The “punishment” part is certainly correct…
Sin and Punishment: Star Successor (Wii)
Release date: June 27, 2010
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
This is one of a few games that is very, very aptly titled; if I could summarize it in one word, and I can, it would be “punishing”. If you pick up Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, you had better be looking for a serious challenge, because even on the “normal” difficulty this game is relentless. If you are looking for a challenge, however, this is about as good of a choice as any, as this game features some highly engaging, energetic, and entertaining gameplay that can get you hooked if you’re not careful.
This game apparently takes cues from the NES days in the storytelling department, in that there’s not a whole lot of it. You’re thrown right into the plot without a whole lot of exposition to help you out; the male Isa is trying to protect the female Kachi, because a huge army is trying to kill her because she’s apparently some sort of demon thing. There’s a bit more to this story than meets the eye, but not much, as the only major twist is something you could see coming without any trouble. You’re not even really given a proper ending; once you defeat the final boss, the game just ends without any sort of resolution. In reality I wasn’t expecting much, but still, receiving so little takes you by surprise a little bit. You don’t even find out what happens to the protagonists, though you can probably take your best guess.
But again, story is just a way of dressing up the gameplay, so let’s get down to it. Star Successor is an incredibly hectic game; you are always going to be either shooting, slicing, dodging, or a combination of the three. There are always enemies on screen, usually somewhere between a dozen and a hundred at a time, and their constant fire means that the entire world is a danger to you at all times. Like a Touhou shooter, you’ll have to pay close attention to the screen at all times just to avoid getting horribly injured, but at the exact same time you need to be taking out enemies by aiming your gun or slicing at close enemies with your sword. Neither one of these things ever lets up, either; I ended up dodging nearly 24/7 while constantly holding down the trigger to fire my gun.
When you’re not shooting at everything forever, or dodging enemy fire that occupies half the screen, you’ll be taking down some seriously powerful bosses. These guys often features enormous attacks that you need to dodge at just the right time, or else you’ll take a ton of damage; otherwise, they’re folling up half the screen with laser fire or explosions, like any other part of the game. More than any other part of the game, these bosses feel like pure trial and error, where you need to die several times before you finally figure out how to precisely dodge this or that attack, and when to counter, etc.
The problem with trial and error, however, is that you only have one life before your game over, wherein your score is reset back to zero. Your best scores are uploaded to the worldwide leaderboard at the end of each level, and at the end of the game, but I so often died at the end boss of a level that my scores were pretty pitiful when they were uploaded. It just feels like one more aspect of how this game is punishing; when you die, and your score resets, it feels like the game is reminding you how much you suck. At the least, the high score challenge gives you a reason to revisit the game’s levels, to try for a better score, and maybe to get through without dying, ridiculous though the notion might be.
The game is rather well designed, and none of the difficulty feels like it can be attributed to bugs, poor controls, or anything like that; it’s a good, old-fashioned, Ninja Gaiden-style hard. There are several times where the game just feels unfair, especially during the last boss, and more than once I ended up throwing my controller into the nearby couch; sometimes, it does take the fun out of the game. For the most part, though, the game is a lot of fun to play even when you’re getting yourself killed over and over. It’s relatively short, only a few hours long, but you can come back to the levels and try for a higher score, which you probably will.
It can’t be said enough: if you don’t want a game that’s highly punishing and relentless, requiring fast reflexes and constant vigilance, then you should stay far away from this title. If you’re up for a challenge, though, then this game can be highly addicting, and highly rewarding when you find yourself getting good enough to really handle it. There are a few shortcomings in departments like story and length, but the gameplay is solid and engaging, and you’ll have a fun time with this when all is said and done, assuming it doesn’t tear you apart before you complete it.