Review: You... will... die!
Sin and Punishment
was one of the last games released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000. It was also only available in Japan, meaning that most gamers in North America didn't get a chance to try out Treasure's wild shooter until its 2007 addition to the Virtual Console.
Nintendo didn't make the same mistake with the sequel, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
. Once again developed by Treasure, Star Successor takes everything you think you know about the "rail shooter" and spins it on its head in ways that have to be seen to be believed.
Owing to its shooter roots, the bulk of Sin and Punishment 2's story is told through a Prologue included on the first few pages of the instruction booklet (sorry Gamefly users). It seems that "The Creators" (better known as God) of Inner Space have long been at war with the alien beings of Outer Space. Isa, an Inner Space soldier, is on the run with Kachi, an Outer Space spy who has lost her memory. The two have taken refuge on a barren alternate Earth where they are forced to fight Keepers (garbage collection robots similar to WALL-E
) and the Nebulox (Inner Space commandos that want to capture Isa). What follows is an absolute mind screw of a plot that makes little sense without the Prologue, although fans of the original should feel right at home with that
Without the Prologue, the story boils down to the much simpler "a human and an alien shoot lots of robots." And boy do they ever.
Star Successor feels very similar to the first S&P in that players must follow a fixed path (the "rail" in "rail shooter") while dodging back and forth across the screen and aiming a reticule at the incoming enemy robots. Things get more complicated when you realize that the environment is constantly filled with Keepers and all of them want you dead. There is often so much going on that it can feel a little overwhelming.
In addition to the dodging and the aiming, Treasure adds another element to S&P2 that takes it beyond the standard rail shooter formula: a hoverboard. Instead of the double jump found in the first game, players can hover indefinitely in the sequel. At times this makes the game feel less like a rail shooter and more like a scrolling shooter (another of Treasure's specialties).
Star Successor's brutal difficulty can be seen as both a checkmark in the "Awesome" column and a source of constant frustration for the player. S&P2 is HARD
; there's no two ways about it. This gives the game plenty of replay value... as long as constantly earning the "Game Over" screen doesn't send you off the deep end. But the game's difficulty (and very competitive online leaderboards) add length to what is otherwise a pretty short game.
As the original Sin and Punishment is now ten years old, the game's N64-era graphics look more dated than ever (and they were never all that impressive in the first place). The same cannot be said for the sequel. S&P2 has a great anime-inspired look and when dozens of Keepers swarm the screen the effect is just breathtaking. Most amazing is the Water Tunnel level, which has Isa and Kachi zipping through a tunnel with permeable walls, and if they take a turn too fast they fly through the wall and into the ocean outside. All the while, massive sea monsters swim within the tunnel and outside of it.