Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies (Wii) - Review by Chris
10 years after the original game was released solely in Japan, Western gamers could be forgiven for not knowing what Sin & Punishment was or what it was about. It quickly became a cult favourite, however, due in large part to the non-stop arcade action and the fact that legendary shoot'em up developers Treasure had worked on the title. With the original seeing a release back in 2008 on the Virtual Console and selling ridiculously well, Nintendo have once again teamed up to give fans worldwide another helping of Sin & Punishment in the form of a sequel. But does this Treasure game live up to their shoot'em up pedigree or is it shot down early on?
Sin & Punishment 2: Successor to the Skies follows the tale of two characters, Isa and Kachi, who've been thrust into their joint circumstance and team up to take on their adversaries. The story covering the game is largely moot, but essentially boils down to the characters running from and finally confronting the Nebulox forces who are hunting both of the characters down because Isa failed to carry out his mission to killed character Kachi. As said, the story doesn't play a large part in the game but it does slowly unravel through the many in game cutscenes which aim to clue you in on what is going on. It is at least easier to follow than the story of its predecessor, if only just.
Gameplay follows a strict on-rails setting but calling the game an on-rails shooter really would be a disservice to the nature of the game. While you control one of the two main character, with both being selectable when you start the game and a later option allowing both of them to be used during a single play through without starting a new game, the game moves along a set track, either into the screen or in side on sections. Throughout all of this, just as in the original game, you control your character with movements horizontally across the screen. However, in a change to this setup, you can now move your character vertically as well thanks to the jetpack and hoverboard used by Isa and Kachi respectively. As a result of this, the developers have been even more ambitious with the level design and enemies meaning you'll have to make use of both axes.
As you blast your way through the stages of the game, you'll encounter wave upon wave of enemies which you can either dispatch by your standard gun, which allows an endless stream of neon bullets to be fired in the direction of your on screen reticule, or by a tap of the d-pad which unleashes a sword swipe that can either destroy enemies or deflect certain attacks back at your foes. It's the same setup as used in the original and is still extremely effective in getting through the myriad of enemies you'll encounter.
Yet an all out offensive won't yield the best results. The game follows the saying that it's all about the multiplier and while going on the offensive and combining successive enemy kills will increase the multiplier bonus applied to the points you receive for destroying enemies or gaining medals, getting hit will result in that multiplier depleting. As such, you'll need to learn to dodge the onslaught of enemy attacks to maintain your multiplier. This will require going on the defensive occasionally and taking the time to watch for enemy attack patterns before making your move. But spending too much time in certain circumstances will result in a game over, because certain sections such as the boss battles are played against a ticking clock. It quickly becomes an imperative as you increase the game's difficulty and progress further into the story. And difficult the game truly is, especially on the higher settings but even on the standard ones you'll be tested. It's a trademark of Treasure games to test a gamer and only the hardest of gamers will be able to tame the highest difficulty settings.
A run through of the game and it's stage will last somewhere between 4 and 6 hours depending on the difficulty setting you choose, although you can even more time to this on the highest setting. That may seem short but the entire game is filled with fantastic moments and encounters, with the game punctuated by many boss encounters that continue to innovate the way in which the game plays out. The inclusion of online leaderboards as well further extends the play time of the game and while not quite as fleshed out as it could be, the two player co-op will certainly entertain for some time. When you add up all these things, the game really does have a good level of replayability and one that is definitely worth experience because of how good the game really is.
Many had noted from early on that the Wii-mote's pointer capabilities were ideal for a Sin & Punishment style game. Thankfully then, the developers have made this the basis for the control scheme, drafting in the Nunchuk to complete the setup. It makes for a natural and intuitive setup that suits the frantic nature of the gameplay perfectly and allows you to quickly move between targets and dodge attacks when things get rather heavy in the midst of battle. There are the odd occasional hitches with the motion based controls, occurring when the game moves into a side on section making shooting into the background a difficult and arduous task but luckily, these hitches can generally be overcome with a steady hand.
For those who would rather use a more traditional control setup, ala the original Sin & Punishment game, the developers have included support for both the Classic and Gamecube Controllers, both of which work well within the confines of the game. They do, however, feel slightly weightier than the motion controls making it a slightly more sluggish experience but they're perfectly manageable. The game is, however, better suited to the use of the Wii-mote and anyone playing the game really should use that setup for best effect.
Initial impressions of the visuals will garner a mixed reception. The introductory cutscene, and every subsequent one running after this point, runs on the in game engine but colours look washed out and things generally look a little blurry. It's strange then that when it comes to the actual game itself and seeing the sheer amount enemies and content that litters the screen, the cutscenes make up the worst of the presentation and even then they're not overly bad.
With any Treasure game, you should expect the screen to be filled at all times with wave upon wave of enemies and this sentiment remains true here. Throughout every stage you'll play through, the screen is constantly filled with enemies of varying sizes and luminescent attacks that glow like a neon sign. All of this of course takes place within various locations, from a decimated cityscape to a haunted forest, and throughout all of it, it looks fantastic. Locations look great and continue to stay fresh throughout the proceedings providing some unique environments through which you'll blast your way to the end boss.
Character models, those of the two main characters Isa and Kachi and the enemies, are superbly created and the quality of them remains extremely high even when there are waves of them on screen at any given time. From standard human troops to underwater serpents to large scissor kicking robots, the amount of imagination having gone in to creating the enemies is truly remarkable and the point is further brought home when you encounter the boss characters, which are gargantuan in size and really show how unique an experience the game is visually. And with all of this, the game maintains a steady frame rate throughout, bar the very rare occasions where things do slow down slightly due to the on screen anarchy.
Audio comes in the form of some techno infused and synth heavy beats which bound along beside the gameplay. While it may not be capable of standing amidst some of the music from Treasure's other titles, noticeably Ikaruga, it still manages to carve an inlet for itself and suits the action extremely well and does have some catchy and noteworthy selections that'll make you want to replay sections just to hear them.
The game also features fully voiced characters to take you through the plentiful in game cutscenes. It's of a decent standard but the scripting does lead to some strange dialogue sections and coupled with the delivery of them, they do feel cringe inducing.
When Treasure is involved in a shmup title on any console, gamers immediately take notice and luckily for Wii owners, Sin & Punishment 2: Successor to the Skies doesn't dampen their pedigree in the genre. The game showcases Treasure at their best, cranking out high octane gameplay that innovates at almost every turn and requiring the player to learn patterns and have lightning quick reflexes if they want to proceed through any part of the game. Some may begrudge the relatively short run time of the game and the mediocre co-op mode but these faults are minimal when you consider just how high the quality is of everything included on the disc and you'll be hard pushed to find a better game within the genre than this one right here. A must own for anyone looking for a true hardcore gaming experience.
Pro: Frantic gameplay that innovates and stays fresh throughout, superb controls, online leaderboards are a great touch, visuals are truly impressive
Con: Co-op mode isn't quite as enjoyable as it could have been, can be completed in a matter of hours
Final score: 9.1