Treasure, creators of Gunstar Heroes and the classic shoot 'em up Ikaruga, developed a Nintendo 64 game very late in the console's life. So late, in fact, that an American release was skipped entirely, and it wasn't until the Virtual Console that it found its way to the US. The game was Sin & Punishment, and while it took years for a proper release outside of Japan, it still found its way into the hearts of gamers, and is often referenced as a forgotten gem of the generation. Now, ten years later, Treasure returns to the beloved franchise, with Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for the Wii.
The reason for Sin & Punishment's success isn't because of the story, but the gameplay, which provides a wholly unique experience. Calling it an on-rails shooter does it a disservice, as it definitely isn't in the same genre as games like House of the Dead or Dead Space: Extraction. Instead, it's more on-rails in the sense that games like Star Fox are, with the player controlling a character's movement along a set path. Where it strays away from this formula is on the controls; moving and firing are completely independent. This means that the player can dodge incoming attacks with the left stick while firing at enemies with the right, a task made much simpler thanks to the Wii's controls. While the option to play with the Gamecube or Classic Controller is available, it's hardly viable, and it's one of the few games that benefits greatly from the Wii's controls. While Move or Kinect might be able to support a game like it, neither system could, as of now, handle the gameplay of Sin & Punishment, at least not without some major changes to the gameplay.
And major changes to the gameplay would be a bad thing. A very bad thing. Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is a strikingly strong game, with some of the fastest, most rewarding combat the Wii has seen. The Wiimote allows for perfect aim, a tap of the B button will execute a devastating melee attack, and there's never any lack of enemies to attack on screen. For score junkies, building up the combo meter is simple, growing as the player defeats enemies, and resetting whenever he's hit. Being hit, though, is perfectly avoidable, thanks to the ability to fire and dodge independently. It works very well; something Treasure takes advantage of to the fullest with great level design, both visually and mechanically. Beyond flying at high speeds behind the characters, the camera will occasionally flip to the side, turning the game into something more akin to Contra. It's done without changing the core gameplay, which is remarkable in its own right.
Players start off by choosing between the game's two protagonists: Isa and Kachi. Isa, the son of the original game's protagonist, sports a jetpack and a powerful lock-on bomb, while Kachi zooms around on a hover board and can charge up her special move to attack a number of opponents at once. While they share the same story and basic mechanics, the differences between their special attacks are apparent, and make for different strategies when the game's frequent boss battles occur. Very, very frequent. Players should expect to encounter five or six bosses per level, with the final enemy usually being followed by a larger, meaner opponent with a few different forms to deal with. By the time the credits roll, Isa and Kachi have battled dozens of bosses, from giant turtles to lava-faring nuclear submarines, each bringing unique experiences.
While on the subject, the credits do roll a little sooner than expected. Players are looking at around six hours of gameplay depending on skill level, a time that can either be much higher or much lower depending on the difficulty the game is set on. Treasure is known for making extremely arduous experiences, and Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is no different when played on even the medium difficulty setting. Thankfully, frequent checkpoints keep even the harder modes from becoming too frustrating, and the reward for playing through on Hard should be more than worth the effort for those who want to climb the game's leader boards.
On top of that, a second player can jump in and add support, though, sadly, it's limited to just that - support. As was the case in Mario Galaxy, player two is just an aiming reticule on the screen, which will likely disappoint players who thought that it would include full-blown co-op. To be honest, there's really no reason it doesn't, as there are few instances in the story where it looks as though two characters wouldn't have been able to fit. The two characters are actually together for a vast majority of the (nonsensical) story, and the few instances of separation could have been written around.
Don't be intimidated by the fact that it's a sequel to a game you likely haven't played, a title by the punishing developer of Ikaruga, or by anything else that might keep you away from Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. For those willing to give it a chance, it will take no time at all to realize that there's a remarkable gem of a game inside the box, and one that should be experienced by every Wii owner. For fans of the series, it's a brilliant sequel, more fantastic than they likely ever expected to see. For everyone else, a purchase can't be recommended enough: it's a game you won't want to miss.