Sinkha series review

Titles: Sinkha
           Sinkha: Hyleyn
           Sinkha: Atmosphere/Planet of the Clouds
Release dates: 1995 (Sinkha) / 2008 (the remake)
                        2002 (Hyleyn)
                        2007 (Atmosphere/Planet of the Clouds)
Developer: Marco Patrito
Publisher: Virtual Views


And here's the god succumbing to the madness of the eyes and the mind.

The journey of Sinkha was a long one. Marco Patrito - an Italian writer and illustrator created the concept for the game in 1991. The creation of the game itself stalled again and again as due to the advances of technology Marco had to scrap the project and restart it with different tools in order to keep up. Also the project was way too ambitious both due to the funds available to Patrito & Co and the insuficient technology. Finally in 1995 "Sinkha" saw the light of the day in Italian, English, Spanish, French, German and Japanese. It was labeled a multimedia novel. Practically it was a visual novel as the genre is known today, with a few differences: it was done entirely in computer graphics with character models rendered in 3D software and it had much more animations than any Japanese VN until ten years later.

Then Marco was approached by Hollywood about a film adaptation. He wrote the adaptation with some changes to the storyline, but the film was canned. Now here Marco made a strange decision, that I haven't found explained in any supplementary material - he decided to treat the screen adaptation as canon and retconed events of Sinkha with its sequel Hyleyn. Arguably seven years had passed between "Sinkha" and "Hyleyn" - Patrito probably plotted a different course for his works in the meantime. The last of Sinkha novels came out in 2007, though I doubt it's the last one. So, lets analyze them further.


The first novel came out in 1995 in a pentalingual release both for Windows and Mac (Japanese release known as シンカ came out later, though I found very little information about it). It was made with groundbreaking technology and featured such novelties as fully polygonal 3D characters and fluid frame animations for almost any action. Also Sinkha differed from other modern VNs in using a third person narrative for the female protagonist of the story.

Can't even drown in peace. Someone will always disturb you.
When we are first introduced to our protagonist Hyleyn, she is trying to get high on some bioengineered drug. Subsequently we learn, that the setting is planet Ogon, city of Thalissar. The planet is completely uninhabitable due to the sulfurous atmosphere and even Thalissar is inhospitable with many a person by the age of thirty having holes in their lungs through which you can drive a military parade. Poverty, crime, drug abuse and unceasing howling of winds are ruling the (too short) lives of the denizens of Thalissar. Earlier the planet used to have visitors from the other worlds, however for many years already the metaport near Ogon has been silent. Not even the gods visit anymore... Gods, or Sinkha - mysterious shapeshifting immortal and indestructible beings, ruling a vast portion of the galaxy. What is not ruled by Sinkha is under the control of various corporations.

And one day a miracle happens - a small corporate cruiser and a giant Sinkha starship appear in the orbit of Ogon almost simultaneously. This is the chance Hyleyn has been waiting for her whole life. The chance to get out of this forsaken desolate world. She will do anything to get on board the Sinkha vessel, even dare to anger the gods.

First of all you should know, that there are two versions of the first game: the '95 original (the only way to get it working on modern OSes is through a virtual machine) and a remake of 2008. Actually it's not as much a remake as a re-master: the art was upgraded from 8-bit o 24-bit, animations reworked, high quality audio inserted and galleries for animations and music were added.

Don't forget a suntan lotion.
The art of "Sinkha" is fascinating, but the story is equally gripping, though way too short (and that plagues every game in the series). Hyleyn comes of as a natural teenage girl longing for more in her life. She is inquisitive, likes to daydream and is quite vain, but definitely doesn't lack the determination, which all her older friends apparently have already lost. Sure, the game has many problems: the action moves way too fast, the characters make decisions based on the information that we are never given and it ends on a major cliffhanger. However, the second part of the game successfully holds a suspenful atmosphere and the overall setting created by Marco is a fascinating one. A lone girl strolling right into the middle of the war between two alien races Sinkha and Khahaek, coupled with amazing visuals and haunting music creates an unforgettable experience.

Sinkha: Hyleyn

Released in 2007 it's a very different work. Gone are the animated frames from the previous game - CGs are completely static as in a common modern visual novel. Instead of that, cutscenes were introduced in key points of the story. Another difference and most noticeable one is a change in narration. "Sinkha", despite a jumping textbox, was without a question a visual novel. All its sequels, including "Hyleyn", stand on the borders of that definition as there is very little narration. Almost all the text is composed of dialogues, with narrative bits very sparsely thrown around.

And finally the retconing. The screen adaptation of "Sinkha", renamed "First Encounter" is included with "Hyleyn", but not as a visual novel. Pressing "First Encounter" in the menu will give you a novelisation of "Sinkha" with odd illustration here and there. I have a love-hate relationship with FE. First of all, it fixes many a plot hole from the original game, characters get their background and better motivations for their actions, we finally get the information we were denied previously. Also, one major character from the original was replaced with a new one and that works for the better as Darshine is probably the most interesting and conflicted Sinkha of all and she definitely trumps Meve. On the other hand, some pretty terrible decisions were made. Two biggest of those are: the explanation for Hyleyn's plastic surgery was changed (WTF, it's like they wanted to tie the Khahaek forcefully into a minor plot thread) and the ending. The ending feels tackled on only because they thought that a movie adaptation should have more space chases and needlessly thrown one in. Plus the ending never ties seamlessly with the sequel - the cliffhanger of the original was much better executed.

Late arrival spoilaz... Not that you can read them.
"Sinkha: Hyleyn" starts in media res with Hyleyn recounting the events of the novel to her old guardian from Thalissar. After the events of the previous novel, Sinkha are engaged in a full blown war with Khahaek, but Hyleyn is not a damsel in distress anymore - she is an active participant in the fighting. Also a romance plot thread of Hyleyn and Asher is developing quite nicely without being overblown. However, it's the new character of Darshine that... well, shines the most and takes our eyes away from the shortcomings. And there are enough of shortcomings and the biggest of those is the reveal of Khahaek.

Exterminate with extreme prejudice.
In the previous game Khahaek were an unseen threat, a horrible manipulative presence in the shadows with frightening powers over mind and perceptions. We only saw a glimpse of how they actually look. With the full reveal of them in the broad daylight, disappointment sets in, because, yes, you guessed it - the reality cannot live up to our expectations. Once revealed, Khahaek are not as frightening or powerful looking as expected. I might even call them cute:-) The novel is also way too short for it's own good. When you are only starting to get into it, it's already over.

Sinkha: Atmosphere/Planet of the Clouds

Why the hell Marco Patrito thought it to be a good idea to claim there are two games on the CD, when there is actually only one split by a title screen in a most inappropriate place, is way beyond me. You see the title "Atmosphere", you read the novel and after a few hours of reading, a second title "Planet of the Clouds" comes in suddenly. Probably Marco couldn't choose the title and so decided to use both. Let's applaud him for ingenuity.

What would I ask? I already know everything.
This visual novel(s) focuses on Hyleyn's and Darshine's covert mission to recover Khahaek weaponry stolen during the Battle of Shadoowm in the previous game. A separate plot thread deals with Jerod investigating someone impersonating a Sinkha. Those plot threads later converge but only loosely. Actually, I feel that Marco must have been out of steam during the production for this title. Graphics are as good as in other Sinkha games, but cutscenes are much less impressive than in "Sinkha: Hyleyn" and the plot is lackluster at best. Creators try to cover it with philosophical babble on Jerod's end and nudity. Actually all Sinkha games have nudity, but I feel that it served no purpose here other than to please the eye. The ending resolves almost nothing and hints at a sequel, however there was no announcement about it.

A lesson in cosmology.
Despite the problems this title faces, I still like it and mainly due to characterisation. "Sinkha" and "Sinkha: Hyleyn" while strong on plot, were a bit weak in characterization. It's a little better in this game and, especially during the Darshine's mission, we see glimpses of brilliance as Darshine and Hyleyn interact. The chemistry between them is amazing. Hell, I would like them to hook up. After all, Hyleyn's love interest Asher was barely in this game and I don't think he would object to seeing a little girl on girl action ;-)

Dead Tree

All of "Sinkha" visual novels were converted into a graphic novel format. The English release has been handled by a "Heavy Metal" magazine. While it's quite nice to see our heroes to be immortalized on paper, games suffered from the conversion. The aspect that suffered the most were beautiful graphics that got grainy and too dark when printed. Animations are also obviously missing. The text is slightly trimmed and there are differences between panels that are not for the better. All in all, comics might be good to refresh one's mind, but for full experience the games must be played.


"Sinkha" series are quite fascinating science-fiction tales set in a world far removed from ours by space and time. From technical aspect the novels are superb and what they are lacking in the plot and length department, they make up for it with sheer ambition. For visual novels (though the term was never used for them) made in the west, they are professional enough to enjoy to the fullest. Also, I noticed, that I called them visual novels throughout the review, however the term "kinetic novels" would be more appropriate as there are no choices to be made in Sinkha novels.

Links of interest

Visual Novel Database for Sinkha games
Official site
Buy the novels either in a download form or as a physical disc
Download the "First Encounter" in .pdf format for free
A graphic novel adaptation of Sinkha courtesy of Heavy Metal
A graphic novel adaptation of Sinkha: Hyleyn courtesy of Heavy Metal
A graphic novel adaptation of Sinkha: Atmosphere and Planet of the Clouds courtesy of Heavy Metal

Playtime: a few hours for each novel in the series.

Final verdict: Sinkha - 90%
                       Sinkha: Hyleyn - 86%
                       Sinkha: Atmosphere/Planet of the Clouds - 77%

1 comment:

  1. LoveToRead27/7/16 06:40

    Thanks for the review! This series has caught my eye for quite some time now