Jarrod Mawson
11 Jul, 2010

Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Skies Review

Wii Review | Import: The most tempting sin of all.
A decade ago, Japanese developer Treasure teamed up with Nintendo to create an interesting little title called Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Earth. Released on the Nintendo 64 to a very positive reception from gamers, the rail-shooter bizarrely never made its way out of Japan despite featuring an all English voice cast, with only menus untranslated. That is, not until seven years later. A surprise to English speaking fans who were never able to import, Nintendo re-released Sin & Punishment on the Wii’s ‘Virtual Console’ system in 2007, complete with the original English voice recordings, as well as newly English localised menus and text. Action fans and lovers of rail shooters rejoiced. Nintendo, however, were hardly finished.

2008 saw the released of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and among its roster of homage’s and fan services was an assist trophy item that summoned Saki Amamiya, one of the protagonists of Sin & Punishment. This unexpected appearance this got some people thinking; “Could Nintendo be working on a new Sin & Punishment title?”. It wouldn’t take long for those pondering to get their answer. Only a few months later at Nintendo’s 2008 October press event they surprised everyone once more with the announcement of an again Treasure developed sequel; Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies.

It is a shame then that Australians will not be able to purchase this game locally. You see, Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies is available, right now, pretty much everywhere except here. Japan? Check. America? There. Europe? Sure. From what we know, there are absolutely no plans to release this game in Australia. Thankfully a European release equates to a PAL release, and so importers are able to buy from across the ocean and have no trouble playing on Australian Wii’s, which is exactly what we’re doing.

Read the prologue or you too will look like this.

Read the prologue or you too will look like this.
Successor of the Skies sees players jumping into the shoes of two new characters; Isa Jo, a young soldier who has defied his orders to hunt and kill an alien invader, and Kachi, said mysterious alien who’s memory is lost and has taken on the form of a human girl. The plot is mostly nonsensical science fiction that probably demands a little too much backstory knowledge to unsuspecting players, and doesn’t really go anywhere significant. However, if you’re really interested in following the tale through its twists and turns then we highly advise gamers read the manual’s prologue and character descriptions beforehand. Story was not where the original game excelled, nor why people played, and it’s more of the same here. With that out of the way, let’s get to the important stuff.

For its gameplay, Successor of the Skies retains similar fundamentals to the first game; shoot bad guys, try not to die, and earn big scores. Levels progress down controlled linear paths usually at the game’s pre-determined pace, while gamers control their character’s via the analogue stick and shoot with the Wii’s pointer. There are some new additions to the Sin & Punishment foundations, such as the aforementioned pointer controller aiming, but of equal importance is the ability to fly. No longer grounded as one was in the first game, both characters can hit up unlimited air time, floating around the entire screen, a feature quickly realized as invaluable when it comes to avoiding attacks and getting close to the enemy, with dodging and melee just as integral to the gameplay as shooting. Dodges can be performed by a quick button tap, with temporary invulnerability allowing players to pass through some of the more deadly (and gigantic) projectile attacks, while melee attacks can quickly rip through nearby opponents and even kick back larger projectiles, a feature that can turn an enemy’s ballistic missile into a player launched tool of destruction.

Revenge of the glow sticks.

Revenge of the glow sticks.
Like most games of its genre, score points are the backbone of gameplay, and are primarily awarded for killing enemies, with stronger enemies netting higher scores. Combined with this is the score multiplier, a reward earned via successive kills while avoiding damage, giving a value that will take base scores and multiply them by up to sixteen. Hidden ‘achievement’ medals throughout the game appear when certain conditions are met, such as defeating enemies in a particular way or destroying environmental objects, and counter attacking enemies with melee will spill coins which further boost scores well into the hundreds of thousands. But it doesn’t end there. The versatility granted by flight is countered by increased scores offered to those players that kill while keeping their character’s feet on the ground, rewarding those that take risks. Then, just when you think it couldn’t get deeper, end game summary screens offer extended point rewards based on how much of the player’s health remains as well as the time it took them to defeat bosses. It’s just about the perfect score system you could ask for from a game of its type.

Yet these scoring basics only scratch the surface. The real achievement is how marvelously balanced each level progresses. Passing seconds feels meticulously orchestrated in acknowledging the skill sets available to the player along with the scoring system, offering a perfect balance of destroyable targets, enemy types, attack variety, and obstacles to avoid that require players keep on their toes dodging lasers, knocking back projectiles, and blasting away all manner of creatures while chaining together kills to keep the multiplier high. As you duck and weave through a blitzkrieg of plasma rain on a rollercoaster through gigantic, lengthy set-pieces you’re delivered a consistent edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that constantly outdoes itself right up until the credits roll.

This thing is literally referred to as the 'alien donkey'. Yep.

This thing is literally referred to as the 'alien donkey'. Yep.
Particular praise needs to be given to Treasure for the amount of variety they’ve offered when compared to similar games. Where other rail-shooters are content with keeping themselves familiar, Successor of the Skies manages to mix things up quite dramatically as the game progresses. The camera moves around changing the perspective of levels from third person to that of a side-scroller, and zooms out when necessary to convey the grand scale of an enormous boss. The fact that these changes happen multiple times a stage really keeps things fresh, and with some perspective shifts taking place when a boss changes their attack pattern don’t be surprised if subsequent playthroughs reveal new angles and secrets that were previously unknown. This is the kind of game where a single stage can mean four or more boss battles, with the sheer density of level creativity impossible to ignore.

If there was only one flaw to Successor of the Skies, and there really might only be one, it’s that the game’s visual presentation can, at times, be a little underwhelming. Cinematics are robotically animated, voice work leaves much to be desired, and close-ups of the main characters reveal questionable poly counts and so-so texture work. Even as a flaw there’s always the option to skip cut-scenes entirely to get straight to the gameplay, and all woes are quickly forgotten as the screen erupts into a symphony of neon lights, a canvas bathed in a hundred glowing projectiles that dance around before your eyes.

So here's this giant enemy space turtle...

So here's this giant enemy space turtle...
Despite the underwhelming presentation of its cinematics, Successor of the Skies is actually quite an attractive game. There’s a captivating variety in levels and character design at the hands of an imaginative art direction, and the almost overwhelming amount of enemies and projectiles on screen is dazzling. A number of special shading effects help bring boss characters and the environmental details to life, all the while the camera and characters rip through the levels at breakneck speeds with scarcely a drop in framerate. It may look rough on a small scale, but when it all comes together in motion it ranks as one of the most attractive games on the Wii platform.

Though hardly a short game for its genre, a single play-through won’t last much more than around three hours, but genre fans know it’s all about the replays. Three different difficulties as well as the two characters are all welcome, but the most important thing is bragging rights from honing skills and boosting scores. Local, regional, and international online scoreboards, tracking individual character, difficulty, stage, and total scores allow you do just this, pitting your rankings against the very best the world has to offer.

For many, Successor of the Skies will be the game they’ve been waiting for, and it’s no surprise that it has come from shoot ‘em up veterans Treasure. Its masterful scoring system and airtight level design result in addictive and potentially limitless score focused gameplay, while Wii specifics such as analogue control combined with pointer aiming fit the core design like a glove. The action never rests, with climatic battles and frantic gunplay that put most other modern self-proclaimed action games to shame. It’s a crime something of such high quality and entertainment value has been denied a local release, but at least a localized version exists at all. Nobody should have to wait seven years to play a gem like this. That truly would be punishment.
The Score
A spectacle of sights and scores. Treasure has committed the best of sins to ascend to shoot 'em up heaven. Why not join them? 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 years ago
Now I need to buy it!
3 years ago
I may order it when I have enough cash.
3 years ago
great review I have only just started it but it seems fantastic
3 years ago
Nice. Your review makes me really want to take this for a spin.
3 years ago
Awesome review, Jarrod. I was wondering when this game would be released here down under, guess that isn't gonna happen anytime soon. Import it is then.

Cant wait to get my hands on it.
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