Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies Reader Review
Some people have ripped into Nintendo for concentrating on creating games for their main franchises and not putting enough resources into new IP and the argument does hold some merit. However, I believe that it’s praiseworthy to resurrect what is otherwise dead IP, especially when, as is the case with Sin and Punishment, the Wii control scheme makes it more appropriate to do so than ever before. Sin and Punishment was a Nintendo 64 rail-shmup created by Treasure, possibly best known for the bullet hell shooter Ikaruga. The game was aimed partially at a western audience and so was voiced entirely in English. Sadly, due to being released in 2000 during the platform’s dying years, the game didn’t make it to the west until it’s availability on the wii virtual console in 2007. While the first game was hailed as a classic by many import gamers, its wii sequel, “Successor of the skies,” improves on it in every conceivable way.
The story starts many years after the end of the first game when the universe has been divided between the factions of Inner and Outer Space. The game starts on Earth-4 where Isa, the son of the protagonists of the first game and an agent for Inner Space, has gone rogue, siding with Kachi, the amnesiac vanguard of the Outer Space invasion of the planet. The two then attempt to escape the planet and defeat a group sent to capture them known as the Nebulox. The story, however, is simply used as a base for supporting the campaign and it’s evident that a lot of care has gone into keeping the experience varied. Constantly shifting, introducing new enemy and obstacle types for 30 second gauntlets, after which they are never seen again. The bosses also show great imagination in terms of their character designs, attack patterns and strategies. Some create tricky-to-navigate bullet hell mazes, heavily employing visual effects to disorientate the player. Chapter 6 is probably the most varied of them all, deflecting charging boar-like creatures with your sword, uncoupling train cars to attack a pursuing keeper, alternately shooting 2 lifts to raise them and protect Kachi from a rising lava flow and ending with a fight with one of the Nebulox in a hangar full of mechs, soldiers and missile launchers. This variety is maintained from the start of the game to its end, culminating with a boss rush of each of the Nebulox’s final forms.
The control scheme I used (and would recommend) was the wiimote and nunchuk configuration. Although there is also support for the classic and gamecube controllers as well as the wii zapper peripheral if you’re so inclined. You move the character around freely within two dimensions using the control stick and use the wiimote’s IR to aim your weapon. Holding down B will continuously fire your weapon while tapping it will allow you to attack with your sword up to 3 times in succession. This can be used to melee close range enemies or to hit projectiles, such as missiles, back at your enemies. Pressing Z and a direction on the control stick will allow you to perform an evasive dodge that will grant you temporary immunity to damage. When playing as Kachi, your shots will automatically lock on to the enemy nearest to the reticule, making her the ideal character to start off with. When playing as Isa, you can lock on to enemies by tapping A. Holding it down will launch a character specific charge attack. Kachi’s allows multiple lock-ons in the vein of Rez and Panzer Dragoon while Isa’s attack locks on to a single enemy but has an area of effect. While the game employs a control scheme that is relatively new, certain elements of the game feel decidedly “old-school”.
The game is fairly challenging, even on easy mode, which I would recommend that everyone uses for their first playthrough at least while they can get used to what is expected from them in terms of gameplay. The first time I cranked the difficulty up to normal, I was pleased to see that not only was it easier to die and that medkits healed you less, but bosses gained new and more difficult to dodge attack paterns. Early playthroughs should be focused on completing the game, trying to last as long as possible between continues. In subsequent playthroughs you manage to take less damage, increase your multiplier, rack up high scores and upload them to the online leaderboards. The game may not require quite as much effort as the tightly choreographed ballet that is Ikaruga does. Chances are though, that you won’t care given that it’s around 5 hours in length compared to Ikaruga’s 30 or so minutes. That the games would even be remotely close in terms of quality, with such a gulf between the two in terms of playtime, seems insane.
The game is, at times one of the best looking on the system. Enemy and location designs feel unique and varied but also seem strangely cohesive within the context of the game. Many enemies can crowd the screen at any given time. All of this is able to run near perfectly at 60 frames a second. The only place where the graphics disappoint is with the humanoid character models, although this only becomes a problem during the cutscenes and so can be easily ignored. The game’s techno soundtrack helps to glue together all of the campaign’s disparate elements and set the pitch of every moment, be it the sense of anticipation as the doors to a tunnel slowly open or the sense of speed riding a beast hastily down a desert road. Also, they quite kindly saw fit to allow us the option of a Japanese voice track and I would suggest using it.
Ultimately I think that it’s sad that this year so many of the best games have gone unnoticed especially on the wii. I find myself slightly disappointed whenever I read some comment about their wii gathering dust or about how game x was the first wii game that they had bought for the system all year. 2010 was a great year for games on every system and the wii was certainly no exception. If you’re the kind of gamer that loves fast paced action and challenging games that force you to learn their strategies and perfect your skills to that end, then you owe it to yourself to buy this game. It’s a real Treasure!