If asked what their favorite Wii games are, I would expect many Nintendo fans to say Super Mario Galaxy 1 or 2, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, one of the Zelda games, or maybe even Xenoblade Chronicles. Unfortunately, I don’t think too many would answer with one of my top favorite Wii games: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor. So, I wanted to go back and talk a little bit about the short-lived and often overlooked Sin and Punishment series, and hopefully encourage more people to check it out.
Currently, there are only two games in the Sin and Punishment series: the original Nintendo 64 game, and its aforementioned Wii sequel. Both are intense third-person rail-shooters in the vein of Nintendo’s Star Fox 64 and Sega’s Panzer Dragoon. They were developed by Treasure, the creator of other cult classic action games such as Gunstar Heroes, Bangai-O and Ikaruga.
The original Sin and Punishment (also known as Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth) is interesting in that it was initially conceived to appeal specifically to Western players with its darker atmosphere and shoot’em-up gameplay. The voice acting was even recorded in English, although all text is still in Japanese. However, the original Nintendo 64 version was never released outside of Japan. Development of the game began in 1997, just a year after the console had been released, but due to inexperience with creating 3D games, as well as difficulties in working with the N64 hardware, it took several years for Treasure to complete it. By the time it was finished in 2000, Nintendo was already turning its focus towards its next platform, the GameCube, and decided not to bring Sin and Punishment to the West.
In the game, you alternate playing as a boy named Saki and a girl named Airan, and you run-and-gun your way through several levels. It’s similar to fixed third-person shooting games like Cabal and Wild Guns, but also a bit like Star Fox in that it automatically scrolls forward on rails. What’s unique about it, however, is that your character and aiming reticle can be moved independently of each other. This can be very tricky, though, because it’s hard to pay attention to both at the same time.
To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the original Sin and Punishment. The controls are a bit convoluted and hand-cramp-inducing, and it makes the gameplay a little frustrating. The game also feels a little disjointed, but that’s partially due to the impenetrable plot, which is insane and makes no sense, but that’s typical for Treasure. Still, it’s a fun game, and I return to it every so often for a quick run through.
Most people never got the chance to play Sin and Punishment until 2007 when Nintendo released it internationally on the Wii Virtual Console. Nintendo even did a small amount of localization work on it, translating the menus, and the text during the tutorial and ending, into English. The game sold well enough in digital form that Nintendo and Treasure decided to create a sequel to it specifically for the Wii.
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor (also known as Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies) is, perhaps, a truer realization of the gameplay from the first game. Using the Nunchuck’s analog stick for movement and the Remote’s IR pointer for aiming feels far more natural, and indeed, Treasure had wanted to develop a pointing device for the N64 controller to use with the original game. Accentuating the added freedom, your character is no longer restricted to moving back and forth along the ground, but can fly all around the screen, making the game feel just a little like Sega’s Space Harrier. (Purists have the option to play using either the Classic Controller or GameCube controller.)
Once again, you can control one of two different characters, a boy named Isa or a girl named Kachi, but unlike the previous game, you can play through the whole game with your character of choice. Both Isa and Kachi also have different abilities in the way they lock onto enemies, as well as different special attacks. The game is also a good bit longer than the original, and includes online scoreboards.
All of the improvements in gameplay have made Star Successor quite possibly my favorite Wii game. It’s very skill-based, and it’s fun to come back to every so often, either just to play through it or go for a high score. (Watch out for “Nester” on the online leader boards!)
Unfortunately, despite the success of the original game, the sequel was a colossal flop upon release, essentially guaranteeing that there may never be a third installment. It’s very disappointing, as it could have been a new long-running franchise for Nintendo. Saki from the original Sin and Punishment even made it into Super Smash Bros. Brawl as an assist trophy. As it is, the series has sadly come to a premature end.
Why didn’t it sell? Who knows. All of the people who complained about the lack of “hardcore” games on the Wii, or who lamented the absence of a new Star Fox game on the console, should have snapped it up. I also wonder if the game’s failure led to Nintendo’s reluctance in releasing certain other games in North America, like Xenoblade Chronicles. There are complaints that Nintendo relies too much on core franchises, like Mario and Pokémon, or doesn’t create enough new franchises. Perhaps the poor sales of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor gives us insight as to why.
Of course, for players who own a Wii or Wii U, it’s not too late! Star Successor is readily available at a very reasonable price, and the original N64 game is still on the Virtual Console, both of which can be played on the Wii U. I highly recommend picking them both up! Neglecting them would be a sin.
Hardcore Gaming 101: Sin & Punishment – An excellent comprehensive retrospective of the series.
Iwata Asks: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor – A fascinating and revealing interview with the developers.