Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
7th May 2010 | 11:16
We're sure we remember a time when shoot-'em-up kings Treasure publicly decreed that they weren't in the business of making sequels, or porting games to other platforms, or in any way revisiting concepts they'd used before.
Such was their inventive frenzy, there were more ideas floating around their studio than they had time to implement. Witness legendary shape-shifting Gunstar Heroes boss Seven Force, for example - people say he was originally intended to be Seventy Force before sanity kicked in and the developers' ambition was scaled back by 90%.
Maybe their studio is no longer the creative equivalent of Bullet Hell, but Treasure's newfound maturity hasn't dulled their imagination or tempered their appetite for the insane. Instead, we're treated to an expert reworking of one of the best things they've ever made.
Sin & Punishment on the N64 needs little introduction, especially since this former limited edition, Japan-only game is available to download for peanuts on the Wii's Virtual Console.
Star Successor, as the sequel is known over here, takes the bare bones of Sin & Punishment and fuses them with a natural, intuitive Wii remote control system that clicks almost perfectly. It always felt like a lightgun game on the N64, and now that we've got this super responsive controller on Wii, it pretty much is one.
The nunchuk is used for moving the main character around, with the pointer controlling a targeting cursor. It's so fast and accurate, you can target an enemy almost as soon as you see him, so the quantity of on-screen hazards has been ramped up to a massive degree. The poor old N64 would have ground to a halt under the weight of the swarms of enemies and the amount of ammo they fire in your direction in Sky Successor, but the swiftness of the remote makes it just about manageable on Wii. Maybe even slightly easier. To counter the likelihood that most enemies are going to get their faces pounded in the moment they dare appear on screen, there's a cooldown period for the lock-on targeting of the novice character, Kachi.
NEW PLAY CONTROL
On the N64 you'd switch between lock-on and manual targeting according to the situation, but here the more advanced manual variant is reserved for a separate character, Isa. Only after completing the game will you unlock an option that lets you swap between them during play.
Both characters can fly. In a game where there are often plenty of obstacles on the ground, you might think the ability to take to the air at any time would make it easy to avoid entire sections of cunning traps or watch enemy waves pass underneath. And sometimes it does.
But as in most Treasure games, the long-term purpose of Sky Successor is to mount an assault on the high score table. Once you've cheaped your way through a level a few times, you'll notice that your score rises rapidly while your character's feet are on the ground and stops dead as soon as you start avoiding the tricky stuff. So there's no chance of making any serious impression until you go out of your way to make life as uncomfortable as possible.
The real stars of the show are the bosses, at which point all bets are off. We were happy enough just to stagger past them at the fourth or fifth time of asking. If you can thrash them on the hardest setting while doing all the little tricks and flourishes necessary to max out your score, you'll probably get no pleasure out of it anyway, because you'll be a cool, emotionless robot.
Treasure have really gone all out on the bosses. The levels are vast, which means you'll usually come across one or two smaller bosses designed to whet your appetite along the way to the main event - maybe a giant chicken that rolls boulders at you, or a battleship that you'd have to zoom out half a mile to fit on screen all at once. Nothing too extravagant. And when you finally arrive at the end of the level, you can expect an arse-kicking of the highest order.
Sometimes it feels like a mini boss rush, as you whittle down multiple health bars and uncover further transformations - maybe Three or Four Force. There's a proper full-on boss rush at the end of the whole thing, of course, and we suggest you invite a friend or two over to keep you fed and watered during this remote-wielding marathon.
There's actually a two-player mode, which was something we were excited about before we played the Japanese version a few months ago. Unfortunately, it's not as interesting as it could have been, since the second player only gets to move a cursor around the screen. It's not something we'll bother going back to.
Replayability is possibly not quite as good as the N64 original, since the levels here are three or four times the size and require a much bigger commitment of time, energy and concentration. Surprisingly for a shoot-'em-up, particularly one by Treasure, it's not really a pick-up-and-play sort of thing.
However, the online leaderboards go some way towards adding a fresh incentive to revisit levels you've already seen a few times, and the visual design is just out of this world. We've added a point to the graphics score we gave the import version, as it's hard to see how it can ever get much better on Wii.