|Sin & Punishment: Star Successor|
|Genre||Hyperactive On-rails/Lightgun Shooter Love-Child|
|MtAMinutes to Action||2|
|Buy from Amazon|
Back when I was a kid, I loved telling people about things that I enjoyed. I would explain, in excessive detail, how amazing whatever I had just witnessed was. I distinctly remember recounting the entirety of a particularly amazing Simpsons episode to a friend in grade school, to the point where he rolled his eyes and walked away in disbelief of my obsession. I understood that he couldn't appreciate the episode without watching it and that my overexcited babbling would do Leonard Nimoy's brilliant guest appearance no justice, but I couldn't stop myself. I find myself thinking back on old times like this one because, as I sit down to write first hour reviews for this site, I look at the massive walls of text that result from my sixty minutes with some very entertaining games and think about just how powerless those words are compared to the experience in my mind.
On that note, I've had to do some significant editing to this first hour review of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. I knew I would enjoy the game after playing through its prequel a few weeks ago for the first time, but my enthusiastic ramblings from that first hour were anything but concise. I threw out a lot of what I had originally written, and it's still far longer than the average first hour review here. If you want the long and short of it up front, just imagine playing Star Fox 64 with one hand and House of the Dead with the other and you've got the jist of Star Successor. Only this version of Star Fox 64 is much more difficult, and this version of House of the Dead has dozens of things to shoot on the screen almost all the time.
I'll just go ahead and say it up front: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is a serious contender for my game of the year. I do hope the text gives you an idea of how the game works and whether or not you should go out and buy it right this very minute, but one glance at the sheer length of this review should let you know just how much I enjoyed it.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I start a new game playing as Isa, the boy character, on Medium difficulty. A spaceship flies toward a planet. Isa and Kachi, the playable girl, are at the controls. But oh no! They're being pursued! The ship's controls give out and the spaceship crash lands near a canyon on the planet, inside of which appears to be a city.
01 - Isa regains consciousness. The ship's totaled, the reactor will explode soon, and enemies are making their way inside to finish off the tween duo! Isa's brilliant plan is to "get out of here!"
02 - And we're playing. The control stick moves Isa around the screen, the B trigger fires, and holding B rapid fires. I do so to remove some debris from my path, and Isa continues forward automatically. The tutorial notes that Isa uses a manual targeting system: when aiming at something that can be destroyed, a red reticle appears inside blue one to let you know whatever your pointing at can blow up with enough shots. You can also tap A to lock on to enemies, which aims all of Isa's shots at that enemy no matter where the cursor is aiming. Locked-on shots are less powerful, however. More debris to remove from my path: I can tap B to use melee attacks. Three melee attacks can be linked together, each does more damage but requires more recovery time afterwards.
03 - Oh no, little spherical robot walker enemies! Simply staying mobile and sidestepping is enough to dodge all their shots while I respond with constant machine gun fire. Enemy soldiers drop in from the ceiling vents and roll into the room. Their acrobatics are impressive, but futile against my endless bullet spray. Their exaggerated death screams are amusing.
04 - Some enemies drop items when destroyed, of which there are health refills, score-building coins, or medals for special feats. Pressing Z triggers an evasive roll, which quickly moves Isa from one point to another and provides a short period of invincibility. I'm running through a corridor of laser barriers now, and have taken my first bit of damage! Isa has a life bar at the bottom of the screen.
05 - Hold up on the control stick to hover. When hovering you can move around screen freely. More spheroid robot walkers slowly approach, occasionally shooting. They, too, make amusing squealing noises when destroyed, almost like they're alive. I'm noticing a timer slowly drains down at the top of the screen, represented by a thin white bar at the top of the screen.
06 - A barrier blocks the hallway, and a laser turret beside it shoots the ground, causing a pillar of flame. The only way to avoid it is to dodge right through it. I destroyed the barrier by shooting its weak spot. Now there are barrels rolling at me, and more crawling robots. Another barrier! Holding the A button revs up a powerful charge shot. I take out the barrier with a single blast, and I'm moving on.
07 - Giant crawling robot spider drones! These ones shoot a stream of machine gun fire, and troops in the rafters shoot rockets at me. Apparently I can counter certain projectiles with melee attacks, which will deflect missiles in whatever direction my cursor is pointing for massive damage. I deflect the incoming rockets back at the giant robot spiders, destroying them in a single hit. For comparison, it would take about five seconds of constant machine gun fire to take one out.
08 - Still deflecting missiles at more machine gun-spraying giant crawling spider robots. It's sort of hard to tell when the incoming missiles switch from background objects to foreground objects. Luckily, I can move Isa away from the missile's trajectory but still deflect it with melee attacks as long as the missiles are within range of his plasma sword.
09 - A cutscene: Isa believes we've taken out all the enemies. OH NO RIGHT BEHIND YOU LOOK OUT IT'S A GIANT GIANT CRAWLING SPIDER ROBOT. Looks like we've found our first boss fight: I have to move under the spider's legs as they lift to avoid getting crushed, all while picking its health away with machine gun fire and charged shots. It starts lobbing grenades at me, but i can deflect them back at it for big damage. Moving left and right allows me ot rotate all the way around the boss. After lots of damage, the enemy is briefly stunned and now I'm floating above it. It changes its tactics to shooting orbs at me and spread laser bombs. They're pretty easy to avoid, and I can erase the enemy's shots with my sword if need be.
10 - It launches two missiles at me simultaneously, but I deflect both back at it and it's destroyed! Stage results: boss bonus, life bonus, special bonus, and my stage score add up to over one million points. Checkpoint reached. Isa and Kachi make a dramatic leap out the ship's open door as it explodes, falling down into the underground city below. I can now play Stage 0 on Normal difficulty in the Stage Select mode. Let's upload my score to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection leaderboards!
11 - Still uploading...
12 - I just realized, I don't have my wi-fi set up! Weird that it didn't notice that. I cancel the upload. Back in the game, Isa regains consciousness for the second time in twelve minutes. Kachi isn't so lucky, she's impaled on a giant spire! It looks like she's dead. Isa nonchalantly asks if she's okay, and she springs back to life and casually frees herself from impalement. So she's invincible, I guess? Whatever...We're in some kind of underground city. A man in black teleports in. "Hand over the girl! Act swiftly and I may just spare your life!"
13 - "Fine, take her!" says Isa. The man in black electro-whips her and pulls her close. "Pull away that mask and reveal your true nature, monster!" She teleports back to Isa, he shoots a charge shot, and they run away. Why didn't they just do that in the first place? The two are running along a highway. Isa's brilliant new plan? "Now we run like our lives depend on it, because they do!"
14 - Shooting enemies in the background while running away. They're sperm monsters, flying through the mass of skyscrapers! There's also one big ship flying around in the cityscape shooting missiles at me, which I deflect back at guard towers I pass by. Getting plenty of points collectibles for doing that. There are tons of enemies on screen, though most are those harmless flying sperm things. A gunship shoots missiles to destroy the road I'm on, so now I'm flying with my soccer ball-shaped jetpack.
15 - 102 enemies destroyed already in one minute. Little crabs crawl up the skyscrapers, and enemy humans are perched everywhere. My score multiplier is at 10x. The gunship's back! Soldiers emerge from the cockpit and stand on the wings, shooting at me. I reflect their grenades and missiles back at the ship, though some brave troopers jump at me for a melee attack.
16 - Gunship defeated, tons of points! More sperms flying around, bringing up my high score with their harmless patterns of movement. Turrets! Rocket launcher troops! The air is thick with danger.
17 - 15x multiplier, still flying around. Back to running along the highway now. Machine-gunners and robots attack from the ground while planes overhead go in for strafe runs. A giant bird perches on an overhang! Crabs are rolling down the street at me! The bird repositions itself at the top of the hill in front of me. The bird is imposing, but quickly destroyed with a few charge shots.
18 - Now I'm flying upside down for some reason. Tons of soldiers shoot at me from on top of city buildings. It's kind of tough to see where the shots are going when there's so many of them at once. Maybe this would be better in 3D, like Nintendo said about Kid Icarus on the 3DS? Explosive barrels are being tossed at me, but I can shoot them back with the sword.
19 - More missiles, more enemies. I haven't stopped shooting this entire time. Mechanical cranes on the sides of this building drag lasers across half the screen. It's tough to tell where they're going to shoot until it's there. Not too tough to dodge, though, thanks to the evasion roll.
20 - Another gunship is shooting at me, with soldiers on its wings turrets hanging below below. This second gunship is soon destroyed as well, though all the damage I've taken has knocked my multiplier down to 8x.
21 - A tank approaches! One soldier on top tosses a huge boomerang at me while his lackeys spray machine gun fire along the ground, making it quite dangerous to land. The boomerang soldier also jumps down for melee attacks, but I make quick work of him and his tank with charge shots. Cutscene: Isa makes for the empty building ahead but is stopped by the man from earlier. "There's no escape from the Nebulox!" He tosses Isa into the air, time for a boss battle in the sky.
22 - He has four small satellites that shield him, my machine gun shots do nothing. He launches tons of blue orbs at me, but dodging around the screen border seems safe enough. He teleports right next to me, making for an easy sword combo to draw first blood.
23 - He's back with his shield again. He launches his little satellites at me, but I can deflect them back at him. Now his shield's gone, and I can chip away at his health bar with my machine gun until he's beaten. As he falls, Kachi delivers a swift kick, sending him off into the depths of the city.
24 - Cutscene: some weird circulatory system monster with a robot head speaks in a barely legible voice. Apparently Isa and Kachi are heading into a Keeper lair and thus as good as dead. Good to know?
25 - We're falling down a long cylindrical shaft...and there's a giant turtle monster here as well! It fires off spirals of lasers my way as it falls. A charge shot to the face yields some health for Isa. The turtle monster also shoots pieces of its shell at me, which can be deflected like missiles. It can also summon an avalanche of rocks, which I need to swipe with my melee attack to keep from smothering me. There's even a small turtle on top of the big one! It spits flames as the larger one attacks.
26 - It's especially difficult to stay out of danger's way when both the small and big turtle are spitting flames. And the big one snapped at me, chewed me up, and spit me out!
27 - I am victorious! This turtle enemy is nothing but soup now. Stage results, checkpoint reached.
28 - Cutscene: Isa finds a computer system in the shaft, and searches for the quickest route off this planet. When Kachi asks why the monsters are attacking them, Isa says they are Keepers, creatures who defend what's left of this earth after human civilization advanced to the point of self-destruction. Now I kind of feel bad for destroying the big turtle. Not that bad, though.
29 - I can now play Stage 1 on Normal difficulty in Stage Select mode. Isa proposes that the creepy-looking tween duo escape the planet by traveling through an underwater tunnel to a floating air fortress, where an escape vehicle can be hijacked. There shouldn't be any enemies in the tunnel.
30 - The service door opens, and the underwater tunnel is actually some sort of long cylinder of air within the water somehow. The targeting reticle appears as Isa jetpacks inside the air tunnel. Enemies in the surrounding water swim about, harmless. I kill them anyway.
31 - A pair of submarines glide by, outside of the tunnel, launching missiles at me. So much for no enemies. I deflect the missiles back, and shell fish begin to float into the tunnel and drill at me. Many harmless fish swim outside the tunnel, building my multiplier back up.
32 - Checkpoint reached. Enemy soldiers, surfing on the inside of the tunnel, shoot at me as they pull ahead. Some are even surfing upside down from the top part of the tunnel. At one point, Isa misses a turn in the tunnel and ends up in the surrounding water for a few seconds, providing a moment to shoot at the surfing enemies inside. Almost like a shark, picking off swimmers at the beach...
33 - Giant eels with red eyes poke into the tunnel, looking to take a bite out of me. I deflect the surfers' missiles at the eel to avoid becoming fish food.
34 - More surfers. Man, I'd love to surf in an air pocket under the sea, that looks awesome. A flurry of missile-related mishaps drops me down to 55% life, but I've reached a checkpoint.
35 - An impressive number of fish swim outside of the tunnel, and taking the majority of them out ups my multiplier five full points. I've reached some sort of gate in the tunnel, and some sort of crazy flower-ish monster with tentacles greets me! The tentacles shoot lasers at me, but their attacks can be interrupted by firing back. The center is the weak point.
36 - After taking heavy damage, the creature drags several red lasers across the screen, which are tough to avoid. But deflecting tentacle beams and firing charge shots of my own make short work of it. It surrenders a health pickup and point coins, and I've reached another checkpoint.
37 - Now I'm firing from inside the tunnel to threats outside. Two big submarines fire plenty of ammunition my way as crab monsters place deadly bubbles on the screen. The bubbles can be shot like missiles, though, allowing me to take care of the submarines, crabs, and a giant eel in the background.
38 - More eels, more crabs. Horseshoe crabs crawl out of the eel crevaces, providing more big multiplier boosts.
39 - I've come to three open sewer grates on a tunnel cover; two eels with red eyes and one huge eel with yellow eyes attack me from inside the openings. Bubbles that float in can be used as ammunition. They, along with charged shots, take care of the smaller eels pretty easily.
40 - The big one also falls, relinquishing health and points. More crabs!
41 - Red buoys on the edges of the tunnel create laser barriers, which either need to be dodged or destroyed. I have to make the choice of either taking out the buoys to make my passage safer or dodging the barriers while firing at fish outside the tunnel to up my multiplier. I go the safe route, though it will yield fewer points. Two of those huge yellow-eyed eels show up, but they got destroyed by someone else! A huge submarine with two hulls approaches. It looks like a cloud car from Star Wars.
42 - You know the drill by now: dodge lasers and return with machine gun shots. Destroying the first part brings me up above the submarine. Soldiers on top of each hull and turrets alongside make this a dangerous place to be, but some deflected missiles and good aim make short work of things up here.
43 - Now I'm further away, taking the beast head on. Two blue lasers rotate around the borders of the screen while four red ones maneuver within, making this a particularly tough situation to maneuver in. I manage to take out the sub fully, grab some health and coins, and Isa continues into a doorway at the end of the tunnel.
44 - Now we're inexplicably in some kind of lava factory for some reason. A big spire in the middle is shooting at me, I respond by destroying each individual cannon and rotating around the installation. Charge shots, baby, they're good.
45 - After the top turrets are destroyed, I descent to the lower ones, which seem to be flamethrowers. I maneuver around and between the flames while destroying them. Checkpoint reached, in the midst of the boss fight. I'm now at the bottom of the room, where small platforms are separated by pools of lava that launch fire into the air. The platforms are full of mines and the spire continues to shoot at me. A small green target rotates around the spire, and I can deflect the mines at it.
46 - More lasers make things tougher, and the spire also adds clusters of machine gun fire. It's quite tough to dodge all this madness and aim at the little green target at the same time. I do eventually destroy the spire, and regain some badly-needed health.
47 - Cutscene: With the boss defeated, Isa and Kachi wonder how the enemy knew where they were going. Then they discuss what makes someone human. They seem focused on facial features and limbs. This is amost excruciating to watch.
48 - The doll-like tweens with the fashion sense of eight year olds who just watched Zoolander are interrupted, thank goodness, by an overweight dude in a black suit and cape. It seems Isa used to be one of these guys, and defected when he met Kachi, their target. She'll destroy the entire universe somehow and the "creators" don't want that. I guess I wouldn't, either, but Isa seems to disagree.
49 - Isa fires a shot behind the imposing figure, collapsing rubble onto him while Isa and Kachi make their escape above water. The large dude follows, however, as the three characters float above the ocean.
50 - The fight begins, and he fires black orbs across the screen. My machine gun does no damage to him, so I instead shoot the buoys floating in the background. Thankfully, they relinquish much-needed health. The dude transforms into a giant manta ray, floating above the water, and a health bar appears.
51 - He unleashes a slew of projectiles my way as fighter jets fly by, providing missiles for me to deflect. Some of the orbs the manta ray shoots just sit there on the screen, acting as danger spots.
52 - One enormous laser drags across the screen, chasing me around and trying to cut me off at the corners. I dodge out of it and destroy the manta ray, which explodes into a hundred small orbs. After shooting thirty or forty of them, they coalesce into a giant seahorse with little tentacles at its sides. The tentacles form a barrier across its chest, the weak point.
53 - I have to take out the tentacles to expose the chest as the seahorse fires lasers and black holes and what-have-you my way.
54 - The seahorse is destroyed! The remaining orbs separate again, and I destroy another thirty or so. They combine this time to form...five dolphins?
55 - One dolphin is clearly the leader, swimming away from me and launching red and blue circles in the air. The blue ones expand outward while the red ones collapse inward, so I have to go INTO the blue ones and OUT of the red ones. Now the dolphins are tossing boulders between each other, playing catch with their tails...until they toss them my way, causing a damaging splash when they hit the water. I can deflect the boulders back, though.
56 - Now the dolphins are tail-attacking in unison: four of them jump up for a tail smack, leaving only one open column on the screen. The fifth dolphin then jumps there, but I can melee attack it for big damage.
57 - The dolphins are gone! I take out the remaining orbs and the big dude in the black suit and cape falls into the water. Stage 2 finished! Cutscene: The enemy explains that the Nebulox has established a base at Mount Fuji and offers Isa forgiveness if he brings the girl's head there. The kids ignore this and decide to continue to the air fortress for escape.
58 - We've come up to the flying fortress. Debris is scattered everywhere, and we're sidescrolling Gradius style. I can shoot into the background, but Isa's shots default to the same plane he's on. Enemies hide into the debris. We fly into the entrance of the fortress, and Isa can walk along the ground. Some turrets fire from the background, but most of the action is in the foreground.
59 - Little flying toasters are attacking! Now there's plenty of stuff going on in the background AND the foreground. Missile launchers in the background can be deflected at anything on-screen, on either plane.
60 - Now there are humanoid alien zombie robots rising up from the ground and shambling toward me. Some try melee attacks, others shoot bullets. I suppose I'll re-dead the undead some other time, as the first hour ends.
Minutes to Action: 2
Video: True to Treasure tradition, nothing looks especially good up close, but with so much stuff going on and dry eyeballs screaming for you to blink, you're not likely to notice during gameplay. Cutscenes, however, reveal the starring duo to be plastic dolls with especially tacky fashion sense. Overall, though, it's a fine visual package.
Audio: The voice work and dialogue is bad, but not quite bad enough to make fun of. Whatever the aural counterpart to the uncanny valley is, it's in there somewhere. The music is composed of a rock-electronica mix for the most part, and suitably busy and epic. The sound effects aren't especially notable.
Story: The tween stars are either giving us vague details on the world(s) they inhabit and what they are, or they're beating the same old dead horses that so many Japanese games do, what with the introspection and self-realizations against all odds and all that nonsense. Either way, it ain't good.
Gameplay: It's kind of like playing Star Fox and a light gun shooter at the same time. Except when it's more like playing Gradius and a light gun shooter at the same time.
Challenge: I'm playing the game on Normal, have made it through the first three stages (of eight total) without dying. That said, I was ready for this particular brand of mayhem after playing the tough-as-nails N64 prequel and still have come pretty close to the coffin on a few occasions.
Pacing: I'd say the game is split half-and-half between zooming through stages picking off smaller enemies and chipping away at bosses' health bars. It's all action, all the time, except when the cutscenes show up. But you can skip them. In fact, I highly recommend doing so.
Fun Factor: Shooting up background fodder, slashing up bold challengers, eradicating crowds with charged shots, and deflecting missiles makes for an intense and satisfying experience. Also, you get to kill evil dolphins and surfers with rocket launchers.
Would I keep playing? Absolutely. I mean, just look at all that stuff I typed up there! That all happened in sixty minutes, and I loved it.
Words from beyond the First Hour: I've played through Star Successor three times in the last week: twice on Medium and once on Hard. Each run has been incredibly difficult, but I can't stop coming back for more. The generous checkpoints and infinite continues encourage you to keep on trying, even if you fail the same section dozens of times...and you will, because Star Successor throws everything and the kitchen sink at you, simultaneously and relentlessly. That said, each time you pick out a new boss pattern or find another way to earn a medal, it feels like you've really made progress...even when you still get smacked around. Victory has rarely felt so rewarding or relieving.
As fun as it is just playing through to the credits, high score chasers will love this game. So many factors weigh into your end-of-stage numbers: manual versus lock-on targeting, melee versus ranged attacks, deflection versus evasion, ground maneuvering versus staying safe in the air, avoiding damage versus going into harms way for those extra kills, and more. Even if you can't hit every enemy that shows up on-screen (and you won't, it's impossible!), proficiecy in other areas, experimentation, and knowledge of the stage can put you near the top of the online leaderboards.
All in all, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor manages to be the top game in a niche genre while also providing an experience almost any gamer can appreciate. Those who aren't rail-shooter fanatics and don't measure their worth as a gamer through leaderboards may want to stick to a rental. It may not last you much longer than five hours, but they'll be five hours well spent with an impressive array of bosses and special encounters that remain fresh throughout. Outside of the skippable cutscenes, there's not a lot to complain about here, and plenty to love.