Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is the latest shooter from Treasure – a developer that has no shortage of fans, my self included. On one hand, the name Treasure ensures that you can expect a high-quality game that will be sought after and still spinning in consoles a decade from now. On the other hand, it is all the more surprising that Treasure would make such basic mistakes within the genre.
Star Successor features two playable characters. Isa must manually lock-on to opponents while Kachi has the ability to auto-target. Otherwise, the two characters are identical in play-style. As for their motivations, I’m still a little mystified. Star Successor tries to trigger an enlightening and metaphorical discussion about humanity, but it crumbles under the weight of its own confusing absurdity. All you need to know is that Isa and Kachi are on the run and everyone wants them dead.
The action zips along a preset path that allows the player to move along a two-dimensional plane (side to side, up and down), while attacking in three dimensions. Star Successor has no shortage of enemies flying in all directions, laser beams cutting swathes through the screen, and environmental hazards that must be avoided at breakneck speeds. It’s a side-scroller, a light-gun shooter, and a racing game rolled into one, and it makes the transitions with ease.
Treasure makes stellar use of the Wii remote and nunchuck with exceptionally smooth movement on the analog stick and pinpoint aiming with the remote. You can use the classic controller, but you only serve to hinder your own abilities, and Treasure has accomplished much with very little. There are no special mechanics or power-ups to speak of. Isa and Kachi can shoot, use melee attacks, charge shots, and evade. The arsenal is basic, but highly effective against the swarms of enemies.
From military complexes to spacious deserts, and undersea tunnels to dreamlike forests, Star Successor has variety on its side, but the scenery rarely approaches beauty. Motion-blur is everywhere and nearly everything, including the characters and HUDs, are drenched in grays and similarly colored palettes (screenshots shown negate the blurriness). Most shmups make use of bold, bright colors, which helps the player to see where attacks are coming from.
It’s difficult to see a red beam against a slightly darker red background in your peripheral vision, especially when you are concentrating on avoiding twenty other opponents simultaneously. Except for a few instances, it’s a problem that plagues Star Successor from start to finish. When color does invade the screen, typically from a large explosion, it’s often overbearing to the point that it blinds you to incoming attacks.
A good shmup needs epic bosses, and Star Successor’s are as numerous and as varied as they come. Each of the game’s eight stages (including the tutorial) pits you against multiple bosses, sometimes back-to-back, including genetic experiments, mechanized fortresses, feudal warriors, and a man who turns into whales. No one can rightfully complain about generic bosses, or Star Successor’s length, the latter of which causes a few problems.
Most stages in shmups are short and feature one boss, and perhaps a weaker sub-boss. Star Successor does not follow suit. Even on a perfect run, most stages last at least 20 minutes, and some of the bosses require a great deal of trial and error to beat. You have to figure out when to use melee attacks, when to shoot, and, for attacks that are exceedingly fast, the one place on the screen where you won’t get hit. You might be satisfied to simply survive, but then you are missing out on the hardcore side of shmups – scoring.
Your score-multiplier goes up for every enemy killed, down for every hit you take, and resets at continues, which are infinite. The scoring system is simple, yet solid, and backed by a hearty leaderboard that allows you to search for scores by stage, difficulty, and location, from local to global. In other shmups, hardened players will spend days, sometimes weeks, perfecting a five-minute run through a single stage. Additional length increases practice-time exponentially, making the prospect of replaying Star Successor with the same amount of dedication substantially less tempting.
Shooters like this are in dreadfully short supply, so I recommend jumping on this opportunity while you have the chance. The limited color-palette and massive levels make the journey less enticing for shmup score-hounds, but there is no denying that Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is one of the Wii’s finest action games to date.