Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Wii Virtual Console review: Sin and Punishment
An arcade style scrolling shooter in the vein of Star Fox 64, Sin and Punishment is overflowing with 1990s Japanese style. The first level is set in a mega city where a small band of rebels strike out against the excessive numbers of soldiers that police the sector on foot, from VTOLs, and even with the aid of mechanized animals. Achi, Saki, and Airan are the game’s three main characters, the latter two being playable. Their character models move forward automatically, while you, the player, can move them side to side and aim the cursor to change the angle of fire from their guns. When it comes to close-quarters encounters, Saki and Airan can swing a beam blade out to deal a quick strike to a foe or to deflect an object at a moving target.
The theme of a small ragtag group seeking to undo a greater force that looms ever-present with superior numbers and firepower is consistent throughout, though topics like what it means to be a pureblood human vs. a human-ruffian hybrid and the potential to become a higher being also come into play – threads common to other video game and anime works from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The city is but the start of something much greater – the lead characters will infiltrate enemy ships, square off against giant mutant creatures, and fly about on mobile platforms as they attempt to neutralize an entire fleet of ships (and that’s just during the second mission).
Sin and Punishment is a title that was released very late in the N64’s life cycle, but even so it’s thoroughly impressive just how good this game looks and plays. Character models are highly detailed, and look five times better than the angular forms of the inhabitants of Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule or the pixelated versions of the Goldeneye Bond villains. While Sin and Punishment was a Japanese exclusive prior to the Virtual Console re-release, it incorporates English voice acting. Though perhaps not the greatest example of character voice acting on the N64, it is impressive how well the actors match their characters and how well the dialogue fits the era. The soundtrack is largely that of a classic synth-rock sound that perfectly complements the artistic direction of the game.
Similarly, the game controls incredibly smoothly, whether you are using the Wii Classic Controller or one from the Gamecube. Whereas Star Fox 64 had a (more or less) fixed camera centered behind the Arwing in the middle of the screen, Sin and Punishment’s frame sits at the ground level with the playable characters, tilting up, left, and right at scripted points within each mission to provide a better range of vision. The environments are even more highly-detailed than the characters, with excellent lighting effects and brightly displayed health and weapon icons placed at strategic points.
Sin and Punishment effectively drops you into the thick of battle without much in the way of a tutorial, though the controls can be referenced from the main menu prior to starting a new playthrough. Otherwise, the first few waves of enemies you face are relatively easy prey, granting you a few minutes to get used to the arcade shooter style of gameplay. Sin and Punishment is only a couple of hours long and does grant you a set number of retry attempts, but do not be fooled – this is a genuinely challenging game that rewards a trial-and-error approach. Its over-the-top action is cheesy in the most endearing way, while the presentation on the whole is top-notch.
My rating: 9 (out of 10)