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Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
System: Wii :: Rating: Teen :: Players: 2
Genre: Rail Shooter :: Released: 27 June 2010

By Aaron Robinson
09 July 2010 Treasure had a lot to live up to with the sequel to Sin and Punishment. For various reasons, the original was initially a Japan-only release, but it still managed to gain quite a cult following in the West. It's one of the few Japan-only games to be released to the rest of the world via Virtual Console, largely thanks to that following, and it's not hard to see why; Sin and Punishment is a fun, fast-paced rail shooter that's filled with crazy, inventive set pieces. With the sequel coming a full 10 years later, on hardware that's a little more befitting the genre, there's a lot more potential for something truly awe-inspiring.

For most, the idea of a rail shooter would normally conjure up thoughts of games like Time Crisis and House of the Dead; you travel along a set path from a first-person perspective, firing at bad guys with a gun-shaped controller. What sets the Sin and Punishment games apart from most others is the inclusion of an on-screen character. Not only do you have to move a crosshair around the screen (either by using the Wiimote as a pointer or via the sticks on a GameCube / classic controller) to fire at enemies, you also have to worry about maneuvering your character around to dodge enemy fire. This makes the game feel a bit like a combination between a rail shooter and a shoot 'em up, and it allows them to do some pretty creative things.

For one, the camera shifts its movement method pretty regularly. One minute you're moving forward (handling things more like a rail shooter), the next you're moving from left to right (handling things more like a side-scrolling shooter). Some bosses even let you control the camera yourself by having the boss as a pivot point for your character to maneuver around. And then there are melee attacks, which give you the chance to deflect certain projectiles back at enemies and counter some physical attacks, a dodge maneuver that gives you temporary invincibility while you quickly reposition yourself, and a special attack that needs to be recharged after each use. It's a fair amount to keep track of for a shooter, but it's necessary if you want to survive.

And surviving is something you'll be struggling to do. With so many enemy types and inventive boss battles, be prepared to see the game over screen regularly. It's a good thing that the cost of failure is never that severe; checkpoints are regular, and unless you're aiming for a high score, there's no real cost to using them. It helps that the game has three difficulty options and can be played using a variety of controllers, so you can tailor the experience to your own abilities. (There's even an option to have a second player provide additional firepower.) Just be prepared for a game that's a decent challenge, even on easy.

For those that can put up with the challenge, there's a lot the game has to offer. You're constantly being shifted to new locations, fighting different enemies, experiencing crazy set pieces. The only time it really let's you catch your breath is in the calm moments between big battles. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun fighting bosses. The attack patterns are always predictable enough that you can dodge or counterattack them the first time, but varied enough that you're kept on your toes. They offer plenty of opportunities for experimentation, and will often reward you for thinking outside the box. Sure, I still died regularly, but whatever frustration I got from fighting through a difficult area was always dwarfed by the sense of satisfaction I got from finally succeeding.

The story is every bit as nonsensical as the gameplay. Playing as either a teenage boy (Isa) or girl (Kachi), you're tasked with fighting off an evil empire that's out for Kachi's head. Sure, there's more to it than that, but the story is so crazy and all over the place that it's hard to care. I guess there's only so much you can do to justify why you're fighting against a giant evil speaker system or cave-dwelling turtle monster. One thing I do appreciate is the lack of melodrama, which is surprising considering the number of twists and turns the story takes. The two characters take an awful lot in stride, and the story in general never takes itself too seriously. There's a certain sense that the developers knew that their game was completely ridiculous, and tailored the story appropriately. It's actually admirable.

If you're not the kind of person who immensely enjoys games like Metal Slug or Gunstar Heroes, Star Successor probably isn't going to change your mind. It's incredibly linear, short, and difficult. It also has some of the best set pieces and boss fights I've seen in a while. It never quite tops Bayonetta on the crazy scale, but it sure does come close. It's the perfect game to play when you just want to spend 10 minutes kicking missiles into giant mechanical monsters. And honestly, who doesn't like doing that?

Final Grade: 9/10

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