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Sora (PC) artwork

Sora (PC) review

"Relearning shoot 'em ups - one super-girl at a time."

Sora is the third title in the Suguri series, but serves as a sequel to the prior two games. During the previous Suguriís, you controlled a modified teenage girl with super powers who was invented to try and clean up the Earth after a number of wars screwed up the environment. She was then inconveniently interrupted by pesky invading aliens. Sora rewinds back to a time when those wars have only recently ended. It features the gameís namesake, a modified girl with super powers, whoís desperate to help undo some of the mess the declining hostilities have caused. She wants to make the skies clear again, but itís still pretty hostile up there.

Suguri is not the first franchise to swap out the usual fighter craft fodder with cute girls, but it is unique in how it handles this. Most scrolling shooters are content to just re-skin your lone fighter with frilly skirts and huge anime eyes, providing very little difference in how the two handle, but Suguri titles buck that trend. The series is happy to be represented by a girl whizzing around the skies firing a big gun, which it wants to be decidedly different from a pilot locking on missiles from the safety of a cockpit. As such, the games become more about getting yourself in comprising pockets of safety from which to pick your shots, which offers up a new kind of fragility. The girls can meander around the screen at a normal pace when needed, but they can also dash. This accelerates the girl hugely and also allows her to phase through energy attacks like laser and plasma fire.

Sora (PC) image

The ability to phase through projectiles is very useful when the scene fills up with neon bullets that youíll otherwise have little chance to avoid. However, abusing dash raises your heat counter which, in turn, significantly lowers your defence. Getting hit while high heat is in effect shreds your hit points and, as awesome as the dash defence is, it doesnít allow you to phase through solid weapons like missiles and bombs. Building up speed to avoid lasers and then smacking face first into a rocket is a good step towards the "game over" screen. You have a healthy shield protecting you, but it canít absorb many full-heat blows. Thereís a large and purposeful element of risk and reward.

Sora takes Suguriís foundations and, while it doesnít change a lot, it does focus them. Under-performing weapons have been sharpened, and those that bordered on overkill have been dialled down a bit. Thereís a greater sense of punishment for dash abusers, and a refining of the oft-fuzzy visuals. Scoring chains are also a bit more reasonable, no longer punishing you unfairly for pauses in between the action. But itís that distinction between the girl soldiers and the pedestrian weapons of war that remains the gameís highest selling point. Most missions see you take on the obligatory weapon platforms, massive tanks or attack crafts, but end-of-level bosses match you against a girl with similar talents, forcing you to unlearn a lot of the scrolling shooter tropes that have been drilled into your head.

Those encounters are kind of brilliant. One girl overcomes her amputated arms by replacing them with control points for her combat mech, which can effortlessly bitch slap you out of dashes. Another exists within the corridors of a hurricane sheís created, lobbing massive razor-sharp disks into the fray that bob and weave unpredictably on the windís current, spitting out plasma bullets all the while. Itís here that you really have to make the most of your tools, such as a hyper attack you charge up by phasing through enemy fire. The technique creates a small window of invulnerability, as well as offering a large-scale attack unique to whatever weapon youíre currently holding.

Sora (PC) image

Sora carries three weapons: a melee type, an energy one (such as a beam rifle that is usually your go-to for small quick burst) as well as a physical weapon, often firing shells. You start the game with the bazooka, which launches slow-moving but hard-hitting rockets. You'll often find yourself in a little bit of trouble when you fall foul of its ponderous projectiles, but you can cancel your attack animations by slipping into dash. That in turn gives you more and more reason to ramp up your heat reserve and invite disaster.

You obtain further weapons by either acing levels or racking up enough plays, which means skilled players will earn them significantly quicker, but nothing is unobtainable even for those who struggle.

And Sora is a struggle. Or at least, it was for me. The game forces you to relearn how to shoot Ďem up, telling you that if you want to make proper use of your best weapon, youíll bloody well fly headfirst into all that plasma and like it! But it also takes the time to connect with you. Before they zoom about the skies trying to incinerate each other, the cyborg girls spend a few moments conversing. Sometimes itís little more than the gloating of a cartoon villain smugly proclaiming their desire to blow you and all you care about to bits, but sometimes itís more. Sometimes, it forces opponents to meekly admit that they donít want to fight and they donít want to die, but unless they continue down the path theyíve chosen, they risk losing everything. Sora just wants the skies to be blue again. But the skies are still a pretty hostile place...


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 05, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted January 05, 2016:

Gary, I liked the review as always, and this is going to sound strange, but the screenshot selection is rather poor isn't it? You should probably use a pic that actually represents how the game plays.
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EmP posted January 05, 2016:

That seems a fair suggestion. I have swapped the screens out for new ones. Thanks!
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Masters posted January 05, 2016:

Much better! I know you don't have the screenshot implementation down to a science like I do...
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EmP posted January 05, 2016:

That is true - I still have much I can learn from you. Your stellar delegation skills, your excellent sense of timing, your strict discipline and adherence to deadlines....

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