In late 2007, I downloaded a little gem of a game from the Wii Virtual Console that never made it over to this side of the ocean titled Sin & Punishment and immediately fell in love. The fast paced action and stellar (we’re talking N64 here) production values had me hooked. Granted, the story made no sense and some moments were just downright cheesy but I didn’t care--the game was great fun and that was all the mattered. Well it seems I wasn’t the only one impressed by Sin & Punishment, as Nintendo and Treasure Games are teaming up again to bring us Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for the Wii. Does this sequel do the cult classic justice or should the original have stayed an only child?
In keeping with the style set by its predecessor, the story in Star Successor makes no sense, period. You follow Isa and Kachi as they attempt to flee from the Nebulox, a sinister organisation hell-bent on the destruction of Earth-4. You see, in the universe of Sin & Punishment there are multiple universes with multiple Earths, used to farm multiple warriors for the universes to battle with. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, it turns out Kachi is not entirely human, and is actually an agent from another universe with no memory of her past self. I actually learned all of this from reading the instruction manual and not from the actual game, though in the end this is probably a good thing, because it lets the game maintain its focus on the series’ trademarked action-shooting.
While I was playing Sin & Punishment: Star Successor my roommate asked me how many quarters I had to put in to play that level. This sentiment perfectly echoes the game’s old-school arcade mechanics, as every level is sprinkled with hundreds (if not thousands) of enemies, several bosses and more than enough opportunities to raise your high score. In addition to said high scores, another remnant of the glory days of the arcade found in Star Successor is the on-rails gameplay. What's that, you say? "But there are already a bunch of on-rails shooters on the Wii!!??" Well, no need to worry as Star Successor shakes things up often by offering different shooting perspectives; one moment you will be shooting into the background at oncoming enemies, the next the game becomes a more classic style side-scrolling shooter ala Gradius. There are even some sections later in the game that completely break away from the on-rails shooter genre.
But in the end the name of the game is all about getting a high score, and the best way to do that is string together a combo of kills (whithout getting hit) to make your multiplier rise to ridiculous amounts. The game places such an importance on this multiplier that you will often lament getting hit not for your health bar but for the potential points you just lost. Fear not, as the game will often throw waves of harmless pests at you, hundreds of them, all with the goal of giving your high score a shot in the arm.
The game includes several control options for you to choose from; you can either stick with the default Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo or go with the Wii Zapper, Classic Controller or even Nintendo Gamecube controller. While all options are well and good in their own way, the recommended way to go is with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck. This control style allows for greater controller precision over the targeting reticule and a well thought out button layout. You move your character with the Control Stick on the Nunchuck, ‘Z’ is a dodge move (see: barrel roll) and ‘C’ jumps when your character is on the ground. On the Wii Remote the IR pointer handles your reticule, holding the ‘B’ trigger shoots your gun and a quick tap will activate your melee weapon. Also a tap of the ‘A’ button will lock onto enemies and holding ‘A’ will fire your special attack. For Isa this is a powerful blast that destroys most enemies on the screen, while Kachi's targets multiple enemies at once.
Also, if the legions of enemies are proving to be too much of a match for you, you could always bring in a second player to help you mow down the swarms. Player two only uses a Wii Remote and they only get a targeting reticule in lieu of their own character. While it is understandable that two main characters, their reticules and the enemies all taking up the screen might be too much for the system to handle, the trend of having player two relegated to a simple pointer is starting to wear thin.
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is an oddity in the visuals department. At times the game has gorgeous visuals with loads of variety and detail in the environments, and at other times the game looks bland, repetitive and downright boring. It’s as if the developers only put the attention into making half a game and phoned in the rest. Despite this, variety definitely is the spice of life and you will never see the same enemy model more than a few times per level and every stage will throw something different at you. Whether or not that difference is actually interesting to see is up to you.
Treasure games always come with the promise of tons of enemies and huge boss battles, and in this regard Sin & Punishment: Star Successor does not disappoint. Throughout every level of the game you will be bombarded by enemies from every direction. Some are harmless high score fodder while others will demand your full attention. Bosses also play a huge part in the game, as no two bosses require the same strategy to defeat. Don’t think you will only be meeting a boss at the end of a level, either, as the game features a full roster of big baddies to best, some of which are even placed back to back. Even with all this crazy on-screen action, the gameplay never stutters below a solid sixty frames per second so you can truly get immersed in the shooting and action without ever feeling disconnected. A Treasure trademark if ever there was one.
In the audio department, the game features a healthy soundtrack with many rock-laden tunes to accompany the frantic action perfectly. It is however the dialogue and voice acting that hold the game back. Characters speak with unnatural pauses in the dialogue and some the lines are poorly translated, oddly inappropriate, silly, or just plain bad. Thankfully the developers have included an option to turn off the English voiceovers and listen to the original Japanese voices with sub-titles. This is a recommended choice as the game just feels more ‘natural’ that way and somehow the story seems to make a tad more sense when read rather than listened too.
Like most games in the genre, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is not terribly long. Featuring only seven levels plus a tutorial stage, the game will take roughly 3-4 hours to complete on the Easy difficulty. However ramping things up to Medium or Hard usually can add another hour to the gameplay. On the plus side, the levels are relatively long for the genre, taking you to several different environments and sections, so while you might not be at the campaign for very long, at least it’s diverse. So that doesn’t sound like much for a full priced game, but no need to worry as Star Successor features online leader boards, a perfect addition to a game of this genre and one that will keep dedicated players coming back again and again in an attempt to land near to the top of the rankings.
In many ways, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is the sequel the fans asked for. The core game has not changed a bit, but new features like 2 player co-op and online leader boards only add to the experience instead of trying to change it. Although, maybe Star Successor strays too close to its predecessor on a few too many levels; a convoluted story, archaic gameplay and a reliance on high scores are elements which, while part of the Sin & Punishment experience, hold the game back from becoming something more accessible to the modern gaming community that demands more and more from its games. In the end Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is a solid entry in the series, and it’s my hope that Treasure will only continue to build on what they have and keep giving us frantic, fast paced, quality shooters.