Sin and Punishment: Star Successor

June 28, 2010 // Published by Matthew Blackwell

Treasure is a company with a long and storied history of making the best shmups on the market. Ikaruga, Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun and indeed the original Sin and Punishment are widely regarded as being some of the most highly sought-after games by hardcore shoot-em-up enthusiasts, so there's definitely some pedigree involved here.

So let me just simply say this: Sin and Punishment 2 is the best game that Treasure has ever made.

It's incredible that it got made at all, in fact. The original Sin and Punishment was never formally released in North America until 2007 for the Virtual Console. It was of course a cult classic before then (as most Treasure games are), but the fact remains that it was a huge risk to make the game at all. The Wii has a perceived crowd that this game supposedly doesn't have one for, but allow me to say that while it's hard, it absolutely fits the bill of being accessible to all gamers.

Allow me to get all technical for a moment. I know that when I review a game, I often (as with movies or books) attempt to use generic conventions as a template for how I'll review said game. For instance, if I'm reviewing a platformer, I have to analyze this particular platformer in terms of how it meets, exceeds, and/or defies its genre's conventions. So in terms of the third-person, free-roaming rail shooter, what was once my benchmark (Star Fox 64) has been shattered to a million little pieces by this game, mostly because of one significant development: the Wiimote.

The pointer capabilities of the Wiimote were tailor-made for this game. Moving your character around the screen with the Nunchuk and pointing and shooting makes playing the game extremely fun and intensely satisfying. If there's an enemy on the screen, you simply have to point and shoot. Simple. And compared to the original S&P's somewhat unwieldy control scheme (as it was on the N64, where unwieldy control schemes were de rigeur for the most part), it's simply the best way to play the game. People who are stupid could play the game with a Gamecube controller or the Classic Controller, but I'm here to say – don't even bother.

If this game just had satisfying controls, it could be just another WiiWare game like Zombie Panic in Wonderland. Fortunately, Treasure and Nintendo prove that they're still at the top of their game for crazy imaginative situations and epic presentation. The on-rails effect is used to its maximum potential here, with dynamic shots and inventive uses of level design. One level might have you hovering through a water pipe at maximum velocity, while another one might all of a sudden switch on a dime and be a sidescrolling shooter. Besides the somewhat ghastly player models, this is a game that is absolutely beautiful. The bright lights from the bullets, the well-rendered backgrounds and the absolutely bonkers enemies (such as a giant chicken that throws eggs at you, or a shaman in a dream-level – yes, this game has dream levels) all combine into something that I never thought I'd describe a shmup as: it's sublime.

This is a game in the purest sense. The story is perfunctory and incredibly hard to follow, and the game makes it abundantly clear that its highest level of importance is to provide only a semblance of context for the shooting to follow (this is also highlighted by a constantly flashing "Skip" button during all of the cutscenes, and rest assured – unless you're a fan of dense anime-esque storytelling, you won't be missing much). The plot follows Isa (the son of the main characters from the first game) and Kachi, some sort of android, and the dudes who want to capture them. Honestly, though, it doesn't really matter. What matters is the absurdly tight gameplay, and despite the fact that the game is over in about the fastest five hours you'll have ever seen, this is a game that will have you coming back again and again – this is no Call of Duty solo campaign, rest assured. It's got that old-school ability to have you come back simply to see a favourite level, or to top a best score. It's arcade-y, in the best way possible.

What 2010's lineup from Nintendo has been proving to me so far is that the company is more interested than ever in reviving older genres and essentially perfecting them to the highest degree possible. If there is any way to improve on the platformer genre from Super Mario Galaxy 2, for instance, my mind isn't able to comprehend that. The same goes for Sin and Punishment 2. While the shmup genre isn't as much of a favourite for me, there's no denying that (as far as I can tell) this is the best there is out there. A true classic.

(Here's a word of advice to you. I'd make sure to pick this game up and keep it in its packaging, and then maybe pick up a second copy for yourself. This is a game you'll treasure (no pun intended) for quite some time if you're anything like me, and Treasure games go for absurdly high prices on eBay years after the fact.)