July 3, 2010

Review – Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 12:58 pm

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Soldiers scramble through the ruins of a forgotten yet familiar city, finding footholds in crumbling buildings as swarms of genetic mutations fly across the skyline like scurrying schools of fish darting through deeper waters. In the foreground, futuristic helicopters and mobile infantry patrol broken stretches of freeway, filling the screen with missiles and bullets as Isa and Kachi make a desperate break for freedom.

Exactly why Isa and Kachi are on the run is unclear, along with the motives of the shadow organization pursuing them – staffed by ominous assassins who speak with the comfort of established relationships that forever remain a mystery to the player.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Attempting to seriously comprehend the narrative of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is an impossible goal, one destined to cause the wiring of the human mind to misfire like an aging Chevy. The sum of the parts Treasure has assembled feed from Sci-Fi memories and slipstream potential, patches from the company’s own history of niche titles fornicating with slices of early anime characterizations and scenarios to create the strangest experience to date – no small feat given Treasure’s long line of bizarre deviations.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

And yet if the player surrenders to the flow of waters rising within such familiar pools of cultural inheritance, there is no question that Star Successor is as clear as an unmuddied lake, Fred. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.

The game simply shifts all considerations to the play of design, exploring what is possible within the running-and-gunning rail-side slide of life, constantly finding means to mutate and evolve the play opportunities to match the bold Darwinian world at work upon this stage, one aptly brought to life by a true artist, Yasushi Suzuki.

And yet none of this bullshit matters. Between the spaces of insensible visual seduction that will bookend the works of Treasure, beneath the company’s trademark carnival of insensible sensory overload, Sin & Punishment is a game about controls. And Star Successor is about the player’s ability to tango efficiently within the alternate dimension Treasure creates.

There’s good reason for Nintendo to have pursued the development of a title that originally sought to make better sense of the N64 controller, returning to the hardest of the core gaming nesting grounds to produce a release that fits the original promise of the Wii’s control scheme like a well worn Powerglove. Stepping into the long shadow cast by Metroid Prime 3, Star Successor uses the WiiMote to chase the long sought dream of making the most intimidating of oldschool experiences accessible.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor

This lofty ambition isn’t met with lesser difficulties within the game proper, or by breaking down the complicated scenarios and patterns that fed teenage insomnia, but by simply eliminating the controls as an element of difficulty in the equation, removing that greatest barrier to allow the inherent challenge of the game itself to stand alone as the great and secret show we pay admission for. This doesn’t mean we’ll all survive the suicidal course with equal results, but it evens the playing field and puts the focus solely on the screen.

Taking aim with the WiiMote while evading patterns of fire with the Nunchuk, there’s every opportunity to eventually forget the controls that make it possible, getting ever so slightly closer to becoming one with the code. Suddenly the complex Treasure puzzle box is strictly visual, begging for you to participate in a higher level of engagement in opening the doorway to bullet hell.

What you get is a game that offers every emphasis on player improvement through constant sessions, built upon that forgotten art of pattern recognition and rigid commitment. Each time I return to Earth-4, I discover fresh ways to increase the score, spot a new pattern, affirm my own commitment within a title offering true layers of depth worthy of my study. That this increasingly allows for smoother action while performing incredibly slick and sick acts doesn’t hurt the game’s cause.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
Players race down deserted highways on a dinosaur and a hover bike while stealth bombers attempt to turn the sand to glass via a rain of fire. At other points players are asked to knock rail-cars loose to collide with a pursuing monster, invade a floating city, or fight a ninja master while scrolling upward through a reactor core and using defensive strikes to survive. By the game’s completion, players are asked to take on every weapon of mass destruction and monstrous creature design of unspeakable horror the imagination has to offer, finally launching into the depths of space for a final confrontation. All one can do is strap on the WiiMote as Treasure calls Konami’s bluff on owning the bizarre but mathematically precise, and raises the stakes by some number no calculator is yet capable of processing.

Anytime there’s a comfort in the pacing, the beat changes and the rhythm shifts – there is no comfort zone to set a constant pace for half interested passengers on this trip. Boss confrontations are a constant, as are the means by which they are survived – alternating between weak points for laser fire and projectiles the player can kick back in their direction, along with occasional opportunities to literally kick the boss in question.

Stages thematically hold together tight, but defy comprehension with all the shifting energy, creating the strangest pace of any Treasure title to date. There is no floor, there is no beginning, there is no ending, there are only several hours of the Treasure zone.

If anything, Star Successor is like stepping into the unchecked design mind of Treasure, free from doubt or hesitation, where every crazed idea finds space to exist, and where players can fall into fist fights after dodging missiles, or where a baby monster can suddenly spawn a mini-game between the unending waves of bullets.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
All the pieces are here to make this a complete guide to Treasure’s school of game design, which is to say that every trick we’ve ever known, and a few new slights of the hand are offered to round out an impressively lengthy run through the run-and-gun glossary of environmental obligation.

Star Successor’s quest to hit every note creates a strange rhythm, not inherently wrong for the stuffed offering, but unquestionably stranger as a result. Unfortunately the game’s multiplayer potential falls back to arming the second player with a limp targeting reticule not nearly so ambitious in earning as much co-operative love as I’d willingly lend it during late night solitary sessions.

It can all come across as the maddening song of a chaotic choir at first, but recognizing that charge beams and evasion techniques are not crutches, rather a means of conducting the score by connecting every note together leaves the deep impression of a precise and controlled symphony awaiting the player’s steady hand to orchestrate.

Selecting between Isa and Kachi tailors two styles that offer subtle yet significant differences. Kachi’s auto-locking aim offers a consistent hit count, but requires agile fingers to consistently relocate to smaller targets when locked on thicker enemies – Isa offers a free range approach that necessitates a manual lock. Kachi’s quicker cooldown rate and multifaceted charge shot lean heavily toward securing her as the easier ride at first, while Isa offers better odds of increasing and maintaining the score multiplier.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor
At the end of the ride, when players are left contemplating their victory and watching the credits roll over a starry background view of space, there is room to wonder where Treasure might be left to explore future endeavors. Such thoughts are my own deviation, not at all integral to the enjoyment of this release, but unavoidable as Star Successor ends on a unifying note that still manages to leave an unclear future ahead of both the protagonists and a favorite niche developer.

I wonder about that future, given Star Successor’s place as such a complete encapsulation of everything Treasure represents for me to date – so complete that the parting serenade during the credits seems to close the book on one set of experiences, and suddenly offer so much more potential for where they might begin exploring new territories.

Nintendo’s eagerness to appease has created a space Treasure fills with every play from their code book, where everything typically falling to the cutting room floor has been polished and used to fill the kitchen sink that is Star Successor. Towing along a strange sense of the merciful toward players of varying skills, those hungry for higher scores as well as those seeking to simply take in every sight available, doesn’t hinder the formula, but rather invites more eyes to feast on a masterwork that serves as much as a foundation pillar for the industry as a landscape where untapped and bolder ideas are still being discovered.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (Sin & Punishment 2)
System – Nintendo Wii
Release Date – June 27, 2010

*A copy of this title was purchased by Gamesugar for review


  1. I’ll be getting S&P 2 by the end of the month since the extra coins for intent to purchase and registering in the first 4 weeks of release is a good incentive.

    Comment by EdEN — July 3, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

  2. WOW!
    Such a detailed review!
    Thank you very much for this. I heard about this game and was waiting for a detailed write up to find out more about the game.

    Amazing work.

    Comment by Mary — July 3, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  3. Awesome review!

    This was truly an excellent game from the minds at Treasure. I bought this on day one, and it’s something of a shame that few people actually picked it up.

    I’ve been getting my friends to try it out, as none of them own a Wii, and they all seemed quite impressed with how fluid the gameplay was.

    Though some people feel that the co-op play is lacking, it made it easier for my friends to get a feel of the game when they played on support rather than being thrown into the front lines immediately. Eventually, they took on playing as Player 1 and they found themselves addicted to it, despite the number of deaths they faced.

    Comment by Celeph — August 16, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  4. That’s cool that you were able to ease some people into it that way. It’s quite possible the two player I’m wanting would explode the Wii with excessive levels of awesome as well, but damn, it would be great!

    Comment by Jamie Love — August 19, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  5. Excellent review!

    I really dig the extensive vocabulary and lack of a numerical scoring; it definitely takes more than numbers to express a game sometimes, and I think the way you capture the experience and visuals with such diction is superb. Now I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into this game, thanks!

    Comment by Zachaeus — November 2, 2010 @ 3:39 am

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