Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies Reader Review
(Nintendo Competition Entry)
Gamers are a fickle bunch. Due to the ever-growing popularity of the medium, it has become increasingly difficult to create a title that satisfies every possible demographic. However, every so often, there is a game that defies this notion completely and delivers an experience that attains the ability to make grown men cry.
Enter Sin and Punishment. Developed by rail-shooter veterans Treasure, the series made its debut back on the Nintendo 64, garnering much critical acclaim due to its eclectic nature and high production values. However, with the popularity of Ninty’s beloved console rapidly dwindling, Treasure quietly removed the title from their roster and released it exclusively for the Japanese market. It became a mythological entity at that point; North American and PAL owners were shunned in an attempt to sustain financial stability, thus making it a prestigious collector’s item in the process.
However, at E3 2008, Treasure announced a follow-up to the excitement of many hardened fans across the globe. It’s been a long time coming but the wait is now officially over - Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies is everything you want from a second party Wii game and more. Much more.
For those unfamiliar with Treasure’s rich heritage, the game encourages players to fire strategically while dodging countless waves of bullets with an unprecedented level of precision. Akin to the developers’ previous efforts such as Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, Sin and Punishment continues the trend in the sense that it is also incredulously difficult, especially when the game reaches its suitably epic finale.
The game effectively becomes an endurance test, with each level throwing players into a large number of set pieces and scenarios – there are high speed chases, countless boss battle sequences, showers of bullets coming from all directions; there are times when you simply need to pause the game to take a breather. Even on its easiest setting, Sin and Punishment will haunt you for nights on end, eating away at your soul and consuming your very being.
Levels start manipulating drastically – one minute, players are sucked into a swirling vortex that fires electrical beams, the next minute you are being attacked by restless waves of lava that fill the entire screen. The fact that players are forced to multi-task will be a deal breaker for many; some will revel in the challenge while others will cower away in sheer, unadulterated fear.
While shmups have an overriding tendency to rely on trial and error, this game is anything but – each level requires a great level of skill to overcome and mastering these stages can only be achieved through the art of patience. Any mistakes would be down to the players inability to survive – in this sense, Sin and Punishment is a perfectly crafted game with incredibly fluid gameplay mechanics and responsive controls. There are a large number of combos to comprehend which may seem overwhelming initially, but soon becomes second nature due to a brilliantly conceived tutorial system.
The characters are also incredibly versatile, attaining the ability to dodge, roll, strike and even shoot gigantic balls of energy particles; this adds an element of strategy to the game, especially during boss battles, as you will have to time your blasts perfectly in order to succeed. Melee attacks are also incredibly useful as you have to rebound certain attacks such as bombs and missiles right back at the enemy. To call it an on-rails shooter wouldn’t actually be doing the game justice – not only can you fully interact with the character but there are also a plethora of different gameplay styles that transform this game into an interesting hybrid rather than a standard shooter.
Where the game transcends into the realms of brilliance, however, are in its memorable boss battle sequences, all of which are unpredictable and highly inventive. The game simply thrives both stylistically and conceptually here, meshing a wide variety of genres to create a truly unique gaming experience; each boss has around two to three phases that see them morph into some seriously oddball creations such as dolphins, liquidised orbs and killer organisms.
One boss battle in particular is a crazy combination of Super Smash Bros, Bomberman and Tetris, all complete with descending platforms, falling blocks and countless explosions. It’s an interesting amalgamation of genres that elevates this game into triple-A status, regardless of its minor shortcomings. The production values are also top notch, with each stage simply brimming with life and personality; there are an impressive number of enemies on screen, all of which are intricately designed and fully realised, pushing the hardware of the Wii to its ultimate limit. There is very little pop-in which is technically astounding considering the scope of the game, and it rarely suffers from slowdown even when the action reaches fever pitch.
The soundtrack is also another notable aspect; the fast-paced techno beats resonate over the gameplay seamlessly, with a range of subgenres thrown into the mix to help diversify the overall experience. There are house elements, disco, techno-punk – in fact it could be said that its abrasive nature can be a little overbearing at times, however in retrospect it sets the mood perfectly.
While the game is essentially a solo experience, Treasure also included a two-player co-op option. However, its overall execution leaves much to be desired. The second player can only control the cursor on screen, making their presence somewhat worthless – it would have greatly benefited from the inclusion of split-screen gameplay but, considering the capabilities of the console, other parts of the game would have suffered tremendously. Needless to say, they really shouldn’t have bothered.
The voice acting is also pretty atrocious, with the English overdubs lacking any sense of emotion or passion in their delivery. The game’s narrative is also convoluted and strangely erratic at times, throwing the audience into a number of flashbacks which can be a little jarring when the actual premise is so simple. Treasure was obviously trying to add some emotional weight in order to make the game more involving, but when it comes down to the bread and butter of the gameplay, the story is soundly redundant in comparison.
Minor quibbles aside, Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies is a truly remarkable gaming experience that surpasses any preconceived notions one would have regarding the quality of second party Wii games being released lately. Not only is it a technical showcase for Ninty’s underpowered console, but it is also one of the best action games in recent memory, offering a thrilling blend of old school on-rails gameplay and fresh battle mechanics. Indeed, it may prove to be too difficult for some, but then if you can’t handle it you’re obviously not a real gamer.
So stop blubbering like a baby and play a real man’s game.