Review: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

SinAndPunishmentWii.jpg Treasure, master developer of arcade shoot-‘em-ups, is back at it again with Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, a Wii sequel to cult-favorite N64 title Sin & Punishment. Don’t feel too ashamed if you’ve never heard of it, though, because the original only saw retail release in Japan before showing up as a downloadable offering via the Wii’s Virtual Console a few years back, and it never really achieved the fame and glory of other Treasure gems like Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga.

Only time will tell if Sin & Punishment: Star Successor has what it takes to go down in history with the undying reverence of Treasure’s other classics, but in the here and now it towers above the sea of Wii shovelware and casual-ized franchise titles as a triumphant return to the core gaming values gamers have grown accustomed to on Nintendo consoles.

Star Successor is a best-of-both-worlds fusion of “bullet hell” shoot-‘em-up action and traditional light gun-style on-rails shooting. You assume control of one of two different playable characters and proceed to shoot, fly, dodge and shoot some more through eight stages and roughly six hours (depending on skill level and difficulty setting) of screen-filling gun battles and insane boss face-offs. Your progress through each stage is guided, but as bullets and enemies swarm towards you, you have full control over your chosen avatar and can move him/her up, down and side to side within the scene.

Multiple control configurations are available for those who prefer using a Classic Controller or GameCube pad (or Wii Zapper), but the Wii Remote and Nunchuk really are the best tools for the job. Pointing and shooting with the Wiimote is smooth and natural, and all other abilities – moving, evading and jumping – are easily performed with your offhand wrapped around the Nunchuk.

I’m not a huge fan of motion control in my gaming, but when utilized properly it does make certain types of games better. And in this case, I greatly admire how Treasure implemented the control scheme. Too often Wii games are saddled with gimmicky gesture-based mechanics tacked on for no good reason. But in Star Successor there are no frivolous waggle maneuvers to slow you down. You point, you shoot, and you have a blast doing it.

The basics are easy to grasp, yet the gameplay is surprisingly nuanced with subtle attack strategies to master if you want to post record-breaking high scores. Clearing each stage and their many bosses involves typical pattern recognition skills and a lot of patience, but there are critical choices to be made when approaching each new encounter.

You can, for example, choose to lock onto enemies for guaranteed hits at the loss of attack power, or you can aim manually and inflict greater damage at the loss of accuracy. The evasion technique is key to survival as well, as it empowers you with momentary invincibility to dodge through any incoming attack. However, your character needs a second to recover after evading and becomes vulnerable during this moment of respite, so in certain situations it may be more effective to use melee attacks to deflect incoming bullets (some projectiles can even be swatted back at the enemy).

Star Successor doesn’t approach the legendary difficulty of an Ikaruga, but trust me, it is plenty hardcore. You will need to master these techniques and be willing to accept repeated deaths if you plan to succeed on the highest difficulty setting. Hell, even on the normal difficulty the game is still tougher than most, though generous checkpoint saves prevent die-and-retry frustrations from rising to red alert levels.

Variety is another thing that sets Star Successor on its path to greatness. Graphically, the game is detailed and runs at a smooth frame rate, but it also has a washed-out look to it that limits the visual impact. This weak point is compensated for by grand background scenery and ever-changing camera perspectives that keep your senses in a constant state of stimulation. Yes, you are flying and shooting the entire time, but the game never repeats a boss concept or sticks to a particular perspective long enough for tedium to set in.

Really, the game’s only low points are its flimsy story and dreadful protagonists, and those are about the last two things I even look for in a shoot-‘em-up – and that’s why games like this have skippable cutscenes! I’m sure the limited co-op play will draw the ire of some players too – sorta like Super Mario Galaxy’s co-op, a second player can point and shoot as a second set of crosshairs on the screen, but has no avatar to control – but it gets a pass from me because I honestly don’t see how else it could have been implemented. The screen is crowded enough with one player, so adding a second would be way too distracting. That’s my feeling anyway.

Even without the world’s greatest co-op mode, though, replay value is high thanks to the different playable characters, multiple difficulties, online leaderboards and a multiplier system that compels you to obsessively battle with yourself to best previous high scores. The Wii library isn’t the deepest in terms of hardcore gaming experiences, but with games like Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, Nintendo’s casual-slanted console continues to excel as the go-to platform for rail shooters.

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Pros:
+ Exhilarating shoot-’em-up action
+ Natural motion control implementation without a single gimmick
+ Nuanced mechanics and constant change of perspective keep gameplay fresh
+ Incredibly diverse boss battles
+ Extensive replay value

Cons:
– Graphics have a hazy, washed-out look
– Lame storyline and protagonists

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Treasure
Release Date: 6/27/2010
Genre: Arcade Shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!