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Review #359

Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
Developer: Treasure
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Genre Rail Shooter
Release Date: 06/27/2010

I love Treasure. They’ve given me so many great games over the years. Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, Gradius V, Bangai-O, Gunstar Heroes and of course my favourite video game of all time, Guardian Heroes. They are one of my favourite developers of all time, along with Black Isle Studio and Quest and they have a pretty solid track record…

…except for sequels. Treasure almost never makes a sequel to one of their games (Gradius V doesn’t count as it is the first and only Gradius game they made) , but when they do, they tend to be pretty awful. Take Advance Guardian Heroes for example. I was excited beyond verbal description for that game and so were many others. The end result however, was one of the worst games of 2004 and to say that most gamers felt it killed and raped (yes, in that order) the spirit of the original game is an understatement. There is still a lot of hate for that game and you can see it emanate from gamers just by mentioning the title.

Which of course brings us to Sin and Punishment 2. That’s right – this is a sequel to an old N64 game from 2000 that was only released in Japan. It finally saw a North American release in 2007 on the Virtual Console as the first import title for the Wii’s library of retrogames, and it ended up winning “Best Downloadable Game” from us in that same year. It’s an awesome game to say the least. So when Star Successor was announced gamers were excited for a new Treasure game, but also hesitant as the taste of Advance Guardian Heroes was still in many a mouth six years later. So how did S&P2 turn out? Was it a victim of sequel-it is, or could this be the game to finally win over North American games to rail shooters where Dead Space Extraction and Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles failed miserably?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Shooters aren’t known for having much in the way of story. There isn’t a lot of depth or explanation to them outside of the manual that comes with them. In a lot of ways S&P 2 follows this pattern. To realy understand what is going on you need to have played the first S&P and then read the manual for this game. Otherwise you’re only getting a fraction of what the game is about. You’ll know a bunch of bad guys are after the female character but you won’t really know why or the full gist if what is going on. This will perplex and confuse people who don’t play a lot of shooters, but Treasure is uncaring about your pain here as they are when you are being eviscerated by fiendish thingies and swarms of oncoming fire.

Basically you have a war between inner and outer space. Outer space has been a synthetic human known as Kachi to infiltrate humanity. However Kachi has lost her memory and soon encounters Isa Jo, a half outer space/half inner space being who is the son of the main character in the first S&P. Because she is effective innocent, due to memory loss, Isa refuses to kill her. This in turn pisses off the rulers of inner space, known as “The Creators,” so they decide to kill both of them. That’s when the game starts.

From there, you go through seven stages (and level 0), filled with multiple bosses and occasionally a bit of story, although you never get any real in-depth plot or detailed characterization. It’s a bare minimum designed to explain why you are moving from one stage to the next, and nothing more. Most shooter fans will just be happy to have ANY story told in the video game itself, but people used to a little more expository commentary will be disappointed here.

Story Rating: 5/10

2. Graphics

You know, most Treasure games have been simply beautiful in the past. Every one that I can think of is amongst the best looking games of their console generation. S&P 2 however is exceptionally ugly. There, I said it. Sin and Punishment 2 looks like a N64 game, not something from this generation. Character models are blocky and sometimes hideous, enemies lack a lot of detail, backgrounds have very little to them. The game simply looks like a decent, and only decent, title from about ten years ago. It certainly doesn’t look like a top line A level title like Nintendo has been pushing it. What’s worse is that games like Gradius V that Treasure made six years ago look better than this.

Even worse, the game is prone to a bit of slowdown at times, which is a shame and something that shouldn’t be happening on a next gen system. Systems have enough power to prevent that and considering S&P2 is a rail shooter, there’s really no excuse for this. I love Treasure, but this is an ugly game and it almost feels like they’ve been sitting on this since the N64 generation and just pulled it out of moth balls rather than make a new game from scratch.

Graphics Rating: 4/10

3. Sound

I absolutely adore the soundtrack to this game and whoever scored this deserves a raise. It’s no Guardian Heroes (I have that score burned to a CD in my car), but each track is fast-paced, frantic, and fun. I actually would have preferred a CD pack-in to the Virtual Console points this came with. Sound effects are excellent as well. There is a lot of variation with all the effects. Each monster or obstacle makes their own sounds, but they do all explode the same. It’s a great job across the board and it’s nice to see this Treasure hallmark stay intact.

Voice acting is hit or miss however. While Isa and Katcha’s actors do a great job throughout the game, some of the other speaking roles, such as the Nebulox aren’t so good. Now this may very well have to do with to do with the stilted dialogue written for them rather than a lack of talent in their own right, but it still doesn’t come across very well. Aside from these small 9and rare) niggling issues with the voice acting Star Successor is an auditory feat for your ears and I’m sure there will be times I’ll be playing the game if for no reason other than to hear the soundtrack.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

My real complaint with the first Sin and Punishment was that the N64 controller wasn’t a very good choice for the game, if only because it made it rather hard to move your character and the reticle in tandem. This is corrected (and then some) with the Wiimote and Nunchuk, and you use the analog stick to move your character and just point your Wiimote at the screen ala a light gun game. It works brilliantly and this is one of the few times on the Wii where the Wiimote option is actually superior to the Classic Controller or Game Cube controller options.

S&P2 is a rail shooter, which means the game is constantly moving and you are more or less along for the ride. You can move your characters within the confines of the screen and aim your weapon anywhere as well, but make no mistakes, the game is constantly moving, and so then, are you. You have no control over the camera angles, but don’t think of this as a bad thing. It simply means you’ll be able to concentrate on dodging and aiming. There are a few times where things can hit you from off screen or vice versa, but they are rare and inconsequential in the scheme of things.

The game is fairly simple in concept. You shoot things dead and occasionally get coins, medals and health boxes for your effort. Meanwhile enemies are trying to reduce your health to 0. When you die, you start from the last checkpoint you hit and after you beat a level, you can start from there the next time you play using level select. You have a normal shot and a charge shot, but no other power ups or weapons. You do have a melee attack however which can be used to fling projectiles back at an opponent, or in the case of a particular boss, is the only real way to damage them.

Each character also plays differently. For example, Kachi has an auto-lock on feature and she will home in on the first opponent you click on. This is great in early levels, but can be a pain in later ones. Isa however has to lock manually, but you have more control over who you attack and when. As well, both characters have a different charge shot. Isa’s shot is a massive explosion that damages anything (except you) that is in contact with the explosion. Katcha on the other hand has a homing weapon that can hit eight different opponents as once…as long as you lock on to more than one. This allows the game to feel completely different when you play as one character over the other and you’ll need to have different strategies on hand to succeed.

Like most Treasure shooters, the gameplay in Sin and Punishment 2 is flawless and it really sets a standard for how awesome an old school shooter can be with Wii controls.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 10/10

5. Replayability

Since both characters play pretty differently from each other you can switch between the two to keep the game feeling fresh. You also have the ability for two player co-op, which makes the game even more fun, as well as more insane, than just single player mode. There are no real rewards, per say, for beating the game. This is an old school shooter, which means the reward is a high score and the knowledge that you’ve gotten better as a gamer. This is enough for myself, especially since I was weaned on Treasure, but younger gamers might find the lack of extras, especially as a full MSRP price tag, to be alarming, especially with how hard the game is compared to other releases from this console generation. Factor in the difficulty and sadly a lot of today’s gamers will play this until they finally beat it and then trade it in, or just quit out of frustration before they even get to the end.

The only replay value here is to try the other character or to play with your friends. This won’t be enough for modern or younger gamers, but for people who remember when shooters were THE genre of genres, it’s all you need.

Replayability Rating: 6/10

6. Balance

Okay, this is a big warning. Sin and Punishment on Easy is probably harder than most, of the games you have played before. Shoot ‘em ups are designed to be balls to the walls hard and this is no exception. If you thought either of the Ninja Gaiden remakes were hard, you will more than likely die several times on the prologue stage (0). I’m considered to be especially good at this genre and the first time I played, I made it up to the end of stage three before I died for the first time. Which from all accounts in talking to other gamers, is pretty good. I’m not going to lie – with the amount of enemies and firepower thrown at you in this game, if you haven’t played a shooter, a rail shooter, or a Treasure game before, you should probably play this on Easy. This is not a knock on your ability – it’s simply letting you know you are in for a world of sheer pain.

With that said, there is a noticeable difference between all three difficulty levels, and the game is kind enough to give you a level select option so you don’t have to start from the beginning each time you play like in a lot of shooters, but make no mistake, even easy will reduce most gamers to a ball of tears and profanity. Really, the only way to get through this game is to have exceptional hand-to-eye coordination and a decent amount of experience in this genre. It’s a well balanced game, and everything follows set patterns, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Reflexes and memorization will go a long way here.

Balance Rating: 6/10

7. Originality

Rail shooters have come back into prominence with the rise of the Nintendo Wii, but the Sin and Punishment series really stands out due to its unique gameplay. It’s very similar to thePanzer Dragoon games in terms of basic gameplay mechanics, but it’s has its differences. I do have to admit as much as I love treasure, I’ll take Panzer Dragoon over Sin and Punishment any day.

I will say that S&P 2 plays almost exactly like the first game, Successor of the Earth, but with a new and improved reticle aiming function through the Wii’s infra-red. The game will feel a lot fresher to those who haven’t played the original on the Virtual Console, or to those who haven’t imported the original. For those of us that have played through S&P1 multiple times, it really is a new coat of paint on an old house. Hell, even the visuals look pretty old. Think of S&P2 as Tecmo Super Bowl to Tecmo Bowl. It’s been a decade or so since the original game’s release so S&P2 does stand out from the pack, especially the other rail shooters on the Wii, but not enough that it feels like a shining beacon of innovation. Which it isn’t.

Originality Rating: 6/10

8> Addictiveness

I know a lot of people give up and pout when a game is “too hard,” but that makes me try all the harder, even if it is just to clear the level I’m currently on. I’ve always loved Treasure titles(Yes, even Silhouette Mirage) , and especially their shooters. My staff here at DHGF have learned not to get me started on Ikaruga and its awesomeness. So with that in mind, it probably comes as no surprise that when I got the game, I just bunkered down and beat it in a few hours, then started over and played with Isa this time.

Shoot ‘em ups are easily the hardest genre in gaming and Treasure makes some of the best ever released, so part of my sticking with a game like S&P2 is simply to say I beat it. You know, anyone can beat a turn based RPG if they put enough time into it. But a shoot ‘em up? That takes dexterity, skill, and a little memorization. So beating a game like this gives me a bigger sense of pride or accomplishment than say, oh Breath of Fire . This is what keeps me glued to a shooter. Then factor in an amazing engine and some really fun gameplay, and you have a title that I know I’ll be coming back to for years to come.

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor

This is truly the weak point of S&P2. We’ve seen over the past few years that neither rail shooters nor shoot ‘em ups sell very well, regardless of the system they are on. The current generation of North American gamers just don’t care about them, which is a shame as I absolutely love them. Factor in S&P2’s insane challenge level, even on Easy, and you have a game that is, quite simply, not for everyone.

At the same time Nintendo of America is really pushing this game and not to diss the parent company of my day job provider, NoA has done a great job creating a large sect of gamers that will suck down any first or second party Nintendo title. Look at how anything with a Mario or Link game sells, regardless of quality. Hell, I know this first hand from my experience with Pokémon. This means that S&P2 should sell better than other Wii rail shooters, but it also means that several gamers might feel betrayed once they put this in, since it is hard, merciless, kind of ugly, and a rail shooter. Notice Nintendo has kept some of those things from the general public.

As much as I love S&P2, I have to be a critic first and thus I can’t deny this game is only for a small niche of Wii owners. It’s definitely a game I enjoyed my time with, but when I look around at most other gamers I come in contact with, I also know my tastes are in the minority compared to people who like third person action games or first person shooters.

Appeal Factor Rating: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

I was kind of shocked to see S&P2 hit with a full MSRP of $49.99, especially in the wake of dismal sales for other rail shooters that carried a stronger brand name here in North America. I was also a bit put out by the pre-order offer of 500 Nintendo points that came when you pre-ordered the game. It would have made more sense to offer say, a free download of the first S&P. However that’s not how Nintendo does business. You see, they know that S&P 1 is the most expensive game on the Virtual Console and their hope is that if you like S&P2, you’ll spend the money on S&P1, which again, is the most expensive game you can buy on the Virtual Console. Instead of get a lip service token of 500 points that nets you a crappy DSi title, or a potentially really good NES game.

Look, even Treasure’s best release this decade, Gradius V, wasn’t at a full $49.99 when it came out. Konami knew better. And trust me, S&P2 is half the game Gradius V is. So to see that at $49.99 in an age where shoot ‘em ups simply can’t sustain that price tag or strong sale numbers, it’s a shame Nintendo went this route instead of offering it as a lower MSRP like they did with Endless Ocean 2, in order to get it into the hands of as many gamers as possible, and thus hopefully cause a surge in shoot ‘em up and rail shooter popularity. As a gamer, I’m disappointed Nintendo didn’t try to do this for S&P2, but from a business standpoint it makes sense in a sad sort of way.
So thumbs in the middle here, as S&P2 is a game I enjoyed, but it’s not a game for everyone and Nintendo didn’t try to make this a more enticing offer to North American gamers, which will inevitably hurt the sales down the road, especially since NoA takes forever to drop the price on their games.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 8/10
Control and Gameplay: 10/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10
Total Score: 63

Short Attention Span Summary
As much as I enjoyed my time with Sin and Punishment 2, I can’t deny it is in the lower tier of Treasure developed games. I mean, it’s not Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, Guardian Heroes, Gunstar Heroes or Bangai-O by any stretch of the imagination. However it is better than Bangai-O Spirits, Stretch Panic, Silhouette Mirage, or Tiny Toons Adventures. It’s a fast paced rail shooter, guaranteed to delight fans of that genre, or people like myself who love everything Treasure puts out that isn’t named Advance Guardian Heroes. For everyone else, it’s definitely buyer beware as the game is exceedingly cruel, even on the “Easy” difficulty setting, it’s not very pretty to look at, and gamers just don’t seem to enjoy rail shooters anymore as the sales for Dead Space: Extraction and Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles have shown. The gameplay however is some of the best you will find on the Wii, and that in itself is reason to try it, even if it’s not something you’re going to purchase. My best advice is to download the first S&P from the Virtual Console and if you like it and feel you’d pay two to three times that for a sequel, than run on down to your local game store and pick this up.

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