For hardcore gamers, a new release from Japanese developer, Treasure, is a reason for celebration. After all, the studio is responsible for some of our pastime’s most beloved and sought after diversions. From Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, (and my personal favorite- Bangai-O) the Tokyo-based coders are known for delivering intense action titles which demand a player’s unadulterated attention. With titles which often feature swiftly-scrolling screen filed with clouds of malevolent sprites, Treasure’s output typically challenges the dexterity of even the most seasoned gaming veteran.
Recent Wii release Sin and Punishment: Star Successor shows the developer pursuing a wider audience. Although the game’s normal and hard settings task player’s with dodging massive amounts of screen-filling enemy shrapnel, both the game’s easy mode and liberal checkpoint system reduce the frustration associated with the title. Star Successor shows a kinder, more mature Treasure were an earnest miscalculation won’t force players to replay the last twenty minutes of their game.
A large portion of the title’s success hails from the Sin and Punishment‘s intuitive control scheme. Forgoing any superfluous need for waggle, the game uses the IR pointer on the Wiimote to aim an on-screen reticule. Players can send a steam stream of firepower toward an opponents with the ‘B’ button. A tap on ‘A’ can lock onto an enemy, at the cost of having a slightly less-powerful shot. A secondary offensive measure is available with a charged shot, which is especially effective against Star Successor‘s more robust foes. Taking a cue from Super Mario Galaxy, an additional player may participate, but their assistance is relegated to adding an additional barrage of blasts. With screens so busy with obstructions and enemies, adding another on-screen character might have pushed Sin and Punishment unsettlingly close to its moniker.
Unlike the game’s Nintendo 64 predecessor which confined the protagonist to a horizontal plane along the bottom of the screen, Star Successor allows players to traverse the entire playfield. In conjunction with the shifting camera perspective, players will be persistently moving around the screen, searching for a temporary shelter from the endless torrent of enemy bullets and environmental objects. Invaluable to the players pursuit’s is the ‘Z’ button, which allows an evasive maneuver coupled with a flash on invincibility. Additionally, players can initiate a melee attack, which can damage an encroaching opponent or send a projectile hurtling back toward a boss.
Despite a wealth of offensive and defensive measures, a bit of fatigue can set in during Star Successor‘s four to five hour campaign. Some of this tedium emanates from the game’s bosses, which when defeated, take new forms and are as persistent as a unpaid debt. Although the game throws out medals to collect, like Ikaruga, there’s a conspicuous absence of power-ups to augment the player’s arsenal. Some relief can be found be the incorporation of two main characters- Kachi and Isa, who display varied charge attacks. Action aficionados will be happy about the inclusion of leaderboards, as well as a stage select mode to practice their record-setting runs.
While Star Successor succumbs to sporadic instances of slowdown when the screen is filled, the game’s framerate is otherwise fluid. Each level has a unique motif- from deserted space stations to underwater tunnels, brimming with corresponding monsters and subtle environmental effects. While each individual asset in rendered in restrained detail, when the player is racing forward, and the screen is filled with a myriad of baddies, the overall effect can be gratifying.
With Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, Treasure presents a game that should appeal to both seasoned shmup enthusiasts, as well as more casual action fans. Like most of the developers previous titles, this game can be a cathartic workout that both prohibits the blink reflex and induces controller-crushing concentration. Those looking for a bit of healthy sadism- Sin and Punishment is your game.