Sin And Punishment 2: Successor To The Sky
As big Treasure fans, we were delighted when Nintendo finally brought Sin and Punishment to the west on Virtual Console. Indeed, the decision to port this game made sense as when it was originally launched for the N64 in Japan, it came with a full English voice track. So after paying the admission fee we, like many others, played through a highly stylistic rail-shooter which although a tad short, contained all the finesse and sophistication of a true Treasure classic. However, after seeing the credits roll, we never really expected a sequel, but as a developer that continues to surprise, Treasure went and made one anyway.
The premise of the first Sin and Punishment was baffling even by anime standards. It’s set on an alternative Earth where scientists have created a new “Ruffian” species in an attempt to solve world hunger and, as you’d expect, these creatures soon mutate and cause havoc. Out of the chaos various warring groups emerge including the corrupt Armed Volunteers and the rebel Saviour Group. The story then unravels as three members of the Saviour Group take the fight directly to the Armed Volunteers before eventually facing off against a duplicate planet which is literally trying to replace the Earth. You just can’t make this stuff up. Well, apparently you can.
In contrast, the Japanese version of Sin and Punishment 2 is voiced entirely in Japanese, so the plot details will be elusive to those who don’t speak the lingo. That said, the game is set in the future and stars Isa, the son of Airan and Saki from the first game, and Kachi, a young girl who has lost her memory. The opening sequence begins as Isa and Kachi crash land on a hostile planet before being ambushed by Ruffian and military forces, the two then grab their jetpacks, hover-boards and gun swords before starting a marathon which will eventually lead them back into space.
Quirky story aside, the first Sin and Punishment is best remembered for its inventive controls and absorbing gameplay, and in this regard Treasure has crafted a sequel which takes the run and gun fundamentals of the original and masterfully readapts them for Wii. By aiming the Remote at the screen you can lock onto targets and shoot them down, whereas the Nunchuk caters for movement and dodging projectiles. In addition, the fire button can be tapped when enemies are within striking distance for a more damaging melee combo. In execution this system works brilliantly and by cutting out any unnecessary waggling Treasure has kept the gameplay both intuitive and responsive.
Picking either Isa or Kachi also has an impact as they play slightly differently. Isa can lock onto enemies by actively pressing the target button and has a charge shot which targets one enemy with a wide area of effect. In comparison Kachi will automatically stay locked to an enemy if the fire button is held and has a charge shot which can target up to eight enemies. Overall we found Isa more user-friendly, but we imagine Kachi’s strategic style will be useful when going for high scores on the online leaderboards.
Anyone who finished the last game on one credit will also be pleased to hear that Sin and Punishment 2 is twice the size and spread across seven vast stages. But although these new stages can at first seem generic, with locations including a derelict city, haunted forest and volcano base, each level is so well realised that any question of design laziness would be totally unjust. Indeed, with so many memorable moments – ranging from an underwater showdown with a gigantic submarine to being swarmed by zombie cyborgs on a floating sky fortress – Sin and Punishment 2 arguably has more set-pieces than an entire bookshelf of lesser games.
What Treasure has achieved with Sin and Punishment 2 is exactly what the Wii can do best, both in terms of an immersive control system and by focusing on artistry and design before textures and polygons. To put it simply, the game looks and flows spectacularly. The Ruffian mutations throughout the game take on many forms including eerie lava molluscs and innocent looking cacti which, as you approach, suddenly sprout mouths in an attempt to drag you under the sand. The military enemies also continue to up their game by surfing on torpedoes and piloting increasingly larger mechs, and that’s before we get to the bosses (see Boss Rush).
But although Sin and Punishment 2 asks you to vaporise anything that moves, Treasure have made more than a point and shoot no-brainer. On one level, the player must block an exposed exhaust vent to pass by undamaged and then face off against a boss who can trap you beneath falling Tetris blocks. Another confrontation sees you taking on an entire battalion of armed troops before your character is stripped of their gun and handcuffed to a boss, with the only solution being to take them down with some bare knuckle fighting.