Sin and Punishment: Star Successor
They never should have sent Isa Jo. He was just a rookie. A child, compared to the other soldiers. But that wasn’t the problem; he could’ve handled the mission. The objective was simple: destroy the enemy recon unit from the other dimension. That’s all. Isa had both the weapons and combat skills to get the job done. As the son of the protagonists of the original Sin and Punishment, he was also far stronger than a regular human. He could have killed his target on sight…but he didn’t. He was too kind. The recon unit had disguised itself as a harmless young woman named Kachi, and it had lost its memories. Rather than spying on mankind, she was merely curious about the nature of humanity. Not exactly the fearsome alien invader everyone was expecting. It wasn’t long before he ditched his mission and committed high treason by escaping with his new friend. With the full might of the world’s military hunting them down, Isa and Kachi have to find a way off the planet.
That’s assuming they live long enough to take a step. It’s kind of hard to survive when the entire screen is filled with enemies. That’s not an exaggeration, especially in later areas. It’s not limited to just soldiers, either. They’re rolling out the big guns for this. Tanks and planes constantly roast the stage with explosives. Automated turrets and laser cannons try to cut ragged, bleeding holes through your flesh. Lava submarines and gunship trains litter the sky with flak. Android warriors, massive robots, and mechanical monstrosities try to crush you in their metal claws. Spaceships are crammed with flamethrowers and shrapnel. Bionic tigers, hawks, eels, whales (seriously), and a whole menagerie of building-sized monsters who spend whole levels stalking you, wearing you down before they go in for the final kill. Meanwhile, hundreds – no, thousands – of bullets, beams, and fireballs are whizzing through the air, turning nearly every spot on the screen into a neon deathtrap. It’s fast, brutal, and it can kick your ass in mere seconds.
But if you’re any good, you shouldn’t have a problem. One of Star Successor’s greatest strengths is its simple, but superb design. There’s not a single move or ability that goes to waste. The weapons are pretty straightforward; both characters have rapid-fire blasters that can quickly whittle down the enemies’ health. Isa can charge up his gun to launch a devastating proximity bomb, while Kachi can annihilate everything with homing attacks. If the enemies are getting a little too close for comfort, your lightsabers can dish out some life bar-breaking combos. If your timing and aim are perfect, they can even deflect projectiles to counter their targets. Their deadliest ability, however, is something far more vital: dodging. Regardless if they’re running on the ground or floating midair (which can be changed with a mere press of the control stick), they can quickly dive and roll out of unfriendly fire. It might not look impressive, but it’ll save you more times than you can count. The animation makes you invincible just long enough to avoid certain death. Given the sheer amount of bullets riddling the screen every waking moment, you’re going to need all the help you can get.
It isn’t just about what the characters can do, but how they do it. Veterans of the first Sin and Punishment are probably still haunted by flashbacks of awkward, occasionally clunky controls. Star Successor revamps the entire interface with the WiiMote. There are no waggle commands or any of the typical gimmicks you might expect. Instead, the entire process is streamlined around a few basic commands. All you’ve got to do is point the onscreen reticule at the enemies, hold down the fire button, and focus all of your effort on surviving. Dodging and other movements are handled with the Nunchuck buttons, making your character incredibly quick and responsive. With such a simple setup, you don’t have to worry about toggling targets or juggling different buttons to do moves. By simplifying everything, your experience becomes far more fun and intuitive. If you’ve got a friend that isn’t quite as skilled as you are, they can still get into the action by providing extra firepower with another controller. The game even supports the Classic, Gamecube, and even the Wii Zapper controllers, which gives you the chance to tackle the game with your favorite playing style. But chances are, the default settings will be good enough to see you through.
You’ll need to learn quick, too. Star Successor is unapologetic in its attempts to utterly crush you. At its most basic, the game is a rail shooter. Isa and Kachi run and fly along predetermined paths, fragging everything in sight. The more enemies you kill without getting hit, the higher your score will be. Using certain tactics can net you bonus medals and healing pickups. While that’s challenging enough on its own, the levels constantly change in terms of design and structure. It starts with you gunning down hapless mooks and blowing up the occasional tank. But then you’re soaring over skyscrapers, sniping enemy outposts, desperately fending off whole legions of baddies at a time. The next stage has you zooming through a water tunnel, leisurely picking off mechanized jet skis…until a demonic sea serpent starts ramming its head through the walls, giving you only a split second to dodge out of its razor-sharp jaws. Another has you wandering through a pitch-black forest, using your gun as a flashlight as hordes of glowing eyes stalk your every move. There’s some impressive side-scrolling, too. When you’re not mowing down an army of androids, you’re narrowly avoiding the bursts from the background flamethrowers, leaping over spiky gears, and dismantling heavily armored mechs all at the same time. You’ve got bosses that have to be killed with flying train cars, machines with lasers that ricochet off of ever-shrinking force-fields, and a nasty bastard that summons tadpoles to hold you down long enough to ensure a killing blow. Even if the fights boil down to pattern recognition and superb timing, the chaotic visuals remain stunning throughout.
If you manage to survive a stage, you’ll be rewarded by a hefty bonus score. If you’re just playing for fun, it probably won’t mean much; you’ll just watch a brief cutscene and move onto to the next exercise in insanity. But if you’re into getting the highest scores possible, Star Successor offers something more. Your performance can be uploaded onto the online leader boards, allowing you to show off your skills to other gamers. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of it; there aren’t any playback or recording features, which would have been easy to implement. The high score rankings are kind of generic and limited in terms of online functionality and competition, but they serve a far more useful purpose: replayability. Getting a halfway decent score means you’ve got to practice. A lot. Retrying levels, never dying, working out different strategies, getting your timing down to perfection…it’ll take some serious effort to get everything down perfectly. While beating some of these stages on the harder difficulty settings ought to earn bragging rights alone, the high scores will show just how much dedication you’ve put into it.
Regardless if you’re in it for the glory or the fun, Star Successor will have something for you. It’s exactly what a sequel should be; it takes an established formula and improves upon it in every way. The story isn’t a highlight, but at least it’s easier to understand. Both characters have the same kinds of weapons and abilities as their predecessors, but use them far more effectively. The simple, streamlined controls make playing the game a more focused and intuitive experience. The bonus point mechanics and high score features give you a reason to keep trying long after you’ve beaten the final boss. If anything, you’ll be more drawn to the creative, challenging levels and the insane boss fights. Those are what make the Sin and Punishment games tick, and this title delivers more than you might be able to handle. As its name implies, it truly is a worthy successor.