Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies Reader Review
The Wii can be confusing at times.
It has a catalogue of software cluttered with horse-stroking simulators and dance games that only know where your hand is. Add to this some truly cringe-worthy adverts featuring celebrities you don't know or don't like and it seems that Nintendo is trying its hardest to alienate anyone who doesn't avidly watch the X-factor and say LOL out loud as if it's a real word (without even laughing out loud, thus making them idiots liars).
Thankfully, the Wii also plays host to some amazingly traditional games for which the target audience seems so far removed from the LOL-shouting, Jedward-loving plebs it makes Nintendo's approach to modern gaming seem positively schizophrenic.
With Nintendo published titles like Sin and Punishment 2: Successor to the Skies it appears the Japanese gaming behemoth has not yet fully lost its mind.
An on-rails shooter developed by veterans of the genre, Treasure, it's a sequel to the cult N64 game, Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth. Never originally released outside of Japan, it eventually appeared on the Wii's Virtual console where it sold well to both European and American audiences eager to get their hands on this much revered and previously unavailable title. Perhaps spurned by this success Nintendo sensibly decided the sequel should be published outside of Japan.
As soon as the title screen appears you understand that Sin and Punishment 2 will be different from most modern games. Vibrant colours combine with a pumping 16-bit techno track that sounds like a 90's idea of the music of the future. This is Treasure instantly letting us know that their game won't consist of a greyish-brown post apocalyptic world populated by space-marines crossed with football players, shadowy corporations and or both. Except it isn't.
You see, the most incredible thing about this game is not the deliriously colourful visuals, the classic 90's videogame style soundtrack, the high-score driven gameplay, the fact that a giant laser squid thing gets the title of Commander or any of its frankly nuts storyline. It is that the whole thing has been made without the slightest hint of irony. There are no sly winks and nudges to the player as we join together to spare a thought for the games of old in a game dripping with manufactured nostalgia. Instead we get one that has been made in the only way the developer of classics like Gunstar Heroes knows how, sticking rigidly to what I can only imagine is their company mantra; if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Throughout the game's seven stages you travel a set path whilst evading fire and destroying enemies with a mixture of melee, projectile and counter attacks. There is no chance to upgrade your character or weapons and you have no choices in the game beyond which of the two characters you will play (even then the only non-aesthetic difference between the two is the type of charged-up shot they can use). This rigid structure allows for a very pure, undiluted gameplay experience and is an example of linearity at its very best.
As is usual for the Wii, various controller set-ups can be used. I went for the remote and nunchuck option which was perfectly ample for the often split-second timing required. Lock-on aiming gives you the advantage of being able to concentrate on your character to avoid attacks. This is not about precision aiming, rather, frantic survival. The simple controls are easy to understand with the evade and counter moves the most important to master. Your counter sends enemy projectiles like missiles and cannonballs hurtling back to where you aim dealing a massive amount of damage to your target. The timing of this is easy to get to grips with and is incredibly satisfying when pulled off correctly. The evade button grants you temporary invincibility as you dodge out of the way of danger. This proves to be an indispensable skill as the game progresses and the levels become increasingly populated with enemies.
The standard enemies in the game are really just destroyable set-dressing that add to your high score. Much like Shadow of the Colossus, this game is all about the bosses, or Commanders as it calls them. Each is refreshingly unique, impressively designed and suitably hard. But instead of a melancholy laced, soul-searching horse ride to each encounter you are bombarded with scores of enemies to hone your shooting and evading skills to perfection. This may leave no time to get emotional and consider the plight of the lonely Commander but it does help build a ridiculously large combo.
Sin and Punishment 2 often has the term 'hardcore' applied to it. In some ways it's deserving of this but essentially it's a very accessible game. There are an infinite amount of continues available and death is only punished by sending you back to the last - fairly frequent - checkpoint with full health. However, it also means losing your combo and resetting your score to zero. Ingeniously, this means that anyone can get to the end of the game if they are persistent enough whilst others can play for the high score.
The game is fairly hard but even a moderately skilled player like me was able to finish it on normal in a little over five hours. This may sound short but it means that casual players are actually likely to finish the game, whilst those more serious about their hobby can spend many more hours trying to top the online leaderboards. In a game where one hit from an enemy destroys your combo, resetting the multiplier back to zero, I can only imagine the dedication required to attain the perfect scores.
Sin and Punishment 2: Successor to the Skies is a simple premise full of imagination that is executed wonderfully. Ideas come and go never to be used again - a far cry from the rinse-repeat nature of many modern games. A brisk pace keeps the ideas flowing as we are economically directed from one inventive set-piece to another. The mental characters, cheesy dialogue and pretty incomprehensible storyline all add to a great sense of fun that is bolstered with solid gameplay.
On the downside, the graphics, though great in terms of art design, would certainly benefit from a HD lick of paint and the two-player mode is lacklustre; only offering a second aiming cursor.
Apart from these minor quibbles there is little to complain about and I have no hesitation in recommending it to all people who play games regardless of whether they fall into either the hardcore or casual camp, or even if they are unaware such camps exist.
Or even if they love Jedward.