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Sin and Punishment

Saki’s having a bad day. Well, worse than usual. His morning started with a shootout. Nothing too serious; Saki is one Hell of a gunslinger, and these Armed Volunteer goons can be taken out with a few bullet sprays. He must have murdered dozens – no, hundreds – of those armored warriors. But it’s getting old. You’d think that the government would take a hint and cut their casualties, but they keep sending wave after wave of these guys. It’s not like you can really blame them, though; Achi, the leader of Saki’s band of cultists, has some…questionable plans for the future of the planet. Accordingly, Volunteer Forces have finally rolled out their big guns; between lava floods, mutant mecha, psychokinetic swordsmen, and talking rats, things have taken a turn for the strange. That’s beside the fact that Saki might be the savior/annihilator of the mankind.

Talk about pressure.

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You know what? Forget the story. You could play through Sin and Punishment ten times (along with its convoluted mess of cutscenes) and never understand what’s going on. All you need to know is that Saki has a lot of enemies. Not just your typical uniformed lackeys, either. Hordes of mechanical insects will march everywhere, trying to crush you as they stampede off-screen. Fighter jets and attack helicopters will whoosh overhead, deluging the battlefield in bombs, lasers, bullets, and anything else they can fire at you. Bionic lions will try to roast you with fireballs before pouncing. Godzilla-sized robots will send tidal waves of lava/blood/other poorly rendered red substance to drown you. Fleets of naval warships and flying fortresses will target you with every weapon they’ve got on hand. It’s a chaotic, unrelenting hail of bullets and death.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Here’s the interesting thing: Sin and Punishment is a third-person rail shooter. Unlike with other games in the genre, however, you’re given almost complete control over your character. You’ll need it, too. The constant barrages of cannon fire, laser beams, and suicidal soldiers means that you’re going to be frantically dodging, jumping, strafing, and targeting every few seconds. The Classic Controller scheme works surprisingly well under such demanding conditions, albeit it with a few minute issues. Aiming the onscreen target reticule with the analog stick and moving with the directional pad can be unwieldy; you’ll likely have your fingers glued to the attack button (your gun can fire an endless rapid-fire stream of bullets) and jump button and focus more on moving laterally and adjusting the angle of your shots. The controls aren’t difficult to handle, but it might take a few gunfights before you get them down.

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You’ll need to get used to the controls fairly quickly, though. While the first level is essentially a glorified training session, the game can be very unforgiving of your lack of combat prowess. If you can’t react fast enough, you’ll find yourself crashing into obstacles, falling into bottomless pits, getting roasted by the proximity mines you didn’t shoot, and getting overwhelmed with the sheer amount of foes that leap in your general direction. You can take a few hits before your health gauge empties out and dooms you to the Game Over screen, but you’ll need some skill to keep yourself alive. You’re also being timed; if you slack off in boss battles or complete a level slowly, the game will start sapping your health. If you play well, however, you’ll be granted the occasional health or time pickup to keep the gameplay moving. Or if you’re more worried about getting high scores and perfecting runs, the game rewards you with extra continues if you slay enough enemies in a row. It’s rewarding, challenging, and utterly fun.

Even if you do get slaughtered, you’ll at least get to relive all the awesome levels that the game makes you endure. There are few things more awesome than watching your characters rip a chunk of metal off a battleship, use it as a floating platform, and proceed to dismantle the rest of the ship in a flurry of bullets. How about skiing over an endless river of blood while dodging the blows of an enemy mecha? Or how about chasing down a nuclear missile and destroying it seconds before it reaches its target? Needless to say, these levels aren’t of your typical rail shooter fare. The stages are just as impressively presented as they are crafted; while the characters are a bland mess of jagged lines, polygonal frames, and wooden movements, the environments put some of the best N64 titles to shame. With decrepit cities, shiny airships, and flashy lightshows aplenty, it’s pretty clear that this game is one of the most polished games on the system.

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Forget Star Fox 64. Never mind Ghost Squad. Give Umbrella Chronicles a rest. If you want to play a great rail shooting game, get on the Virtual Console and download this game. Yes, it’s a relatively expensive addition to your Wii. But that twelve bucks grants you access to one of the great unsung gems available on the console. The plot may be nonsensical and the cutscenes might seem laughably bad, but the wonderfully crafted gameplay more than makes up for it. The wide variety of enemies, obstacles, and level designs are refreshingly original and interesting. Being able to control your character from a third-person perspective is a great change from simply aiming at whatever pops up on the screen. With tons of stunning visuals and demanding gameplay, this is definitely a game that’ll keep you coming back for more. So who cares if it doesn’t make sense at all?

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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