The original Sin & Punishment for the Nintendo 64 never really made it to America when it first came out. It was a cult hit in Japan, but only a handful of people across the pond were eager enough to import the game. But after its successful localization to the Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo decided to let the West taste a few more bits of arcade shooter madness, and thus developer Treasure (of Wario World and Ikaruga fame) created the second game in the Sin & Punishment series, Star Successor.
Star Successor begins with main protagonists Isa and Kachi unexpectedly crash landing on a strange planetoid where everything seems to be out to kill them. The story itself is very strange and convoluted; it apparently draws many connections to the first game, though I wouldn't know since I, like many Westerners, never got to play it. I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but the game does explain everything about the story to you by the end, which, by the way, is amazing. But enough of story.
The game itself is played like an on-rails shooter. Players use the nunchuck to move either Isa or Kachi, and the Wiimote is used to aim and shoot a la Duck Hunt. There is an option to use the Classic Controller here, but I felt the Wiimote gave me more speed and accuracy, things crucial to the very fast-paced and actiony nature of the game. Aside from shooting, Isa and Kachi can perform a wide variety of moves including melee attacks, rolls (read: barrel rolls), counters, etc. What's impressive is that every single one of these moves are crucial to at least one part of the entire game.
Take, for instance, one of the early bosses in the game. The boss itself moves rapidly across the screen, inflicting heavy damage on anything that gets in its way. Thus, players must learn how to time their rolls correctly and use melee attacks to counter the boss right when it gets close. There are numerous instances of these, with many stages requiring players to use a specific combination of several different moves in order to pass the stage as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Speaking of bosses, the game's bosses are, for lack of a better word, epic. Huge enemies that require multiple strategies will often get in your way, and it may take several tries for you to find the right way to defeat them. But even though the boss fights may be fantastical, they are also ridiculously unbalanced. Some bosses seem unfairly difficult, while the next may feel ridiculously easy. Also, some bosses take absolutely forever to beat, while others may just take a few seconds. The difficulty is so inconsistent that it breaks the flow of the game a lot.
And speaking of difficulty, Star Successor is punishingly hard. I played through the "Easy" mode of the game, and I must say I'm never going to go harder than that. Those who want to breeze through this game will want to stay away; this isn't a game for pussies. It's hard as nails, to the point of it almost feels a bit unfair. Of course, hard games like this will result in a feeling of accomplishment when you beat it, which I guess is a decent trade-off.
But like the bosses, the difficulty seems to fluctuate widely, possibly because there is so much variety in the game. One part of the game requires players to race down a desert highway shooting down a giant sand monster that constantly jumps out from the ground all while dodging the police officers trying to shoot you down. Another part transforms the game into a shoot-em-up, requiring players to navigate tricky passages on a horizontal plane. There's more to be had here, and the final level of the game is honestly a joy to play through again and again (no spoilers, sorry!).
But what makes Star Successor stand out from the rest of the on-rails shooters is its presentation. First, the art direction is amazing. Yes, the visuals aren't in HD, but the game is simply a joy to look at, especially with all the particle and lighting effects that come with the action sequences of the game. Another fantastic part of the game is the music; each song is tense and fast-paced, which suits well to the nature of this game and captures the atmosphere perfectly. It's kinda like watching a high-action movie, except with very Japanese monsters and a crazy story that doesn't involve hot chicks.
Star Successor also comes with its share of bonus features. If you have a friend, you can play through the entire game in co-op, with the second player being a second gun, making the game twice as easy (and possibly twice as fun, if you play with the right people). For those with no friends, there are online leaderboards that, for some strange reason, take forever to connect, but for those who value that kind of stuff it's there. But even with all of these, the game is a bit short; it takes about seven hours to complete the main campaign. For those who don't care for score attacking or co-opping, then there seriously is some limited value in this package.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't play this game. Despite its short length and crazy unbalanced difficulty, those who pull through will get to play possibly one of the most innovative shooters of this generation. The story is charming, the gameplay is full of variety, and the boss battles are, though seemingly unfair, a joy to fight through. Usually, I'd say the end is the reward for pushing through. For Sin & Punishment: Star Successor though, the journey is the reward. Don't pass this one up.
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