Treasure seems to approach enemies and firepower in Sin & Punishment: Star Successor the way a composer might approach the workings of a symphony. It feels as though great care has been taken to perfect singular elements throughout the game in order to produce a wholly satisfying and effective gameplay experience. A bolero of badass, perhaps? Too Castlevania-ey?
Star Successor is the sequel to the N64′s Sin & Punishment, which only in recent years saw a North American release through Virtual Console. You play as Isa, son of the previous title’s Saki, or Kachi, a girl from outer space. I think. There’s apparently some sort of schism between “inner” planet people and “outer” space people, and neither Isa nor Kachi is fully one or the other so there are mean people after them and, um… honestly, I don’t fully get the story, and I doubt many on our shores will, either. Thankfully, we don’t have to care — the game doesn’t bog itself down much with cutscenes, providing the basic minimum to reach the next stage or section. While I’m a stickler for deep and engaging storylines Star Successor is so arcade-like it doesn’t need one.
Whatever intricacies are lost in the plot may be found within the game itself. Isa and Kachi function similarly with a few key differences. Both use only rapid-fire shots and up-close melee attacks. Both can hover (Kachi with Marty McFly’s hoverboard and Isa through the power of what looks like a magic soccer ball strapped to his back). Both can also dodge in any direction with the Z button. Kachi seems geared a little more toward beginning players with an auto-lock and a charge shot that can target multiple enemies. Isa, on the other hand, can only lock on manually and fires a more explosive charge shot that hits enemies within a range.
A simple control setup with firing and melee set to the B button and charge shots and lock-on set to the A button make the pointable remote and nunchuck combo an ideal control method. The game is also playable with the Classic Controller and GameCube controller, for those seeking a feel closer to the N64 title, and the Wii Zapper, for those who still want to justify owning one. A second player can hop on as a second gun, but will have no controllable character.
The game’s seven stages take players on rails — either 3D or side-scrolling — through increasingly difficult onslaughts of enemies at speeds ranging from “casual death stroll” to “Wheeee!”. While a bit heavy-handed on the industrial/spaceship look at times, there are a handful of interesting scenes including an underground city, force field-created underwater tunnels and even a dark, moody Japanese countryside. It all looks nice for as quickly as you pass by it; not massively detailed, but that would likely only create confusion when trying to focus on the armies of enemies that often flood the screen. Dodging is essential, and once in a while it’s easy to lose track even of your own character bouncing around the screen. A sound mix of shooting, melee and sending enemies’ attacks back at them will get you through the standard areas, however, and there is a liberal helping of checkpoints within each stage in case you don’t.
The many boss interludes that break up the stages of Star Successor are definitely the prime cuts of the game and entail some of the most involving gaming I’ve had in some time. The first time meeting a boss — at least starting Normal mode — odds are high that it will defeat you. Actually, I would go so far as to say it will slaughter you with cold disdain and mount your virtual head on its wall, right above its computer so your lifeless eyes can only watch as it goes online to post disparaging things about your mother.
Keep trying, however, and one can begin to see the threads that weave these seemingly insurmountable challenges together. Dodge this attack here. Concentrate on this enemy here. Fire a charge shot here to stop a crushing move. Whatever frustrations arise are balanced by a sense of hope; that there is indeed a way to dismantle each different foe and it will be oh so satisfying once you do. In a way, it’s as though the developers have faith in you as a player, never holding your hand yet somehow providing encouragement. I never felt I won a major battle by luck rather than determination, skill and concentration, and that it was well worth it to try “one more time.”
The technical gameplay makes merely surviving the game at first an accomplishment, but Star Successor asks more of willing hardcore players through a scoring system that rewards kill streaks, speed and combinations. Scores may be uploaded to an online leaderboard that is proving competitive. For those seeking other post-game rewards, however, there so far has been nothing of the sort in my experience. Some art or even a sound test would have been nice after the first playthrough on normal, and more casual players may not feel they have as much incentive to play again, if only to experience the stages as the other character.
What I’m really trying to say is…
While less experienced gamers may feel intimidated, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor offers an engaging opus for those who seek plenty of well thought out action. This may also be the closest thing we’ll get to a StarFox title on the Wii, so those fans should take note, too. Star Successor may have the markings of a niche title, but is polished and stylized enough to make it a worthwhile try for anyone. If this game doesn’t make you feel like a futuristic Bruce Willis with a magic soccer ball strapped to his back, then I guess it was just never meant to be.
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is developed by Treasure and published by Nintendo. It is currently available for the Nintendo Wii at a MSRP of $49.99 USD. Review copy of the game provided by Nintendo. Review based upon approximately 11 hours play, including completion on Normal difficulty with Isa and exploration of game elements with Kachi. Number of lasers and explosions: I don’t even…