all over the place.  I can’t quite make out the language, but there’s clearly some German in the spoken word, although looking over the development teams perhaps I’m mistaking a Hungarian/Japanese hybrid for German.  A complex story is told in the main campaign, the key to unlocking the true staple shmup options, but don’t worry if you don’t get it because it’s all text-based and has no relevance to the action.  Characters are anthropomorphic versions of various animals from leopards to buffalo and even an incomprehensible robot.  I was also surprised that while the activities in the game aren’t mature, it definitely deserves its M rating with some severely adult themes and language in the dialogue.

After you strip away all that, it’s just a solid horizontal shmup with gorgeous graphics in a steam punk world.  That previous statement honestly sells the graphics short because as a download title the game is stunning.  With 2.5D graphics (3D rendered characters on a 2D plane, much like recent fighter Street Fighter IV) it amazes me how close the actual graphics are to the concept art (see example below) and the attention to detail shows.  What’s a shmup without boss battles, right?  Well Sine Mora is not only filled with them, but they were all conceptually created by legendary anime artist Mahiro Maeda (of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame).  Each ship also has enough detail to be distinguishable, which is useful when trying to imagine the pilots that occupy it and the strengths/weaknesses when using them.  There are also big sweeping moments within the levels that allow you to enjoy the landscape and aircraft you’re piloting before returning to the battle.

Concept Art vs. Actual Visuals. Impressive, no?

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm