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Alexandre Guimond

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor review.

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Treasure has always had a reputation for high-quality games. The company fan-base is devoted, and highly protective of the titles it has released in the past 15 years. Few video game developers are able to carry on a legacy that maintains a certain level of respect and acclaim from the critics. Every company has their prime, yet it seems like it’s really hard for some to keep them. Treasure, however, is an interesting case when we look at their library of games. Most of their titles are action-adventures and Japanese-styled shooters. Not that it’s entirely unappealing to the western market, but it’s definitely harder to promote such genres to a foreign player base.

One of the few advantages Treasure has over many other developing teams is that most of their games have attained cult status or are revered as being some of the finest games in their respective genres. Ikaruga, Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Bangai-O and Guardian Heroes are the prime examples; these games have retained a high-value along the years, and due to their rarity, are hunted by many collectors alike. Not only are they expensive, but they also are very good. Most of these games would have been doomed to be forgotten ,but North American players, have kept the Treasure name as a stepping-stone of Japanese video game design. The company is a synonym of excellence, challenge and uniqueness.

Staying truthful to this legacy Treasure has released Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, ten years after the original release on the Nintendo 64. Although that it become a classic title for Japanese players, Americans would only discover Sin & Punishment on the Wii Virtual Console, many years later. Now that the sequel has made the jump across the Pacific, us gaijin players can finally enjoy the complete package, with Star Successor being the latest game in the series.

Sin and Punishment 2 is a strange case to criticize. Its foundations are embedded from many classic titles such as Space Harrier, Star Fox, and the most recent Senko No Ronde. Even though it takes a lot from already existing franchises, Star Successor is very different in concept than it may appear. The game is part rail-shooter, part shoot’em up as well as part fighting game in some instances.

Star Successor mostly centers itself around boss encounters, which are all different and original to keep things going. They require different tactics, have distinct patterns (bullets, or melee attacks), which use all the various styles of play mentioned above. Some pack a serious punch, while others are laughably easy. In between the boss fights, you'll go around a very linear path, packed with enemies that aren’t incredibly difficult to beat either.

That’s certainly one of the most annoying and reassuring things about Star Successor. It is first and foremost annoying because there isn’t any sense of challenge in those parts. With some exceptions thrown aside, they just are made to build up your combo meter. It might be appealing to some zealous players (desperately in need, to have their nicknames on the scoreboards) ,but for many like me, it’s about having fun.

On the other hand, in between boss fights you’ll know that you can relax (more or less), and prepare for the next encounter. It’s hard not to make Star Successor sounds as hard as it already is, but one thing's for sure: you’ll probably have a jolly good time playing the game.

However, the big issue with the difficulty in the game is you can literally abuse the dodge button, which makes everything much easier. Having this ability doesn’t break the game per se, but it does let you take advantage of a somewhat broken system. Of course, the screen is practically covered with bullets and foes at all times. The main problem here is you cannot survive the waves of enemies thrown at you in any reasonable fashion. It also means that if you play on Normal or Hard difficulty, you will have to use the dodge button all the time.

As is the case with most Shoot’em ups, the game is incredibly short. But, Shumps are made so that the players can compete for their scores. At the same time, the game offers a high replay value. It’s not essential to the experience, but some players like it that way.

The huge problem Star Successor has is the brutal difficulty of some bosses. Some encounters are down-right insane; even if you play it at the best of your ability, you will probably hit dead-ends and curse at your monitor for putting such robotic and artificial challenges in the game. Not that it’s impossible, but the game is extremely difficult in many other aspects. The isometric perspective makes it that all your opponents in the background are shooting at you, from that point of view. Recognizing bullet patterns is extremely hard and unnatural: It’s totally inaccurate, and depending on your ability to differentiate background colors from bullets, it will make the color-blind in you crawl under a bed. Sin and Punishment 2 appropriately titled as such because it has no shortage of punishment. This game is hard, really really hard.

If we judge Sin & Punishment entirely on its gameplay, the game is great. The mechanics are simple, yet kind of broken; but, they work fairly well for what the game throws at you. You have access to a lock-on system (that let's you fire charged shots), melee attacks and your stream of bullets. All of this shouldn’t be very foreign to fans of the genre and even for new comers, it’s easy to pick up and understand how it works.

It’s not surprising either to think that in a lot of instances you’ll find yourself begging for faster controls. As responsive as they might be the slow movement of the aim, is caused by the analog controls on the Classic Controller.

The Wiimote and Nunchuk set-up is imprecise and trembling, since your hand will be the guide for your aim. The Gamecube controller has to be the worst set-up ,using pressure on the R button in order to choose which attack you’ll do. You can customize the controls in the menu, but if you are stubborn and lazy, you will use the classic controller. Everything on it is mapped appropriately and you won’t have to use any other controllers, until the final boss. Due to the slow movements of the analog controls you won't be able to beat it without the Wiimote. Overall, the classic controller is the best.

It comes to show that even the best games on the Wii suffer from the motion controls craze. While on the other hand, the classic style of play doesn’t work in certain parts of the game. You know at this point, that there’s something wrong. If you have to play the game, by all means use the Classic Controller.

Sin & Punishment is another underrated Treasure shooter, that will most likely attain cult-status in a couple of years. It’s the same principle as its prequel on the Nintendo 64, with refined controls as well as a more polished design. Despite these changes, the game is still crippled by bad control schemes, especially during boss fights and it is really confusing and hard to tell when bullets are actually coming at you. Only the best players will be able to have the full experience from the game. It doesn’t remove the charm and uniqueness that Star Successor has going for itself, but it’s really hard to recommend this game to anybody, unless they are fans of the genre.

Alexandre Guimond
Assistant Editor

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Updated 06-09-10 at 07:39 by SteveSawyer

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