Friday, April 2, 2010
Wii VC Review -- Sin and Punishment
Originally I was going to review Star Fox 64. Upon booting up my Wii, however, I remembered that I'd purchased another N64 rail shooter, Sin and Punishment, around the same time but never actually played it. So, instead of going back and visiting a game I knew I'd see through rose-colored glasses, I decided to see how Treasure's cult classic would hold up with today's standards.
Sin and Punishment is one of the more unique rail shooters out there. While most simply have you pointing a gun and blowing away whatever is on the screen, this one involves moving your character around and avoiding obstacles and gunfire in the process. The best comparison would be Star Fox but without a ship. You're on foot the whole time with the ability to move left or right and jump in varying ways. This gives you a lot to worry about as your life can quickly plummet if you're not paying attention to one aspect (incoming fire) or the other (obstacles and enemies right on top of you). On top of that, you start hemorrhaging life once your time runs out, making your life even more difficult. So, as far as rail shooters go, this is probably the most involving and complex one I've ever played.
With such a dated system, you have to give a little leeway to how a game looks and sounds, and I'm sure if I played this back in 2000 I would've been somewhat impressed. That said, the last decade has not been good to this. During the action you barely notice how blocky everything is as you're too busy trying not to die and, admittedly, some of the levels look great while in motion (I was pretty fond of attacking the large battleship from the air). During the cut scenes, though, my distractions were gone and I actually had to laugh. Some 2D objects just look pasted on and the character design and movement made me either sad, terrified or both. The voice acting was so atrocious that I started skipping cut scenes just so I didn't have to hear it. The sound effects and music itself is pretty decent, though really I don't understand the purpose of making the tutorial creature and the cat-like thing you fight early in the game so annoying that you start muting your TV for that short amount of time aside from "it's a Japanese thing, don't bother trying".
(The girl on the right is doing an accurate impression of me after hearing them talk for the first time.)
The controls are probably the worst part of the game for me, and I blame the fact that the N64 had no dual analog or Wiimote. The entire time I played all I could think was "why can't I map the buttons more appropriately" and "I wish I could just point the damned Wiimote!" You can change between three control schemes but nothing felt right. The default setup has you shooting with the L button, jumping with R, and moving left or right with X and Y, making probably the most unintuitive control scheme I've ever used. Even by the end of the game I was pressing the wrong buttons, wishing I could just use the stupid second analog stick as a replacement for the C buttons of the N64 controller. In the end, the controls actually make me excited for the upcoming Wii sequel where I actually CAN use the Wiimote and Nunchuck, as I couldn't imagine a better setup than that. This game, more than any other out, is proof that Nintendo needs to do more than just throw old games on the Wii and charge 5-12 bucks for them, especially when updated versions of some games are cheaper and better on other systems. They need to make each game work well with the controls we use today.
Aside from the goofy controls and voice acting that was so bad I didn't bother following the story, the game was actually a fun little rail shooter...on Easy Mode. On Normal, I couldn't even get through a random mid-boss on what I assume was the second level. I tried 10 times before restarting on Easy and breezing my way through the vast majority of the game (that part included) with little to no problem. The "Normal" difficulty should be called "Don't Look At This Until You Spend Five Hours In Easy". If they wanted to shorten that description, they could have just called the damned mode HARD. Speaking of that section, I kept running out of a VERY short amount of time. I actually don't understand the point of the timer. This isn't an arcade game and, in later levels, time bonuses are handed out so often that it becomes a non-issue. And there's no cover (such as with Time Crisis) so standing in one spot forever doesn't quite do anything. This is assuming you're even allowed to in the first place, as 99% of the time the on-rails aspect has you zooming through pretty quickly. So why even have the time limit at all? The game functions exactly the same without it and the only reasons I can think of to have it are to have another type of bonus on the screen or to give it more of an arcade feel, to which I say "put more point bonuses" and "I can't put quarters in my N64 and this wasn't an arcade game so shove it".
Speaking of "arcade feel", the game's over in 90 minutes or so. Pretty standard for rail shooters but, as far as I can tell, there's nothing to go back for other than to beat higher difficulties (you unlock more) and get a higher score. The game itself, however, is fun enough to play through again just for the heck of it. I don't know if I'll go back to it much but it does get me excited for Sin and Punishment 2. If you're in the mood for a good rail shooter on the Wii Virtual Console, I'd still recommend Star Fox 64 over this. If you have that, however, and are willing to put some time into the control scheme, this is a decent choice.
Sin and Punishment is available on the Wii Virtual Console for 1200 Wii Points. Played the tutorial and about half an hour of Normal mode before switching to Easy mode in a desperate attempt to keep my GameCube controller from flying out the window. Beat the game about an hour and a half later. Skipped 75% of the cut scenes because they made Tidus' laughter in Final Fantasy X sound like a choir of effing angels.