The original Sin & Punishment was released in late 2000 for the N64. Due to developer Treasure's cancellation of its North American release, the game never made it outside of Japan until its rerelease for the Wii's Virtual Console seven years later. Its success, combined with the prospect of creating an all new experience utilizing the Wii's motion controls prompted the Treasure team to make a sequel; Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.
Control in Star Successor is done via the Wii Remote and Nunchuck by default. Motion controls are implemented perfectly, allowing for smooth, precise targeting, though I found my wrist getting strained after long periods (there's a joke in there somewhere). You can also use the Classic Controller, GameCube Controller, or Wii Zapper, but I feel the standard setup works best.
After choosing your difficulty--Easy, Normal, Hard--you choose your character; Isa or Kachi. Beside the standard rapid fire attack, each character has a charge shot and melee attack; great for dealing with multiple targets at close range, but also redirecting certain projectiles back at enemies, causing devastating amounts of damage. You're also given the ability to evade, making you invincible for a brief period--a skill that must be mastered in order to dodge the unavoidable attacks occasionally thrown at you.
The main difference between the two characters is in their charge attacks. Isa's is a single blast that causes a massive explosion, while Kachi's splits off into dozens of shots that automatically home in on their targets.
The first stage of the game acts like a tutorial, teaching you the basics of attacking, dodging, and melee-ing effectively. From there on out, it's clear that the emphasis in this game is on the "punishment". With thousands of enemies to shoot, millions of projectiles to avoid, and a seemingly endless amount of bosses to fight, each stage will leave you gasping for air by its end. On a console ripe with casual games, this one's a slap in the face.
You will die. Often. In fact, it can be down right frustrating at times. But once you understand the attack patterns of enemies, ploughing through a stage or boss fight unscathed is easily one of the most satisfying accomplishments on the console in recent memory. Getting through the game isn't the trouble--health pick-ups and checkpoints are plentiful throughout--but in a game primarily about high score chasing, the penalty for dying is severe: Your score is reset to '0'.
High scores, by the way, can be uploaded to an online leader board. In order to achieve the best scores, players must maintain a high score multiplier and strive for bonuses throughout each level. The score multiplier increases as you kill enemies, and decreases as you take hits. Bonuses are awarded for fulfilling certain conditions, such as destroying a particular set of enemies or clearing a scene in a short amount of time. Other bonuses--such as a health bonus--are awarded at the end of each stage (no accuracy bonus though).
The game also features a co-op mode which consists of player two controlling a second cursor on-screen and firing away. It's a little disappointing, especially considering that the game features two main characters, but was probably done to save on confusion, as it can be tough to see past just a single character for certain scenes. Still, with two guns a blazin', it would have more than made up for the slight increase in awkwardness.
The levels in Star Successor look amazing and are very well designed, switching from the standard third-person view, fighting enemies head-on, to a 2D perspective, and even requiring you to circle a room for certain boss fights. New foes await at every turn, keeping the game feeling fresh even after multiple play throughs. Enemy designs are, in a word: weird as fuck (okay, that's three words). Fire-breathing frogs, dark matter dolphins, flying sperm cells, those strange creatures you see when you stare at stucco ceilings for too long...this game has it all.
My only gripe with the visuals is with the main characters themselves. In a world full of the strangest creatures imaginable, those two weird me out the most; Isa's fashion sense particularly. Sound design is exceptional and the voice acting is surprisingly well-done, though the voices for our heroes don't quite fit their look. The game's music is punchy, energetic, and fits the game's futuristic setting perfectly, but is unfortunately lost among the fray for the most part.
Oh, I almost forgot...there's also a story thrown in there somewhere. It takes place many years after the events of the first game, but honestly, who cares? You're not playing this game for the story. Trust me.
Star Successor's brilliance is in its simplicity. It's about pattern recognition, timing, and accuracy--the core skills of gaming. Not about how long you spent level grinding or number crunching. The game is very pick-up-and-play friendly (though I use the term "friendly" loosely), and presents a rare and unique challenge that very few gamers these days will appreciate. It's not a long game--you'll burn through it in as little as five hours--but the excitement of each stage and desire to constantly top your high scores (and those of your friends) is such to keep you coming back for a while.
Treasure's latest is a treasure indeed.
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