So, bye bye then, Hanabi Festival. You were a curious little experiment, not exactly brimming with festival atmosphere, though your bountiful gifts of cool Japanese games unseen on our shores were most welcome all the same. It's just a shame you had to sour the excitement slightly by bumping up the prices for no apparent reason. Regardless, the general idea is certainly one that should be encouraged and hopefully we'll see Nintendo refining it further in the years to come.
For now, let's sample the juicy fruits of this final festival offering. It's - ooh - SciFi Week, which basically translates as "Shoot Em Ups" and it's perhaps the best selection yet.
Sin and Punishment
- Platform: N64
- Wii Points: 1200
- In Real Money: 8.40 GBP/12 EUR (approx)
From beloved schmup developer Treasure - the folk who crafted the legendary duo of Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun - comes this delightfully manic third-person blaster, which plays a lot like a grounded Space Harrier.
The plot is typically dense anime babble - something to do with Earth being overrun by aliens that are hilariously referred to as "Ruffians". These bio-organic creatures can infect humans, turning them into Ruffians (and maybe even Scoundrels or Urchins) and, in true manga style, the plot involves key members of the cast being transformed causing much histrionic wailing and angry shouting. Bizarrely, for a game never released outside Asia, all the dialogue is in English so while the plot may not make a whole lot of sense, you can at least understand what the characters are saying.
In terms of action it is, as you'd expect given its heritage, pretty intense stuff. Your character races into the screen and you can control their movement in a lefty-right sort of way, with your attention split between navigating hazards and obstacles, while staying focussed on the roving reticule with which you direct gallons of bullets at the enemies surrounding you. Environmental objects can be targeted, detonating explosives or dumping debris on hapless henchmen. It's a basic enough premise - calling to mind classic blasters like Starfox and Time Crisis along the way - but there are also enough wrinkles to make it more than just holding down the fire button and dodging.
You can swap between manual aiming and an automatic lock-on system, though you trade off shot power for this. You also have a melee attack which comes into play should an enemy get within striking distance. Clobber a foe in this manner and they'll be sent hurtling back, damaging any others they hit on the way. Control is tricky at first, especially finding the balance between controlling both character and aim at the same time, but like all the best shooters the experience is sublime once this balance has been found.
It looks absolutely fantastic - one of the best looking games on the N64 - and just keeps throwing new enemies at you, from swarms of tiny little gits to enormous screen-filling monstrosities. There's even a giant crab that you can hit for…hey, you know the drill. While we can't condone the price hike, there's no denying Sin and Punishment is one of the more exciting games on the Virtual Console right now.