It's no secret that many Japanese titles never see the light of day overseas. Countless games have been unreleased for fear of lack of public interest and fear of bad. This was the initial reason Sin and Punishment, released in 2000, never surfaced on the Nintendo 64 outside of Japan. The hectic shoot'em up only made it's way to the rest of the world when it was released as a special Virtual Console download on the Wii in 2007.
In fact, the overwhelming popularity of the title when it was released for download in the European and North American markets is what prompted Nintendo and original developers, Treasure Co., to produce a sequel for the Wii. The sequel, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, went on to be one of the best reviewed titles of 2009 and became another Nintendo cult classic. But let's talk about the game that started it all.
Sin and Punishment is the futuristic story of Saki, a man who is out to protect Japan from a double threat. Due to a food shortage the government of Japan has been developing a new species of animal for the public to eat. Unfortunately everything goes to hell in a handbasket when the creatures mutate and begin assaulting everyday folks all across the land of the rising sun. Enter the Armored Volunteers, a "peacekeeping" force who want the mutant animals dead, but have their own devious plot in action. While the story is a nice sci-fi thriller with some great little twists, it's a bit confusing at times. Those who just want to riddle their enemies with lasers without any filler will be happy to know that every cutscene can be skipped by the press of a button. Though it can be pretty entertaining, so you may want to abstain from skipping anything your first time through.
Controlling Saki can be a bit of a chore if players haven't done so before. The game doesn't do a great job of explaining its controls or the type of manoeuvres that work best in certain situations, so one just has to feel it out as they go, dying occasionally and analyzing enemy patterns. There's no hand holding here. Players may find the controls confusing and awkward, as they were originally intended for the Nintendo 64's bizarre three pronged controller and don't transition well to the default Wii U layout. The C buttons (like most shooting titles on the N64) controlled Saki's aiming, while the analogue stick controlled his back and forth movement across the screen. These two major inputs have been tethered to the Wii U's twin analog sticks, and the transition is unsurprisingly more effective. In fact most players should spend a few minutes trying out different button set ups for Sin and Punishment, as it makes the game much more enjoyable as a whole.
Sharp shooters will want to take advantage of the game's dual options when it comes to gun slinging. A blue ring will lock on to target and let players rattle off round after round of less powerful blows. This is a player's best option if they are new to the title or are struggling with its controls. Switching to the red ring will put players in full control of the aiming cursor, but will also do more damage when the target is found. Being able to switch between the two shooting techniques is a great addition to a title that can often feel a bit overwhelming at times.
The insane amount of action throughout the story mode is Sin and Punishment's best aspect. It is a nonstop barrage of bullets, lasers, missiles, and deadly assailants. And how does one deal with such obstacles? By blowing them up, of course! As Saki you'll run and gun your way through different environments, racking up points for destroying enemies and doing so with speed and precision. The game forces players to use different tactics to defeat advancing enemies more quickly and with more force. For example, there are many times that large missiles are being shot at Saki while he runs about. Players can choose to dodge these missiles until the game moves on to the next area, dodge them and shoot up their source, OR you can slice the missiles with your sword to send them back for maximum damage. But as we mentioned before, the game doesn't tell you this. It's a constant test of trial and error.
The visuals in Sin and Punishment are some of the best from the Nintendo 64 era. It's very apparent that this title launched near the end of the the N64's life cycle. Characters are are a bit blocky, but look crisp and fluid during gameplay and the various cutscenes. Enemies and environments are nicely detailed and the game does a decent job of keeping its frame rate on pace with its ever changing landscape of warfare. Players won't be wowed by any specific stand out visuals, but the game certainly has a polish that is missing from many games of the early '00s.
Do you enjoy hearing the same grunts and screams over and over? If you answered "Yes", then Sin and Punishment is the game for you. This reviewer found himself actually playing with the game on mute for a good majority of the playthrough due to the overly repetitive sound effects. Most of these shrieks and groans come from Saki, as he jumps, shoots, slices and rolls his way through enemy fire. It certainly would have been nice if they could have given him some variety when it came to audio reactions, but a budget is a budget. The music has a nice dramatic feel, but it's nothing spectacular. Players won't be too upset if they too have to turn down their volume to enjoy the game.
Another oddly annoying aspect of the game comes in the form of rumble. There's a ton of it. Shoot a thing? RUMBLE! Slice a guy? RUMBLE! Blow up a building? RUMBLE! And you may be thinking, "Well, all those all seem like scenarios where you would want the rumble to kick in, right?" But you have to understand that all of Sin and Punishment is non-stop action. There is no down time. Players are constantly blowing machines up and gunning down new enemies. It's maddening. Luckily, players can simply turn this feature off in the Wii U GamePad setting. Whew.
Sin and Punishment is not a lengthy adventure. Adept players can clear the game in a sitting with no issues, and possibly not even a bathroom break. On the easier difficulty (and there are a few difficulty levels from which to choose) players can advance without much interruption throughout the game's main storyline, though they won't score very high when all is said and done. In this regard Sin and Punishment is a game that would be more at home in an old school arcade then a home console. A second player can even join in on the action as an unseen gunman to help take down those pesky baddies. It's always more fun with a buddy, but you're not going to get much more out of the game in multiplayer mode.
With a customizable control set-up and restore points, The Wii U is far and away the ideal system to play the original Sin and Punishment; it's a short but enjoyable romp through a barrage of bullets and metal. The game's wonky controls and fleeting campaign may be offputting for some, but those who want to improve their high score and really test their shoot'em up skills will find plenty of replay value. If you want better controls, co-op, graphics and gameplay variety, however, you're better off downloading Sin and Punishment: Star Successor for Wii.