Sin and Punishment occupies a rather strange place in Nintendo’s history. Despite being idiosyncratically Japanese the N64 title, which appeared late in the console’s life cycle, was created and localized with western audiences in mind but still never saw the light of day outside of Japan until it was made available for the Wii Virtual Console. Despite this the full English voice acting and more importantly the intense on-rails shooting action made the game a cult import favourite. It wasn’t without faults though, the ugly graphics are not what you’d expect from a game appearing so late in a console’s life cycle and the controls are extremely fiddly (it’s one of the exceedingly few to use the N64 controller’s left position). Fortunately the series has now found its most natural home on Nintendo’s Wii.
Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk you control either Isa or Kachi through a succession of on-rails levels blasting hundreds of swarming enemies. Gameplay is as simple as aiming with the pointer and holding B for constant fire. The control stick moves your airborne character around the screen and is combined with a tap of Z for an invincible dodge, something you’ll be doing a lot to avoid the thousands of projectiles that can sometimes fill the screen. You can hold A to charge up a more powerful blast or tap B for a strong melee strike which can be strung together into three hit combos. The controls offer no variation beyond these simple options and the game needs nothing more because the rest is in the intensity of the relentless action.
In every level a veritable horde of antagonists will appear, most of which you’ll down with well-aimed weapon fire but the scripting of enemy attacks keeps the variety coming with tougher foes that require charge shots or melee attacks to strike down. Others shoot projectiles that can be directed back at them with a well-timed melee attack for a big score bonus. On the other hand every stage features frequent swarms of harmless airborne creatures that exist only to be mown down to boost your score multiplier. But it’s the frequent boss battles that will test you the most with a number of ‘commander’ encounters occurring periodically throughout every stage.
The control scheme is vastly improved over the first game but the general style of the game remains familiar. As before the sci-fi plot is borderline incomprehensible, some nonsense about a war between Inner Space and Outer Space and the cheesy cut-scenes between the action serve as curios rather than any kind of involving plot. The graphics, though clearly far superior to the original game maintain a certain feel, running smoothly through some fast-moving sequences with hundreds of objects on screen but it’s the visual design that stands out. Any semblance of subtlety has been cast aside in favour of more and more eccentric creature design. From giant cat beasts that fuse with equally monstrous bird creatures to whole legions of aquatic monstrosities the game assaults you with more and more imaginative creations that sit firmly rooted in the old tradition of Japanese monster mayhem. It’s not what you’d call an appealing science-fiction world but it’s certainly a fun one to shoot up. It’s all scored by a thumping cyber-punk soundtrack that brings back memories of classic Dreamcast games.
The arcade feel of the game fits the gameplay perfectly. There are just a handful of stages but some can take up to half an hour to get through and that’s if you don’t die which you will particularly if you’re brave enough to attempt the harder difficulty settings. Checkpoints are frequent enough to make constant death bearable and the presence of online leaderboards will give score-chasers reason to be happy. As great fun as it is this kind of pure, intense gaming experience still doesn’t offer the same level of satisfaction that other deeper games can muster and still falls well into the cult category that might put off some players. Still anyone who ever complained about the lack of hardcore titles available for Wii has no excuse not to try it. This is pure core gamer territory and a real treat for Wii owners.
Design – 8
Gameplay – 8
Graphics – 7
Sound – 6
Longevity – 6
A relatively short-lived but intensely enjoyable orgy of blasting that should not be missed. Anyone with a fondness for the weirder side of Japanese culture and fast, demanding action will not want to miss this excellent and difficult title.