Five Star Successor
The Original Sin & Punishment was an impressive game that suffered from poor timing. Released at the tail-end of the N64's lifespan and popularity, S & P was only able to generate a cult following in the United States which eventually led to an import release on the Wii's Virtual Console. Today, gamers are granted a small miracle as one of the most prolific developers of the shooting genre has released their latest work exclusively for the Wii console.
The modest Wii graphics are serviceable when it comes to rendering and animating dozens of creatures on screen at once. The art style embraces a futuristic alien look which is both heavily mechanical and cybernetic while at the same time appears organic and full of life. The character design for the two main characters is a bit questionable though. Both protagonists Isa and Kaichi are dressed ridiculously. One could make the argument that since they are both supposed to be infiltrating humanity and are not totally human themselves that they should look a bit out of place or that fashion is much different in the future. Still, its a bit of a disappointment that you cannot play as characters that look somewhat cool. Also, their pupils have a strange doll quality to them and look downright creepy at times. Fortunately you will be too busy firing at armies of grotesque monsters to notice what your character looks like.
You start the game by selecting whether to play as Isa or Kaichi. Isa shoots at whatever is aimed at manually and uses a charged shot attack to clear out larger groups of creatures while Kaichi's shots automatically lock-on to a single enemy and can charge up for multiple homing shots. The game does provide two player support, but since the game was designed for one character to be on screen, the second player acts only as a second cross-hair and not as their own independent avatar.
The music is surprisingly excellent. Each stage has its own score which complements the intensity of the firefights. Sound effects are crisp and provide audio cues for when to dodge or strike. The English voice acting is actually well done, It's the bizarre dialogue that will turn most audiences off. Luckily, the voices can be switched to Japanese which somehow makes even the most outlandish gibberish sound amazing. The story is confusing and absurd but at some point you will become so infatuated with the gameplay that none of the weirdness has a chance to sink into your brain.
Star Successor is a great example of how the unique Wii hardware, if implemented in a smart way, can have an advantage over traditional video game controllers. Players are given the option of using the Classic controller, Zapper or Gamecube controller, but none offer the kinetic freedom and accuracy of the default Wiimote and nunchuk setup. Using the Wii pointer to aim at enemies feels natural, like an extension of your arm, while the nunchuk maneuvers your character without forcing the player to take their finger off of the dash button. This setup allows for seamless execution that calls back to the shooting nirvana found in the original Sin & Punishment for the N64. Keep in mind that the Classic controller, Zapper and Gamecube controller can all be adjusted in terms of button placement and cursor sensitivity that fit your style, but nothing comes close to the sheer bliss of using the Wiimote and nunchuk.
The real beauty of the S & P games is their ability to bravely mix shooter genres in a way that brings about a whole new distinctive gaming experience. Star Successor is an on-rails shooter with the action constantly propelling you forward as enemies fill up the screen, but the game also utilizes third-person elements giving you the ability to navigate an avatar in order to dodge and counter attacks. The result is a visceral laser ballet filled with explosions and dead monsters. Boss battles take several tries to conquer. It takes time to not only learn their patterns but also discover secret weaknesses and counters. Most of the enjoyment of this game is derived from unraveling all of a tougher boss' secrets and seeing just how better you have become at playing.
Unlike its predecessor, the game grants the player unlimited continues. The first game allowed only so many tries before forcing you to start all over again. This may seem like an attempt by developer Treasure to ease the difficulty level, however, Star Successor uses a point system that awards bonuses for not dying and performing well. These scores are then posted onto an online leaderboard which ranks your performance against other players locally and regionally. This not only challenges players to attain the highest score possible, but also significantly expands the replay value of a game that takes roughly five to six hours to complete all the way through once.
Fans of the original Sin & Punishment will be floored by the graphical upgrade and how wonderful the new controls feel. Shooter fans who own a Wii will want to do everything in their power to find a copy of this game. The quality is as high caliber as any first-party Nintendo product and easily exceeds expectations of how motion controls should perform. Star Successor is an exceptional gaming achievement that bridges old school shooting with the technology of today.