Reviews// Sin & Punishment: Successor to the Skies

Posted 1 Jun 2010 16:57 by
Sometimes you don?t need a story. Sometimes you just need a good mechanic, something that is more than enough to carry a player through a gaming experience. In boardgames (sorry, yes, I am a geek on more than one level) you?d call it an abstract ? an example of purity in games. No need for a theme plastered on, just a full-on throw-yourself-into-it ride.

Dear God, I wish they?d done that with Sin & Punishment: Successor to the Skies.

Let?s start with the history. Way back in 2000, Treasure was preparing its latest release. This is the dev team behind classics like Bangai-O, Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun ? all incredible games, some of which we were lucky enough to have released here in the West. Sin & Punishment was the team's latest offering for the Nintendo 64, and the import magazines were going mental over it. A fast paced, on-rails, bullet hell shooter that saw you trying to destroy anything that moved by firing into the screen.

Sadly, it never came out in the West, although I do remember seeing a copy in Manchester for 100, and watching the guy who owned the store get his arse kicked after insisting he was amazing at it. It did eventually show up on the Wii?s Virtual Console, and seemingly did pretty well. Good enough to warrant a Wii-exclusive sequel anyway.

Sin & Punishment: Successor to the Skies for Wii landed on my doorstep last week and barring a few cosmetic differences it?s exactly the same as the original. It is pretty much all I have played in the last few days. It has infected my dreams as I fly around futuristic cities, guns blazing. This game is ugly, annoying, difficult, terrible? and I utterly love it.

Let?s deal with those in order, first of all looking at ?ugly?. We all know the Wii is far from a graphical powerhouse, but it?s capable of making some beautiful games. Mario Galaxy is one of the loveliest looking things I?ve ever played, but Sin & Punishment: Successor to the Skies looks like the coders are still working on N64 platforms. In some areas this game is utterly hideous ? the cut-scenes particularly look jagged; dropping frames all over the place. Thankfully it improves a little in game, though there is still a little stuttering when the screen is filled with exploding enemies. For a game that requires precision, it really needs to be running as smoothly as possible, but I found myself letting it slide simply because I wanted to rip into more baddies.

?Annoying? is next. S&P:SttS is massively frustrating, but there?s a reason for that. You. You?re not good enough. If you screw up in this game you will be stomped upon, because even on the easiest setting you must always be vigilant. Bullets fly everywhere, requiring delicate movements on your part to avoid one without leaping right into the path of another. Push the stick a little too far and you?ll find yourself flinging the remote and nunchuck to the floor, blaming the game for doing you over yet again. It?s not the game?s fault though, it?s you, and you must know that. Perseverance will see you improve, getting that little bit further every time and, my god? the feeling of satisfaction after beating one of the bosses to complete a chapter? Immense. But you?ll pay for it the second you let your guard down next time.

?Difficult? is an understatement. Even on its simplest settings, S&P:SttS is far from a walk in the park. Playing it on anything more than the easiest level is an exercise in masochism. So, ramping it up to anything higher is strictly for the experts. If you?re someone who is au fait with the world of bullet-hell shooters you may well stand a chance, but for a noob like me? I?m sticking with the lowest level ? at least that way I managed to get through to the end of the game.

Finally, ?terrible?. We?re talking the old-school meaning of the word here, the version of terrible that inspires terror; that makes you feel constantly on-edge, adrenaline levels high, concentration pushing breaking point. S&P:SttS simply doesn?t let up, and will rip you a new one the instant you waver.

I hate this game. I hate the exhausted way I feel after managing to get through a level for the first time. I hate how having someone tag along when playing the two-player mode doesn?t feel like they?re helping you, just that they?re taking the points that are rightfully yours, because that is where the game truly comes good: the score attack mode. Going back and playing a level over and over to beat your best score by even a few thousand points is criminally addictive, while maxing out your multiplier as quickly as possible becomes the digital equivalent of chasing a new high.

Conclusion
The original Sin & Punishment was never a game for everybody. It was exclusive, one for those willing to spend large sums of money on something that would rile them, and so it?s the same for the follow-up. The story is dreadful, a pointless endeavour you?ll forget the moment the bullets start to fly, but it doesn?t matter. The graphics are often hideous, the music grating. This is a horrible but brilliant experience in equal parts, but I fear it?ll slip under the radar of many gamers, dismissed as another weird Japanese curio. Don?t let that happen. Try it, but be prepared for a tough ride.

SPOnG Score: 80%

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