The popularity of the original Sin & Punishment: Successor to the Earth is quite surprising when you think about it. The Nintendo 64 classic hit Japan in 2000, and never saw a Western release, yet in an age where few people relied on the internet for information cult gamers still knew everything about the game they'd never get to play.
Ten years later, and not only have we been treated to a localised version via the Wii's Virtual Console, but we're also seeing a sequel to arguably one of Treasure's finest run-and-gunners. But time can be quite the punishment – could the Japanese bullet hell masters of yesteryear still be able to pull off a quality title in Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies
? It's been a while.
I was able to put the game through its paces at the recent Nintendo European Summit, playing the first two stages using a Wii Zapper setup. The controls may be different, but ultimately the goal is the same – run along a set path while hovering, dodging, shooting and smart bombing absolutely everything you see.
Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies
puts you in control of a boy called Isa and a girl named Kachi. If Isa looks familiar, that's because he's the son of Saki and Airan from the first game. It's uncertain whether that's the only link between the two games – I wasn't told if the enemies in the sequel were Ruffians (genetically modified creatures that turned against humanity in the original game) or not, but they're certainly very similar-looking.
Just with the first Sin & Punishment
, the cutscenes are incredibly hard to follow the first time around, and with all sorts of distractions around me it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what was going on. But from what I gathered, Isa and Kachi are fugitives on the run, and all hell breaks loose once their spaceship ends up crash landing in a strange military base that seemed to channel elements of Shadow Moses Island from Metal Gear Solid
. No matter.
Using the Wii Zapper is certainly a step up from the N64 control pad, no matter how hardcore it felt to strafe from left to right using those infernal C Buttons back then. Instead, you use the more obvious method of the Nunchuk's analogue stick to dart about the screen at will. Pushing up will allow you to hover, and the Z button allows you to dodge – you'll be doing this an awful, awful lot.
The Wii Remote pointer acts as your aim, which becomes quite natural as you get used to it. The B trigger fires your weapon, but just like in the original Sin & Punishment, you can either hold the trigger to unleash all of your bullets or you can tap the trigger intermittently to have Isa swing his sword to slice up foes close-up.
For those who have never played the original, here's a breakdown of how Sin & Punishment: Sucessor of the Skies
works. Levels are played on rails, stopping every now and then to present you with a screen full of enemies. When this happens, you need to use all of your dodging and shooting skills to wipe them all out. Clear the screen with seconds to spare on the timer, and you get a score bonus and a multiplier.
As you proceed from one room to another you come across different enemies in larger numbers, as well as security drones firing lasers all over the place. In the introduction stage, you find huge beetle-like tanks that shoot rounds at you, while enemies with rocket launchers sit in the distance picking you off.
You can use the B trigger slash move to smack those rockets towards a nearby enemy and see them go up in smoke. It's quite the badass feeling. There's also a smart bomb that you can launch by holding the little C button on the Nunchuk, which can clear a vast number of enemies in a pinch.
After trying my hand at the opening level – which featured a (giant enemy) crab-like boss that required me to fire at the underbelly while avoiding lasers and rockets – I wanted to see how punishing Treasure had made this game. So being the fool that I am, I selected the next stage – or, the first proper one – in Hard mode.
Set in an open desert canyon, the action pretty much kicked up from pedestrian to overdrive the second control was handed to me. With chasing flying droids, huge face-offs with insect-style tanks and a dynamic camera swoop as enemies tried to flank me from above, it brought back similar stand-offs in the original Sin & Punishment.
And I was sucked in, big time. Super Mario Galaxy 2
was sitting across the hall from me and there I was, glued to this screen, planning split-second tactics to dodge enemies and create openings to fire into. Did I beat the stage? Did I, bollocks - but I got about halfway, that's good right? And my eagerness to try a second time says loads about how addictive this can be for the arcade shooting fan.
Of course, this might not be to everyone's taste – it plays on so many retro themes that you might as well be humming the tune to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
while playing it. But because of this, it follows the mission statement of the bullet hell shooter to a 'T' - simple to pick up, evil to master - the gameplay hooking you in either way. It's just what I expected from Treasure, and it seems that – if the opening stages are any indication – the studio's still got it.
Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies is due for release on the Wii on the 7th May.