The Finest Treasure: Sin & Punishment 2 Retrospective.

Can’t believe I can finally say this, but I successfully beat Sin and Punishment: Star Successor on the hardest difficulty.  It’s a feat that most players wouldn’t be able to achieve according to Masato Maegawa who is the game’s producer. To be honest Maegawa’s claim isn’t very far off the mark. Star Successor is hard, so hard that i believed his bold statement. However my stubbornness wouldn’t let me yield and my completion of Star Successor became one of my great accomplishments in gaming, probably even my greatest.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor is the sequel to Nintendo 64 cult classic “Sin & Punishment”. For the most part Star Successor surpasses it’s predecessor in terms of gameplay and design. The aspect of Star Successor that’s weaker than the first game is it’s story. While the villains are well designed and sport their own unique and attractable personalities the games two protagonist: Isa and Kachi, aren’t as fleshed out as Saki and Airan who are the protagonists of the first game, as well as Isa’s parents.

In the first game I’d seen Saki and Airan’s relationship evolve from friends to love interests, which seemed natural and organic due to the two fighting side by side as combat partners in first game’s apocalyptic world.  Isa and Kachi’s relationship feels rushed and forced by comparison. From the start of the game Isa chooses to spare Kachi after being sent by the game’s antagonists(known as the “Creators” and Isa’s former comrades) to eliminate her. Isa knows very little about Kachi due to her state of amnesia, yet he defiantly ignores claims that Kachi isn’t what she seems to be without any question, doubt, or inner conflict. The only justification he gives for sparing her is that he “changed his mind”. For me this made Isa come of as naive given that he was willing to turn on his old partners so suddenly.

The two’s connection comes of as awkward and cute at best compared to the genuine and intimate one that Saki and Airan shared. The only moment Isa and Kachi shared was a awkward and weird discussion about humanity after Kachi wonders if something is wrong with her due to not being human herself. What could’ve been a really deep moment is turned into a comedic one when Kachi joking asks if humans have tails. Saki and Airan on the other hand had profound and deep exchanges. Discussions about what they were going to do after the war with the ruffians ended, leaving Japan to go to America for a better life, and preparing for the birth of their unborn child.

The connection between Saki and Airan not only made me care about them more, but it also made the stakes higher when they were threatened. I was invested in not just them ,but story of the first game overall. I did not feel the same attachment to the protagonist of Star Successor, nor was i invested in their relationship. Which is a bit of a let down considering that the connection is a crucial part of the series lore in general.

Star Successor’s story also has very bumpy pacing compared to it’s predecessor, which might be why the protagonist don’t form much of a bond. Once Star Successor puts its foot on the gas it doesn’t let up.  Even in cut-scenes its rare when something isn’t blowing up or the Isa and Kachi aren’t getting shot at.  The game also suffers from a massive time jump which leaves a lot blank spaces left from the first game. The war with the Ruffians, Isa’s parents, his relationship with them; these are questions i asked after completing the first game that go unanswered in Star Successor.

Isa doesn’t even mention his parents, so whatever relationship he had with them is unknown. The two don’t even show up aside from a random flashback, which you briefly see Saki and hear Airan’s voice. I really hoped that the two would show up and at the very least that I’d get a definitive answer about what happened to them. Whether they are dead or alive remains a mystery.

The gameplay is the main focus for the game and it’s where Star Successor completely surpasses the first game. The game’s developer “Treasure” is well experienced in making challenging titles. I cannot deny that Star Successor is a difficult game that truly lives up to the “Bullet Hell” genre. Imagine fighting a boss from Mega-Man while trying to dodge bullets with a count as high as Contra, and you’ll have a accurate idea of what playing Star Successor is like.

Bullets filled the screen, Missiles were constantly tracking me, and enemies lunged at me to carry out physical attacks. When I managed to make it to the boss they’d throw their own attacks and projectiles in to the mix. With all of that combined it felt like there was no safe place for me on the screen. If took my eye of the boss the grunts or the projectiles would get me. If i took my eyes of of them then the boss would get me. The amount of challenge Star Successor threw at me seemed obnoxious at times.

Thankfully the game offers four control schemes: two of which i used. When i started out I used the Wii Classic Controller and while its not bad it gave me nowhere near the amount of accuracy the Wii remote and Nunchuk did. Star Successor also provides much more range of movement compared to its predecessor. In the first game the player was restricted to just moving on the ground, from side to side, while only being able to jump. In Star Successor the player has the ability to leave the ground and hover around the whole screen; opening up more offensive play and evasive maneuvers.

Sin & Punishment: Star Successor brought me a lot of frustration during my play-through. There were times when i had to turn my console off and try again the next day. Even though the game is about a decade old now, it still sports a old school type of challenge that is rarely seen in game design anymore. The game certainly isn’t for everyone and that’s understandable. There were many times that i said i’d never touch the game again once i had finished it, and yet i started up a new game right after i had completed it. Star Successor while hard is one of the most rewarding gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

-Off Course Comet