Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies – Wii

Already out in Europe and due out in the USA on 27 June, and no doubt covered in US mags by now, I thought I’d share my early Euro views on this stunning gem from Treasure. (also, check out that awesome reversible cover art)

Despite owning the cartridge I wasn’t able to play the original Sin and Punishment on the N64 until it was released on the Wii’s virtual console. When I did it was an incredible experience, reinforcing my belief that Treasure is one of the best developers in the industry, with an incredibly precise understanding of good game mechanics.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I saw a UK advert for the release of Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies on Wii, where for a rare change Europe received something nearly two months before the USA (well, there’s also Disaster and Another Code R – but it’s not a common occurrence).
Being a proper, old-fashioned shooter, mixing on-rails with 2D hori gameplay (think the original Starfox meets Forgotten Worlds), a lot of people on forums have commented on wanting to wait for a price drop. Personally I traded in some games to buy it at full price and show support for such a maligned genre – games like Uncharted 2 and Modern Warfare, with their slick production values and 60+ hours of gameplay, receive more than enough first-week sales, and it’s sad to think that this, which is technically very accomplished, is likely to be overlooked not just because of the hardware it’s on but also its genre.


The story is basically: alien Girl with a tail (Kachi) is hounded by flying Bad Dudes (elite human soldiers called the Nebulox), while being protected by unnaturally powerful Boy (Isa – formerly a Nebulox henchman sent to kill Kachi). Throughout there are several semi-romantic interludes between Girl and Boy, which are interrupted by the Bad Dudes, whereupon Boy promptly saves Girl, until eventually Girl ends up inside Boy... Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound quite right.
My manual was in French so I lost all the backstory, but it’s set some time after S&P on the N64, with Isa being the adult version of the boy you protect on the New York subway train in stage 3-3’s 10-years-in-the-future-flash-forward, who turns out to be Airan and Saki’s child. Kachi in the Wii version doesn’t seem to be directly related to either Kachua or Achi from the first game – though presumably is a similar alien entity to Achi. Who knows?!
Stylistically and thematically the game is extremely reminiscent of the Panzer Dragoon series – and not just because of the on-rails comparisons. Taking place on Earth IV, the world is described as having been ruined by mankind, and is now roamed by synthetic creatures which act as the planet’s immune system, wiping out perceived threats. Stage 1 is a decayed city infested with swarms of flying creatures, and crab-like animals scuttling over buildings amidst human survivors. Stage 2’s underwater tunnels meanwhile are strongly reminiscent of the Ruins of Uru, Stage 4 is like Zwei’s forest stage, while Stage 5 has you flying over a desert highway battling mutated creatures. Stage 6 actually seems like a homage to the Lava Stage in Konami’s Axelay – which might or might not be a cute reference to the two companies’ former connections.
I’ve often read people saying that with a shooter story is unimportant – but I don’t like this view. Although the story doesn’t impact the gameplay mechanics, which has always been Treasure’s strong-point, the company has also always done very enjoyable videogame stories. Take the Love Love Dancing scene from Gunstar Heroes, or the silliness of Dynamite Headdy’s theatrical stages, or the complexity of Radiant Silvergun’s time-travel shenanigans. These are always cool. Although never essential, a Treasure game just wouldn’t be a Treasure game without a funky story (which is why I absolutely hated Bangai-O Spirits).


Move character, move cursor, jump, shoot, charge attack, melee, dodge and manual lock-on – these are your controls. You’re able to control either Isa or Kachi, which alters the cut-scenes ever-so-slightly. Isa has a powerful charge shot, while Kachi has an auto-lock which proves more hindrance than help, and instead of a splash-damage charge shot can manually lock on to multiple enemies by charging. Both can dodge, which renders them immune to enemy fire, and both can melee attack which cancels out most enemy projectiles and rebounds several of them in the direction of your cursor.
At the time I thought the N64 iteration’s controls were sublimely intuitive, but after clocking the sequel the original seems clunky and barely playable. You can use either the Wiimote/Nunchuck, Classic Controller, Gamecube pad, or Wii Zapper. The Wiimote allows for some very fast and precise cursor control, since it acts like a lightgun, but I also found that some bosses benefited from using the GC pad (my preferred control method throughout). The game allows you to switch between them mid-game, though, which is awesome.
What I love about this game is that it’s not just pure into-the-screen shooting, and like many Treasure games mixes in other genres. In several stages the game switches to a side-on-view with you able to fire in 360 degrees, as well as into the background, giving it the feel of old scrolling shmup Forgotten Worlds. Other stages directly copy Senko no Ronde/Psychic Force’s floaty melee combat, while one later boss suddenly turns into a 2D Street Fighter-esque beat-em-up with you handcuffed to your opponent.
In many instances there’s a beautiful dynamic between aiming and shooting at background elements, while at the same time dodging and melee attacking enemies in the foreground. Needing to concentrate on two separate planes of gameplay keeps the gameplay intense, and it’s tremendously satisfying when you hit the zone, dodging, rebounding missiles and tearing stuff up with a massive score multiplier and not a lick of damage on you.
There are 6 stages, but each is very long with several checkpoints and, assuming you play a perfect game, offer several hours of content. Though if you like the genre you should expect and enjoy replaying stages. Different difficulty levels alter various aspects of a stage – for example in Stage 3’s floating factory, you have to manually shoot the mechanical laser barrier at the halfway mark on normal difficulty, in order to protect yourself, whereas on easy it moves on its own.
Normally when playing a shmup I view it as being either a score attack game, aiming for the biggest number as quickly as possible, or one of survival as you attempt to 1CC it. I normally ere towards the latter, even if means I end up with a very low score, which is probably a cognitive throwback to wanting my arcade money to last as long as possible. I had a bit of a score competition with a guy on a forum who clocked 84 million before dying on stage 4, and I was rather pleased to get 94 million by Stage 6. After someone told me they’d got 270 million by that same section, I decided to forgo score-attacks and return to my 1CC attempt.
There are opportunities for some really insane scoring through. Each time you hit an enemy your score multiplier goes up, seemingly slowing down after 10x, but with so much background fodder it’s easy to quickly hit 10x and then not too long after 16x (my highest, on stage 2). The trick is not getting hit, since this knocks it way down. But if you can finish a stage unscathed, you’re looking at potentially much higher than 30+ million (my highest was about 27 mill on stage 2).
Several sections in Sin and Punishment 2 are extremely reminiscent of Panzer Dragoon. Stage 2's underwater tunnel for example, reminds me of PDS' Ruins of Uru areas.

Another cool thing is the medallion system. Doing certain things on different difficulty levels will reward you with a medal worth 200k (normal). For example, shooting the stage 1 boss in the face with a full charge at the outset will net you a medal. The points though are only given if you get the medal and survive the stage, and the score isn’t affected by the multiplier, so it’s mainly for personal satisfaction, but it makes for a lot of fun trying to uncover.


There are infinite continues from the outset (making it easier than the original). Using one resets your score and takes you back to a previous checkpoint, which forces you to improve your skill at that section before being allowed to move on – which, according to one forumite’s comments, is better than Gradius V’s system of rewarding continues for prolonged play, which then act as invincibility and allow progress regardless of skill. Even so, you can credit feed Sin and Punishment and see the ending in a few hours.
For many this will incline them towards that price-reduced purchase – but if you like classical shooters, or Treasure games in general, it’s essential to experience and worth supporting. Personally I have so many games to play through, I don’t mind that I can practice and totally rinse it in a week of playing. It’s fun, challenging, and filled some really incredible set-pieces which you’ll want to replay. My favourite was Stage 5’s desert bike-ride, which sees you hurtling along at high-speed, passing explosive gas canisters by the roadside. The trick was to frantically attack nearby enemies while waiting for precisely the right moment to fire a single shot at the canisters, thereby taking out an entire swarm of fodder and boosting your multiplier.

The final boss disappointed slightly, turning into Fantavision, and the ending typically leaves things unanswered, but I still want to go back and clock it again. Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies is a triumphant hardcore hurrah for a system which is dead to the people who would appreciate it. A PSN/XBLA port is unlikely, but if it happened, I’d buy it again.
For further reading, let me recommend Tim Roger’s ActionButton review, which I think is one of the best things he’s written and full of panache. Also, check out this video interview with the extremely talented people who made the game. In a world where development teams are in the hundreds, I love how they proudly claim to have started on S&P with only 4 members of staff.

To finish off, I’m going to quote pieces of Roger’s text which, as he aptly put it, should really be on the American release’s back-of-the-box.

“. . . a veritable monster pancake stack of delicious, sticky frictions.”

“. . . the crunchiest, stickiest, most frictive game we’ve played in ages.”

“. . . graphical effects so freaky you’ll forget you aren’t wearing 3D glasses.”

“. . . the most fun we’ve had with our Wii since the News Channel.”

“It took Treasure to make a Treasure game.”

“Nothing short of masterpiecely.”

“. . . the “Sin” is breathing, and the “Punishment” is death by gunshot wound to the head-equivalent.”

“You are a guy with a gun.”

“The shit in this game gets way too real way too quickly. Get over yourself, and use the fucking Wii remote.”

“ABS: Always Be Shooting.”


“. . . pulls no punches . . .”

“. . . the scariest kind of straight-ahead run-and-gun shooter. . .”

“. . . the most teeth-grinding type of perfectionist boss parade. . .”

“big set-pieces . . . hearty, chunky, soup-that-eats-like-a-meal progression.”

“We love this game.”

“Huge Fun.”

“A pretty great game.”

“Very real, and not at all tenuous.”

“A desperate struggle of two dumb kids with laser guns against all manner of supernatural freakbeasts or bad-science robots.”

“Probably the first foundation building block of the Monument of Games to Come.”

“A bizarre, virtuosic, mishmash-collision of great ideas and terrifying filth, to be later lauded as a turning point in the creative development of some great figure to come.”


  1. Man, if Tim Rogers wasn't such a moronic, long-winded idiot, I'd consider reading that review.

    However, his column over at Kotaku, which, incidentally had nothing to do with gaming, about how much he hates living in Japan has basically made me vow to never read anything he ever does ever again. Ever. EVER.

    Regardless I'm super pumped to buy Sin & Punishment 2 on day 1.

  2. When I went to town yesterday, I asked at 4 different stores and all of them said it was either not out yet, 'sold out' or they weren't stocking it. Looking at their pitiful array of wii games, I nearly cried. Damn you Game, HMV and Gamestation!

    To be clear, they had alot of wii games, but the ones that good were either over priced (Mario Kart wii for £37?) or underpriced (Little Kings Story £7!!!). The majority of the games they had were the type that'd make ET ashamed.

    Now I either have to buy the game online right away, paying full price, or wait a while and hope the price falls like Little King Story's. Only danger is most good games just vanish (I've never once seen muramasa: demon blade).

    Though Sin & Punishment 2 is most likelyworth the full price anyway :D!

  3. >>> A PSN/XBLA port is unlikely

    I would say so, considering S&P is a Nintendo property ... ;)

  4. Anonymous, while not being overly familiar with the retail scene in the UK, wouldn't it be easier to just order it via Amazon.co.uk or somesuch?

  5. I was totally going to preorder this game before I read this, but now I'm going to preorder it today :). Sin & Punishment 1 was so incredible, and when I played it, I thought the controls would be PERFECT with a wii mote and nunchuck. So I was damn happy when I found out that they made a sequel. Are all of you guys at HG101 going to preorder this?

  6. I realyl love the completely nonsensical pictures in this article that are just barely related to what you are talking about ever in the fact that these other games are "shooters" as well. Don't see why theres the random panzer dragoon shot, or gradius, or the second forgotten worlds shot.

  7. Anonymous @ 2:26 AM

    What kind of a question is that...did you even read the article. He mentions both Panzer Dragoon and Forgotten Worlds. It makes sense to mix in some SHUMPs to help describe the feelings the game expresses.

    Will keep an eye out for S&P2 then.

  8. All pictures are relevant. The second stage in S and P 2, the underwater tunnel, is extremely reminiscent of the Ruins of Uru in PDS, specifically the pictured underwater tunnel from PDS. It follows the paragraph where I say as much - meaning you have in effect proven that you didn't read the entry.

    Most of my entries contain obscurely related images. This was my favourite, since I managed to get Benicio del Toro, a bra, and Spock in the entry!

    I suppose I should have put the shmups images in a more appropriate order, but I write the article and then place images in the paragraph breaks, as close to the mentioned games possible, but not always.

    Both Forgotten Worlds pics precede paragraphs mentioning them, and Senko no Ronde follows a paragraph mentioning it.

  9. Also, Gradius V was made by Treasure, so it's worth comparing the two titles because there are design similarities.