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Sinistron (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Sinistron (TurboGrafx-16) review


"R-Type clones were really prevalent back in the late eighties and early nineties; it seemed that every company save for Taito wanted to make their own horizontal scrolling space shoot em' up inundated with unique strategic fighting, aliens the size of Chicago and anal-itch inducing checkpoints, so it's safe to say that every home console system made after the Sega Master System had its fair share of R-Type clones. "



R-Type clones were really prevalent back in the late eighties and early nineties; it seemed that every company save for Taito wanted to make their own horizontal scrolling space shoot em' up inundated with unique strategic fighting, aliens the size of Chicago and anal-itch inducing checkpoints, so it's safe to say that every home console system made after the Sega Master System had its fair share of R-Type clones.

I'll come straight up and say that as irritatingly hard as the R-Type games and its clones were almost every one of them presented themselves excellently with their own distinct styles and aesthetics that it was hard not to like them just by looking at their covers. One of them is a little tough despite its visual style however: Sinistron, aka Violent Soldier on the PC Engine, a straight up R-Type clone that introduced a lot of new game play innovations that broke the moment they were shipped.

Sinistron takes place in the future in the SOL galaxy and involves Earthlings fighting something in space as always. The antagonist this time around however is a galactic mass of flesh and metal that has travelled far and wide to find new planets to devour and has recruited an army of machines and monsters along the way to fight any resistance. After devouring Pluto, Earth realizes the thing has to be killed before it causes any more damage to the solar system and launches into attack with quite possibly the most broken 2 seater space ship fighters ever conceived which makes sense considering that you play as the only survivor of your party and have to fight Sinistron ALONE.

The levels in the game are all distinct and challenging, though they get pretty inconsistent after awhile seeing how you start off in a generic space outpost, then you end up in some kind of planet-like cavern, then you're in the bodily functions of Sinistron... then you're magically out in space fighting asteroids, then you go back into Sinistron. The manual tries to give us the impression you enter the guy on the first level, but it's impossible to support that belief when you try to imagine a volcanic cavern mounted to the inside of a giant alien.

An interesting aspect of game play is that the game has you select which checkpoint you'd like to start at whenever you reach the Game Over screen. You can choose to start the entire level you died on over again or the mid-level checkpoint (if you died on the boss of course). This seems weird at first, but being able to start the level over again actually gives you the chance to get more items and weapons back that might not have been available during the later half of the level.

Speaking of which, the weapons and items in the game are quite helpful as you get little bit-modules that float on the vertical sides of your ship and can apparently float through backgrounds, a bog standard vulcan shot that can also fire large chunks of bullet, a rapid homing missile weapon and a big blue laser beam weapon that can fire in wave-shapes or in long big beams.

Just about the only item that falls under scrutiny however is the Speed-Up item which only speeds the ship up a smidgen. It's undeniably helpful, but getting only one Speed-Up icon that only kicks your ship up by two-horsepower isn't a very compensating factor.

The ship has a nice gimmick attached to it in that it comes with a shield over the gunner's end of the ship (nose) that you can open and close and this actually effects the pattern of your fire: when the shield is open, you fire wider shots and when it's closed you fire stronger, but considerably smaller/thinner shots.

Sadly, where innovation lies, bad game design is sure to lie down with it and this is where Sinistron falls short of being immersive or fun.

For one, the ship's default speed is painfully slow, you'll need all the speed up items you can find in order to make it worthy of bullet dodging. Sadly however it's impossible to dodge anything in the ship because the shield only guards you from enemy bullets and missiles.

Enemies that don't even make up a quarter of your ship's size can and will collide into the ship's shield, killing you instantly, enemy shots will sometimes go through the shield at certain angles even when it's closed and the rear end of your ship juts out far enough it might as well have a target painted all over it.

Even worse is that the ship's shield can kill you if you float nose first into scenery without moving and with the shield completely closed...

I'll repeat that: when you allow your ship's shield to float into the backgrounds, you collide into the scenery and die. Does that even make any sense?!

I almost forgot to mention there's a back-up weapon you get in the game that's a shock wave that you charge up and it surrounds your ship with a single blast and thus guard you from rear-attacking enemies, but it's next to useless for the most part because the blast is so weak yet prolonged it will leave you vulnerable for uncountable enemy attacks and to access it you have to change the dials for the fire button which will often cause your buttons to freeze-up during game play which was typical of most TG16 games that forced you to do that, but considering this is a frantic shooter title we're speaking of, it's hard to consider such an aspect useful in action.

Despite this though, the game manages to bring in a nice presentation with an ultra catchy and heavy-hitting soundtrack and some decent sound effects, but even these aspects die down after awhile of game play. The catchy soundtrack forgets its coolness after the fourth level and all the boss themes sound nothing short of lazy and the sound effects vie to drown each other out with the player's sound effects often drowning out enemy shots and enemy explosions often drowning out your own.

Worse, the game's difficulty runs the line between murderous and evil, so beating the game will take you a good twenty to thirty continues (thank God they're unlimited) and a time commitment level to edit and complete a graphic Mario Paint animation or to edit a game level in Dezamon. Even then you'll be fighting for a failed cause because the ending is one of many in the long line-up of bad shmup endings almost to the point where I can't tell which ending was worse: Sinistron's, Grind Stormer's, Steel Empire's, BlaZeon's, Acrobat Mission's, Fire Shark's, Tiger II, Battle Garegga, Dead Moon, Dezamon Plus, DoDonPachi, Ray Storm, Strikers 1945 II, Deep Blue or D-Force... yes, the ending is THAT bad.

Oh, and the graphics are nice, but they rarely do anything special and Sprite Break-Up is beyond evident.

So all in all, I really don't know if I can officially recommend the game; it took me almost six hours and three cups of caffeine just to justify my statements and as much as I liked the game, I have to say it really started poisoning the entire experience around level five.

If you're a shoot em' up collector or a Turbo Grafix 16 game collector, you'll probably want to own it for the sake of establishing your friendless status (like me) or if you like R-Type clones and can't get enough and want one with a different aesthetic, then definitely pick it up. If you like the soundtracks of obscure games, then you might find this one to be a very tasty treat, but even then I can't say if it's really for you.

Rating: 7/10

newalone4's avatar
Community review by newalone4 (June 30, 2008)

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