Sin & Punishment: Star Successor Review

By Patrick Klepek - Posted Jun 28, 2010

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is an unapologetically balls-to-the-wall, did-I-just-see-that sequel to the Nintendo 64 cult classic. You have to know what you're getting into to enjoy what Treasure has put together, but for gamers who long for games to make a little less sense and embrace a little more zany, here you go.

The Pros
  • Epitomizes some of the best parts of old school Japanese design
  • Sometimes unbalanced challenge, but never impossible
  • Absolutely insane enemy design – so insane, it often doesn't make sense
The Cons
  • Not much for the second player to do
  • Most players won't have much reason to play a second time
  • Score mechanics are designed for high-level play only

The original Sin & Punishment is one of those games I'd always meant to get around to. It was one of many elusive Japanese-only Nintendo 64 games that were always rumored for a release overseas but never actually materialized. Nintendo eventually made good on that rumor years later with a Virtual Console Sin & Punishment release and decided to partner with Treasure for a second round of on-rail mayhem with the now released Sin & Punishment: Star Successor.

Not For Your Mom Or Dad

No one will accuse Nintendo and Treasure of catering to the casual market with this one. Everything about this game is happily, devilishly insane (and very, very Japanese). The game pulls no punches in being over-the-top and takes extreme pleasure in making absolutely no lick of sense. Every few minutes, Treasure is attempting to one-up themselves. Sometimes, you're fighting robots. Sometimes, you're fighting tiger-dragon...things. It's tough to find words to describe what's happening on the screen. This is, in essence, 3D bullet hell and players have to enter a certain zen state in order to complete some of the harder stages.

I'm someone who doesn't mind popping a game onto its easiest setting, if the game design's proving to be the one at fault, not my skills. Star Successor, however, is supposed to be an exercise in learning from error, a design trait largely absent from today's games. To succeed, you often have to fail. Treasure is one of the few developers still making games with an old school mentality, so I played this one on normal, knowing I might regret it. That regret sank in around the end of level four, with a boss who required such precision to dodge a certain series of attacks that I ended up turning the game off and returning later. Fortunately, Treasure's very liberal with checkpoints in their latest shooter, even instituting checkpoints between boss forms, which significantly decreases your time wasted.

Knowing that, Star Successor should really be renamed "Boss Battle: The Game." Sure, there are moments where you're not fighting multi-layered, screen-filling machines and hybrid creatures, but that's the bread-and-butter of this game. The sections where you're not fighting a mega-villain simply feel like a break from fighting the next one. Often times, it's hard to tell if you're fighting a mid-boss or a level-ending boss, simply because Treasure's gone all out with their designs.

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Put Your Regular Controller On The Shelf

Treasure has also offered up several different ways to control their latest frenetic shooter, but I can't recommend anything other than the standard Wii remote and nunchuck setup. The on-rails shooter is one genre that improves drastically as a result of being able to point directly at the screen, rather than holding down an analog stick and waiting for the reticule to finally catch up. There's support for the Classic Controller and Wii Zapper, but I don't recommend either of them.

There’s co-op support, too. I actually didn't realize there was an option to play with a friend until after the credits rolled. A second person can help take out the never-ending waves, but despite the game offering two playable characters, only one appears on-screen at a time. Instead, the second player adopts a Super Mario Galaxy-esque role, with the ability to fire standard rapid-fire bullets but without the option for charged shots. The second player simply exists to compliment the first player. It makes for a slightly boring experience as the second player, but when the level four boss had taken me out for the tenth time, I wouldn't have minded an extra set of bullets.

Sometimes, Hardcore Is Too Hardcore

Perhaps most mind-blowing about Star Successor is how many of the scoring mechanics were irrelevant to me. The abundance of checkpoints means you typically only have to survive a few minutes of gameplay before hitting a save point. But Sin & Punishment's basic scoring gameplay hinges upon maintaining a score multiplier throughout the whole stage. When you're injured, the multiplier decreases. When you die, it resets to zero. To achieve a respectable high score, that requires never dying. Technically, there are health packs hidden in the environment, especially so after a massive boss battle, but I often found them useless, as I'd always end up dying once or twice before figuring out how to progress further. Clearly, Treasure intends for hardcore players to play through this one dozens of times to memorize the game's layout, sharpen their dodging skills. Health packs and scoring chains aren't there for your typical players; they're there for the gamers who will be playing for months, maybe years, to come.

For me, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor provided a weekend's worth of balls-to-the-wall, did-I-just-see-that shooter gameplay, an art uniquely Japanese that's been lost in recent years. You have to know what you're getting into to enjoy what Treasure has put together. For gamers who long for games to make a little less sense and embrace a little more zany, here you go. This one's a meaty challenge.

Want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?