I have been wanting to write a new review for the Negative World for quite some time now. I have posted a few reviews of mine on the site, but they were all written back before we set up the review functionality here. I think my most recent review was for Resident Evil 4; not the Wii edition, the Gamecube game. As you can see, it has been awhile. And it was a tough decision choosing which game to use to break my born again review virginity with. Although there are recent games which I think are superior to Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (Super Mario Galaxy 2, for instance), when all is said and done, I decided to choose a game that deserves to have more attention called to it than it has received.
If this doesn't make you think of Gradius, I don't know what will.
My first experience with the Sin & Punishment franchise, as it was for many in the West, was the recent release of the original game on the Virtual Console. I bought it on a whim, hopped into it, and was instantly hooked. It reminded me a lot of Starfox 64, a game which, despite having several sequels, has never been matched since. Sin & Punishment was a bit short, and the controls were iffy, but I was instantly in love, and gave the game several playthroughs. When the sequel was announced, I had reservations as to whether Treasure could hit the same magic so many years later, but let my expectations get fairly high nonetheless.
Little did I expect the successor (pun intended) to surpass my already high expectations and then some.
So what exactly is Sin & Punishment: Star Successor? Well, the quick answer is that it is one part of the aforementioned Starfox 64 combined with one part Ikaruga (mostly the balls to walls nonstop action part), with a whole lot of Gradius boss rush thrown in for good measure. You can choose to play as either the boy (Isa) or the girl (Kachi), which have similar moves, with just enough variety between them to make it worth trying them both out. There is a story involved, but it is semi-ridiculous and often barely coherent, and the story bits are mostly brief and unobtrusive before they let you hop right back into the action.
Somehow everything becomes more badass when it is underwater.
For the majority of the game you play in a 3rd person perspective on rails with full control over your character, ala Starfox 64, although there is a ton of variety in how you play, including 2D sections, a vehicle section, and a couple of areas and bosses with control / perspective mechanics that are unique to them and them alone. There is also a ton of variety in the environments; you will battle across cities, underwater, in fortresses, even in outer space. There are a few control options, but I can't really see the point of using anything but analog to move and pointer to aim and shoot. The game is incredibly intense, and feels like an onslaught that rarely lets up. You are generally dodging and shooting at everything in sight like your lives depends on it ("because they do"), although you also have a melee attack which can be used both to attack enemies whom are near, and to deflect certain projectile attacks back at enemies. There are lasers and projectiles and all kinds of things flying all over the screen, environmental elements to dodge and destroy, hundreds, if not thousands of enemies per stage, and multiple bosses, with multiple life bars, often with multiple forms, with many of the bosses followed directly by another boss. Think the boss rushes of the Gradius games, but not constrained to a single stage. And unlike the original Sin & Punishment game, there is a fairly forgiving checkpoint system, which is a very good thing, because this is a super tough game, and you will be dying a lot (provided you play on medium or hard.)
Simply put, this game feels like the evolution of the intense action SHMUPs of the 2D era, brought into the 3D world in brilliant form.
One of the many bosses whom is large, angry, and totally inconsiderate of your basic survival needs.
The graphics are also pretty exciting, if not technically the most impressive, and fit the overall creative feel of the game. The music is fast paced and catchy, and keeps you coming back for more. Overall the presentation is very slick, outside of the aforementioned goofy storyline and the somewhat poor quality voice acting that often goes with it. And if you were a fan of the first Sin & Punishment game but felt it was a bit short, I have good news for you; Star Successor is significantly meatier, probably close to twice as long as the first game. High score nuts will also find an incredibly deep scoring system for both individual stages and the entire game, and online leaderboards which, despite a few annoyances in menu navigations, work very well (and due to the poor sales of the game, it is very possible to place high up in the leaderboards!) There is even a 2 player co-op mode, though the second player only controls an on-screen cursor for shooting.
I could go on and on, but in the end it comes down to the fact that Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is an incredible game, and way too many people never gave it a second glance. You probably already own Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M, and you may even have a copy of Monster Hunter Tri or Red Steel 2 in your possession. But if you pass on Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, you are missing out on not just one of the best Wii games of the year, but one of the best Wii games yet, period. It's that good. So get on it, son.