Natural 20: Sin and Punishment 2

Sin and Punishment was one of the greatest games you never played.  It was a N64 hit that never made the official leap across the pond to North America.  For those that did enjoy the on-rails shooter, either on import or later via Virtual Console download, this is the glorious Wii follow-up.

Sin and Punishment: Star Successor (known as Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies in UK) is set years after the first game and follows the two main character Isa and Kachi.  These kids do battle with animals, mechs and military types.  Isa is the son of the original game’s main characters and is partnered with the seemingly young girl Kachi.  The plot often seems nonsensical and thin but this is easily forgivable.  This is a game about spectacle and action, not story, and it manages both very well.

Sin and Punishment is a no-brainer on-rails shooter that improves on its predecessor in every respect.   You point and shoot with the Wii-Mote and chuck, dodge around the screen while you’re scrolled through the game’s seven stages, playing from a third-person perspective. The game feels like Star Fox 64 which is a positive as it was one of the best 64 games ever.  The Classic Controller and GameCube Controller are also supported, but the full experience that comes from the crisp motion-control shooting is lost with them.  The new system works so well the other are hardly called for.  Both characters have a melee and ranged attack, accompanied by a massive charge for doing massive, explosive damage.  Absent from the original game, you can fly around the screen, using a jetpack or hoverboard depending on the chosen character, with the analog stick and perform a quick dodge maneuvers with the Z button.

The game’s abundance of ideas and variety of action is admirable.  The camera will swing from left to right; vertically or even spin you upside down turning it into a side-scrolling or vertically scrolling shooter.  At another point, the game briefly becomes a side-on brawler, giving a twist to the finale of one boss fight.  The quality and variety of visual design is likewise dazzling, to the point where the sometimes less-than-pretty textures are eclipsed.

The levels vary from cities, underwater tunnels, sky fortresses, space stations, lava submarines, and haunted forests. These are populated with chimera-like beasts, bioluminescent fish, soldiers, elaborate robots, and screen-filling bosses. You frequently encounter bosses and minibosses, they are hugely, gratifyingly inventive. A voodoo-styled boss with a bird skull on her head fires exploding lotuses and time-bending ravens at you. Another boss transforms into al manta ray and then into a school of flipping, laser-equipped dolphins.  Another is a transforming airship that changes its weapons in each stage.  Every boss is a trial, each is uniquely memorable and tough enough to make each encounter feel epic.

The boss battles feel like an era of gaming past, traditional multistage affairs in which you chip away at a vast multi-colour health bar.  The game is at its most brutally challenging in these battles, with the absence of checkpoints, but it never quite strays into frustrating difficulty.  Though it’s not an especially long game, six hours for a single play-through, but its replay value is high, with online leaderboards for players to compete on and personal records to beat.

Scoring is based on a multiplier system that rewards stringing together kills without getting hit, so dodging is crucial. There’s often a single, small safe patch on the screen, with the rest filled with lasers, fire, floating mines, boulders, missiles, and other glowing, exploding, or destructive items. This leaves you navigating a hazard-filled screen with one hand and shooting with the other. Doing both at once, with one eye on a distant enemy’s movement and another on the shifting pattern of deadly things in the foreground, is key, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had in mastering it.

The two-player mode is a letdown.  Instead of adding a second character to the screen you get a second targeting reticle.  The second player becomes an assistant who can do little extra damage, picking up some extra points, and clearing the screen of hazards but has no special attacks.  The weak co-op offering aside, Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies impresses with its gratifying action and wealth of ideas. Wii owners owe it to themselves to experience a high-energy on-rails shooter with this diverse and fresh-feeling game.

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One Response to Natural 20: Sin and Punishment 2

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