I admit, as much as I love my Wii, I don’t get a lot of time on it. It’s always one of those things where the potential is so much greater than the actual results, especially with third party offerings. Combined with a ton of shovelware for the expected “kids have no taste, grandmothers don’t know better” market I’m always wary.
Sin and Punishment:Star Successor completely bucks the trend.
The name, of course, screams “weird Japanese RPG”, and while it’s definitely got the first two parts covered, the last couldn’t be further from reality. S&P:SS is apparently the sequel to Sin and Punishment. I know, shocking. It was a Nintendo 64 title released only in Japan, and recently enough via WiiWare in the US, and that’s all I know about it. That’s all that matters for backstory. What the game tells you is that you’re in the future, you’re under attack, and some bad people are after the girl who looks, but naturally isn’t, human. So you shoot them.
S&P:SS is a rare new entry into the behind the back shooter, one that never saw a lot of games even in its arcade heyday. All I can think of right now would be Cabal, Nam-1975, Dynamite Duke, and Blood Bros, maybe the Space Harrier games can count. The genre was and is obscure, partially due to being at home brutally punishing players, demanding quarters from them regularly, and this new entry is no exception.
Sin and Punishment demands a split focus of players, making it a demanding exercise to begin with. The player avatar is always on screen and under attack, making step one protecting yourself from damage. Step two, kill everything. Traditionally the cursor and player avatar have been linked on a joystick, but the Wii has either the option of playing a dual stick style, or the more natural analog+wiimote style. It’s the same core gameplay as before, with a spectacularly streamlined control mechanism. It lets players dodge and aim in different directions for once, something that always pulled the genre down.
But the developers, Treasure, love to kill their players, and they take advantage of the new options. Whereas old games of the genre only had movement left or right, this one eschews the Galaga slide for four axes of movement, each one essential to survival. There’s a helpful inclusion of a lockon mechanism, which keeps shots true to the target but lowers their power, allowing players to worry about surviving the assaults first and foremost. Melee attacks have been added in too, which both are powerful and essential to survival in many cases, and have the bonus of reflecting projectiles. Missiles and grenades can be reflected, Jedi style, wherever the player is aiming or to their locked on target for massive damage, but managing the maneuver is always a challenge when energy blasts are overwhelming the screen.
The game’s intro level is a gentle enough affair, intended to teach players the basics, and it does so effectively, only getting a little more difficult at the boss fight. As soon as that level ends, things get cranked up to “ridiculous” even on easy, with what feels like an absolute wall of enemies, gunfire from all angles, and constant danger. Even as a genre veteran, the end boss to level one took me a solid 20 minutes to beat. There are always patterns and weaknesses to bosses, particularly level end bosses, but figuring them out and exploiting them is a real challenge. The same tends to go for mid-bosses as well, of which there are plenty, and they reappear as normal enemies later as is the traditional way of the shooter.
Sin and Punishment:Star Successor is a rare on-rails run and gun affair, and it’s absolutely brilliant. The action is non-stop, the pace is undeniably frantic, and the challenge is massive. This is a game that truly takes advantage of the Wii’s mechanics. The only real problem I had with the game is setting up a good control scheme because there’s so much going on at once, and because the default zapper setup is geared toward a wiimote and nunchuck. Once that barrier is overcome it all becomes smooth, natural, and a ton of fun. Break out the PerfectShot, Zapper, or Clone Blaster, stand way too close to the TV, and feel time melt away as you end up back in a 90s arcade.
It’s a Wiio-Geo game, and I couldn’t be happier to have found it.