Looking at images and reading about Sine Mora has excited me little, as a shmup fan. Western developers don’t understand and respect the classics of the genre enough to make a good one, so I thought Digital Reality were no different. Well, I was wrong.
Sine Mora isn’t just good, it’s unbelievably great. It has me, as Maurice put it, foaming at the mouth for its release. Although Maurice’s preview thoroughly covered most aspects of the game, I finally got extensive hands-on time with the Insane difficulty mode – where any shmup shows its true colors. Now, I’m a believer.
When I asked creative director Theodore Reiker if he had any direct influences, he mentioned the Raizing Arcade classic Battle Garegga. From this point on, I knew I was in good hands. With three different time devices and various weapons to equip, the game gives you 60 different possible loadouts. The BG influence goes beyond loadout options however, as even the powerups and other visual aspects recall that gem along with other memorable entries in the genre.
My biggest concern with Sine Mora was that the developer would make the same mistake many amateur shmup developers make. That mistake being not having enough contrast between bullets, enemies and the backdrops. The detailed, colorful backgrounds of Sine Mora are ripe for conflicts of this type, yet miraculously this was never a problem I experienced in the demo. The bullets have so many visual effects on them that they stand out while functioning as eye candy.
Digital Reality are doing what I always dreamed a developer would do: They are improving the surrounding aspects of the shmup (story, visuals, music), while implementing game design from the masters. Digital Reality said they bought a Japanese Xbox 360 along with all the best Japan-only shmups, so they can know who their real competition is — rather than being dumb and thinking the genre died when the West stopped paying attention (approx. 1998). They obviously know their stuff, but they are also reaching out to the Shmups Forum and nobody knows the genre better than those guys.
I hate seeing Western developers struggle with the genre, thinking dumbing it down is the way to achieving mainstream success. Instead, Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality are focusing on quality, unique visuals and a great story. There are few games that make me this giddy. I want to bow before Grasshopper and thank them for investing in such a risky venture. It’s the first one they made that I may actually love as a game, rather than as a curiousity.