Sin and Punishment: Star Successor Review
Posted by Damien McFerran
Treasure's cult classic returns for a second helping of laser death
When the original Sin and Punishment was passed over for Western release back in 2000 it marked one of the cruellest injustices video gaming has ever experienced. Thankfully this crime has now been partially rectified by the release of Treasure's gloriously chaotic cult classic on the Wii's Virtual Console service, but Nintendo is clearly feeling particularly guilty because the company is going beyond the call of duty and publishing the Wii-based sequel all over the globe.
In fact Nintendo is doing more than just handling the distribution duties; it's taking a considerable risk. Despite Treasure's fame as a games creator, the studio has never enjoyed mainstream acceptance and the aforementioned lack of a North American and European release for the prequel means there's no “franchise buy-in" for your average Wii gamer.
Thankfully none of these things matter the moment the Sin and Punishment: Star Successor game disc slides elegantly into the Wii's media slot; it's obvious why Nintendo is taking such a chance on this title. It's absolutely amazing.
The core gameplay is very similar to the previous game; you're funnelled down a linear path through a wide range of 3D levels and expected to dish out all kinds of hurt on hordes of nefarious hostiles. Your standard blaster isn't upgradeable but is powerful enough to take down most assailants and you also have a powerful charge attack which needs to be used strategically in order to eradicate as many enemies as possible.
Targeting is handled by an on-screen reticule; the default interface uses the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, with the former influencing the position of your cross-hair. It's possible to lock your aim on an enemy using the B button, but this targeted fire is slightly less potent than your standard shot. The overall setup mimics the traditional twin-stick approach favoured by FPS titles but the difference here is that your character is on-screen at all times and must be moved around in order to avoid incoming projectiles.
Thankfully you're not just a sitting duck when the fire comes raining down; it's possible to perform a quick dash which makes your avatar temporarily invincible and this becomes an essential tactic on later levels. You can also hover in the air, which means the entirety of the screen is available when you're trying to dodge bullets – something which makes the game feel a lot more open than its predecessor, which confined you to the ground.
Your final defensive option actually doubles as a legitimate attack strategy; melee attacks can be used to dispatch enemies at close quarters but they also nullify incoming bullets. Low-level fire is merely neutralised but other objects – such as missiles and bombs – are deftly batted in the direction of your reticule, providing you get your timing right. This opens up one of the most enjoyable elements of Sin and Punishment: Star Successor's control system: there's nothing quite as satisfying as locking-on to an enemy and then destroying them with the very same rocket they launched in order to bring about their own demise.
Despite the presence of two characters – both of which possess slightly different “charge shot" capabilities – the two-player mode isn't as exhaustive as you might expect. The second player is limited to controlling a disembodied cross-hair and can't lock-on to enemies or inflict charge attacks. It's a minor disappointment when you consider how great the single-player element is, but it could be argued that adding another on-screen character would make an already overcrowded screen even more confusing.
Like so many of Treasure's previous titles there's a distinct emphasis on high scores in Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. Linking together successive kills ramps up your score multiplier and taking out enemies with deflected projectiles also yields points bonuses. To further increase the appeal of chasing your personal best ranking, Treasure has included online leaderboards that illustrate the depressing gulf between the world's best and worst players; after each level your achievement is uploaded for posterity and the game is quick to point out when you've topped your previous high score.
Thankfully it's not just the gameplay which hits the jackpot – the presentation is equally alluring, too. Much has been made of the Wii's relatively humble graphical prowess but aside from the lack of HD, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor is arguably as attractive as most 360 or PS3 titles. The vast and sprawling environments seem to go on forever and are bristling with enemies and other activity. Incredibly, this lush setup rolls along at a steady frame rate, with little in the way of slowdown.
Also particularly worthy of note are the epic boss encounters that litter each level. True to form, these contests are imaginative, challenging and incredibly entertaining; it may take a few attempts to discover the pattern but the sense of achievement when you finally outsmart each foe is immense. These scraps are common, too; you can expect around three boss battles in each level, which brings to mind previous Treasure classics like Alien Soldier, Radiant Silvergun and Gunstar Heroes.
The game showcases support for a wide range of different controllers, including the GameCube pad, Zapper and Classic Controller. However, having tinkered around with the various choices it's clear that the default configuration is unquestionably the best. As has been the case with many other titles, the Zapper peripheral proves awkward and unwieldy, while the Classic Controller puts essential buttons too far out of reach for truly comfortable play.
Star Successor isn't flawless, though. The English voice acting is at best passable and at worst highly irritating; thank goodness then that there's the option to revert to the original Japanese vocal track. Sadly, this change doesn't affect the sickening cuteness of the lead characters. The child-like protagonists are curiously at odds with the dark and oppressive tone of the rest of the game's design and while it's probably an intentional choice on Treasure's part, it doesn't sit well with this reviewer. Such issues are easily ignored though and can be attributed to personal taste.
Treasure provided the ailing N64 with one of its most significant titles when it released the original Sin and Punishment a decade ago. It's taken quite some time for the developer to top that achievement but this sequel most definitely out-guns it illustrious forbear and manages to fuse old-school shooting with modern controls and a fantastic degree of innovation. Once you've finished there's arguably little else to encourage you to keep playing – aside from the temptation of pushing your scores even higher – but while it lasts Sin and Punishment: Star Successor is one of the Wii's finest action titles and proves the machine's hardcore credentials once and for all. Fingers are now firmly crossed that this sublime title finds the audience it so clearly deserves.