11th Oct2017

‘Sine Mora EX’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Matthew Smail

sine-mora-switch

First released in 2012 on the previous generation of consoles, Sine Mora EX is a beautiful, cinematic and modern bullet hell shoot-em-up that channels classic genre staples from 1942 to Ikaruga. I tend to find this kind of recent-release-remake fairly contrived due to a lack of new features but, obviously, this iteration of Sine Mora EX, is completely new to the Switch and is also one the few shmups currently available on the handheld (the others mainly being re-releases of old Neo Geo titles). Plus, like the other version of the game already available on other consoles, as well as a returning story driven campaign that is lengthy and challenging, players also gain access to a new cooperative mode, three versus modes and a challenge mode.

Although I said Sine Mora EX was story driven, that’s not a reason to keep playing it. The story is both bonkers and confusing, and features a tale of revenge, war and imperial ambition, waged between talking, humanoid animals. Think of them as a more sweary, morose version of Starfox and his crew and you’ll be at least part of the way there. I really struggled to follow what was happening or why at times, so I was thankful for the fact that I could hold down a shoulder button to rapidly advance through the cut scenes. Thankfully, none of this really affected the gameplay, and as is often the case in shoot-em-up games, the story plays second fiddle to the gameplay.

Thankfully, this is an area which Sine Mora EX is extremely strong in. The game is played predominantly on rails, and from left to right, as players pilot steampunk inspired biplanes (and similar) through more and more outlandish levels. Enemies appear in droves, including everything from light and nimble fighter planes to hideously bloated worms, and that’s without even mentioning the absolutely gigantic boss encounters. To combat the increasing threat, players are able to power up their plane, but a really sweet feature in Sine Mora EX is that when you take a hit, you’ll lose some of those power-ups and be able to chase them down again.

The key feature of Sine Mora EX’s gameplay is that the player also has access to a gauge that allows them to slow down time. As bullet hell shooters go, the gametows the line in terms of difficulty, but the unique time-bending mechanic means that players have a fighting chance when it comes to getting through some of the most challenging sections. The gunplay is both fluid and meaty, and there is a tangible amount of feedback as bullets hit home and enemies explode and peel outwards towards the screen as their ships crash and burn. Thrown in five difficulty levels plus all of the other modes I’ve already mentioned, and there is actually a surprising amount of replayability here.

Whilst the Nintendo Switch version is never going to look as good as say, the PS4 Pro iteration, it still looks stunning (better than the only other handheld version previously available: PSVita) but more importantly Sine Mora EX plays flawlessly. I don’t think I saw a single noticeable drop, no matter how huge the enemies or how many on screen projectiles were coming at me. The living backdrops are also impressive, with island paradises, underground cities and gigantic industrial installations all featuring.

With its excellent visual appeal made possible by a modern generation of console, and with the inclusion of a number of enhanced features Sine Mora EX may actually do enough to convince veteran players to re-buy this game on the Switch. But for those gamers who didn’t play this title on previous-gen consoles, Sine Mora EX remains one of the very best bullet hell shooters available on this or any other console of this generation. A strong recommendation from me.

**** 4/5

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