A Treasure 3D-shooting masterpiece finally reaches the west.
Treasure is known among hardcore gamers for producing quality 2D-shooters with a sickening amount of detail. The company is composed of former Konami vets, so they know how to make great side-scrolling games. Gunstar Heroes is one of their most famous titles, but this classic fell under the radar due to it not being released in the U.S. Instead we got the so-so Mischief Makers for N64. Sin & Punishment leaves two dimensions behind and marks Treasure's transition to 3D games. Some games when going from 2D to 3D lose something in the transition, but Treasure gets everything right with this on-rails shooter.
As someone who played Sin & Punishment for the first time during the era of HD graphics and motion control, I can still appreciate many aspects of this game. Even though the graphics are dated, it has many things going for it. Sin & Punishment puts you in a state of shooter-bliss, much like high quality arcade experiences like Time Crisis. The game has an interesting premise for a shooter, and luckily, you can understand what is happening due to the fact that the entire game was voiced in English, despite it being developed in Japan. You play Saki, who appeared in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as an assist trophy. While facing enemies that threaten human existence, he ends up transforming into an entirely new creature, and eventually is betrayed by his former master. It is hard to follow all the details without English subtitles, but you can get the gist of the story from watching and listening to what happens.
Throughout the game, you will utilize a control scheme that takes awhile to get used to, but works great once you get the hang of it. With your characters you can strafe, double-jump, auto-aim (which is weaker than manual), and aim manually with the control stick. There are also more advanced techniques such as sword fighting and reflecting enemy projectiles. The shooting action can be taxing on your hand due to the almost constant use of the shoulder button on the classic controller, but it is a relatively short game, so the pain won't last forever. The game probably felt better on the N64 with the Z-Trigger, but you'll get used to the classic controller after awhile. In case you forget the controls or just want to practice, there is a great training mode that will let you test your abilities without having to worry about enemies.
Sin & Punishment has a short campaign--it will probably take you 1-2 hours to finish assuming you watch all the cutscenes and beat it on the first try, but it is a great experience that is definitely worth the ten dollars. There are multiple difficulty levels, so you don't have to worry about dying too often if you're a rookie. On normal, I was able to beat the game in a couple tries without too much difficulty. I managed to take care of most enemies with ease, but sometimes it was difficult to pinpoint the weak points of the assortment of the game's bosses. Maybe I am spoiled by all the in-game hints now days or obvious weak points, but sometimes it was difficult to figure out what to do when fighting a boss. This would sometimes quickly drain what few continues I had left. Still, it was enjoyable repeating levels to reach the conclusion, since the gameplay is solid.
Despite having a short campaign, Sin & Punishment has a variety of missions: you will take down aircraft carriers, move around pillars dodging projectiles while waiting for an opening to reflect shots back at your enemy, engage in intense sword duels, and fight a giant monstrosity, while in a transformed state. The boss fights are intense and varied, but the regular gun-fights are engaging as well. The aircraft carrier stage was particularly fun--you fight onslaughts of enemy fighter planes, and take down as many gun turrets and crew members as possible within the allotted time. One of the last stages of the game returns to Treasure's roots--you are basically playing a side-scroller with 3D graphics. It is a great ode to Treasure's games of old.
Sin & Punishment, like many other N64 games, looks dated today, but it still manages to keep you glued to your TV. Even though it is short, it is a game you can come back to over and over again and challenge yourself by playing on a higher difficulty level, and by using as few continues as possible. The game saves your high scores, so you can keep aiming higher while you're still interested. Treasure just announced that a sequel to Sin & Punishment will be coming to the U.S., so now is a great time to introduce yourself to this franchise. So what are you waiting for? Drop the ten bucks and enjoy one of the best on-rails shooters of all time.