Sine Mora EX is the expanded edition of Sine Mora, a side scrolling shoot ’em up released for the Nintendo Switch so you can blast enemy planes out of the sky on the go.
The gameplay is pretty simple at its core. Most of the game is spent flying from left to right, dodging bullets and firing your own at the incoming enemies trying to shoot you down. However, there’s a bit more to it than that. Throughout the game you’ll play as different characters who fly different planes. Each plane has its own main gun with infinite ammo and a specific special weapon, with limited ammo. The special weapons deal al to of damage but ammo is scarce and can only be replenished by collecting pick ups from foes you’ve exploded.
Sine Mora EX also brings innovation to the health system. Typically in a shmup like this you take a hit and die, unless you have a shield and get an extra hit. Sometimes you have a life bar but in this game, you have a timer. You start the level with time counting down and it goes down even more when you take damage. Letting the counter reach zero results in your death. Fortunately, time can be regained by shooting foes.
Bigger enemies will take longer to kill but reward you with more time. I like this system. It really rewards good play and forces you to get good at the game. In Sine Mora EX, it’s not enough to just dodge bullets and survive until the end of the level but you’ve got to get aggressive too. It also isn’t overly punishing. Being able to take a few hits means you don’t have to play absolutely perfectly to beat the game.
And the game is fairly challenging, but not all the time. There are too difficulty modes, one is quite easy and offers a lot more firepower upgrades during levels and the other is significantly more difficult. As far as I can tell, the amount of enemies and bullets is the same but in the easier mode your weapons will be stronger more often. Firepower is upgraded by collecting red pickups in levels and when you get hit, you lose them but have a moment to pick them back up. In the easier mode these pickups appear much more frequently, so even if you’re not playing that well your bullets will do a lot more damage and the level will be easier.
Having said that, the difficulty curve is all over the place. Ideally a game should start off at its easiest and get steadily more difficult as you go, to keep the feeling of challenge up as you play. However, Sine Mora has a few difficulty spikes along the way. Sometimes a boss will just be way too hard after an easy level but then the next boss is a walk in the park. The final boss in particular is a joke compared to the rest of the bosses. Of course, after you’ve beaten the game you’ll probably be able to go through it without much trouble.
The game does offer post game content for those who to challenge themselves further. After you beat a level in the story mode you can replay it in arcade mode, which allows you to choose your weapons instead of having them chosen for you. Arcade mode is good for practising levels and trying to get the highest score possible. You get a grade at the end of each level and if I’d ever managed it I imagine it would be very satisfying seeing an A grade at the end of a particularly hard zone.
Most of your time with Sine Mora EX will be spent enjoying the gameplay and the rather pretty graphics but there is also a story in there for some reason, not that it really goes with the gameplay. Each level begins with a few paragraphs of text being read out by whichever character you’ll be controlling in the level. The plot is barebones and most of what they say hasn’t really got anything to do with the story. It’s all just world building but it can be easily ignored without much of an impact on your gameplay experience.
And that’s pretty much all there is to Sine Mora EX. If you like shoot ’em ups it’s a good one to go for. It certainly kept me engaged and even though I rage quit a few times it kept me coming back because I just had to beat those tough bosses. The real strength of it being on the Switch is that the levels aren’t overly long and so they’re perfect for playing whether you’re sitting on the bus or on the loo.