Infendo previews the beautiful, constantly surprising Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

Infendo

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At the 2010 Nintendo Media Summit, there was nothing on display – not even the behind-closed-doors demonstration of Metroid: Other M – that looked quite as good as Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. Every other game I sampled due to curiosity or a sense of duty; but with Sin & Punishment 2, the reason I chose to play was because I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen.

The rainbow of brightly colored projectiles, beams and explosions, the fluidity and grace of the character animation and the huge quantity of detailed foes on screen made other Wii titles on display look drab by comparison, and the screenshots you’ll see here don’t do the game justice. Graphics are hardly the only reason to be excited about Star Successor, of course. But for those to whom “Sin & Punishment” sounds more like the title of a Nietzsche book than a video game, let me digress: “Star Successor” is the long awaited sequel to Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Earth, Treasure’s famous Nintendo 64 rail shooter, published in Japan in the year 2000 and finally released in North America for the first time, three years ago, on Virtual Console.

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By 2007 standards, Successor of the Earth was ugly, blocky and pixelated, with sub par voice acting, difficult controls and a story that was practically impossible to follow… but a game that took a place in gamers’ hearts nonetheless for providing a 3D shooting adventure filled with so many diverse enemies and angles of attack that no two moments, and no two playthroughs, felt quite the same.

Needless to say, a decade later, much has changed.

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But much, including just about everything that made the original game a joy to play, remains the same.

While Nintendo representatives were close-lipped about Star Successor’s story, I was able to discover that it revolves around a pair of male and female protagonists, Isa and Kachi, who are both playable characters with markedly different combat styles. Isa – the son of the N64 title’s Saki – is originally sent to track down and kill Kachi on a desolate planet, but has a change of heart and teams up with her instead, beginning a daring attempt to escape the massive army and elite members of the organization that sent him.

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Make no mistake, that army is vast, featuring wave after plentiful wave of enemies and “dozens of bosses” according to our helpful Nintendo rep. But like Saki before them, Isa and Kachi are equipped with powerful laser cannons and melee weaponry to combat those foes, and new tricks up their sleeves to boot.

As in the original Sin & Punishment, stages progress automatically, on rails, while control over the characters aiming, weaponry and movement is left to the player as they attempt to take down everything in their path and achieve the optimal score. But unlike the original, the controls to do so have been greatly streamlined, and neither Isa nor Kachi have to run and jump through frustrating platforming segments – instead, using a glittering orb-like anti-gravity device and a hoverboard respectively, they can float, dodge and fly through the air.

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Though the game supports the Classic Controller, GameCube pad and even the Wii Zapper, the Wiimote/Nunchuk combo was the one on display at the Nintendo Media Summit. I can imagine why: it not only directly parallels the contraption Isa himself wears, but also feels fantastic in practice by completely relegating defensive and offensive duties to either hand. Movement is entirely controlled by the Nunchuk, with the analog stick controlling walking and flying with precision, with the Z button used to perform a quick air dodge or roll in any direction when your character is grounded.

Meanwhile, weapons are entirely on the Wiimote, where aiming is easily achieved with the IR pointer, target lock-ons performed with a press of the A button, and both cannon fire and melee moves activated by the B trigger by default. Fans of the original game will note that where melee attacks used to be contextual – Saki would slash an enemy if they were close enough, instead of shooting – here melee combos can be dished out at any time by tapping the attack button, allowing for greater flexibility in combat.