The end level boss Comeback Tour continues.
Sin and Punishment: Star Successor follows the predecessor in ways that I'm not too certain about. I only have vague memories of playing the original game some 2-3 years ago and three thoughts stand out from my past time: the plot sucked, the controls sucked, the bosses were the awesomest bosses ever. Sin and Punishment 2 at least maintains the tradition of having a metric ton worth of junk storyline. It's like an 80s/90s era action movies where some kids or young teens are thrust into an alternate realm and defeat the evil emperor and a freaking army by way of "the power within." Oh, and the kids have the three ultimate 80s child fantasy items: laser guns, laser swords and hoverboards. There's a lot of talk of evil beast forms and "trappers" and evil empires but all of it flew over my head. All I drew from the experience was that the evil empire were trying to kidnap two kids, and these two kids are going to outwit and outgun(!) the evil empire's technoarmy of tanks and monsters. For such a simple premise, the sure amount of dialogue within the game is baffling, also in part because this is a rail shooter and time spent talking is time not spent pulling the trigger on some poor mutant manta ray's head.
Controls are great though. The ability to aim using the Wiimote makes for a much more logical means to life-ending than the way the original game humiliated itself on the Classic Controller button layout. As a rail shooter, your character runs/hoverboards/rides a monster camel across a predetermined path… a quick, faster-than North Korea getting kicked out of the World Cup fast-moving redetermined path. It's like the old Back to the Future ride at Universal Studios, except you can fight back against the T-Rex that eats you. On this path, you'll get the most dramatic camera angles of the evil empire army firing a hundred bullets across the screen, begging to be retaliated on. Meanwhile, you are flying across on your board, dashing about, firing lock-on missiles, single bullets, your melee sword swipe and doing a whole lot of random dashing. The best frame of reference to describe Sin and Punishment's gameplay style would be the Panzer Dragoon games, except it is YOU that are killing the dragons and dragon-like creatures. Those murderous children.
So you choose between two protagonists; a girl who looks like a boy and a boy who looks like a girl. You'll travel across such anime cliché locations as haunted forest, the city of the future and Mount F'n Fuji. In fact this game could arguably be called an amalgamation of anime clichés when it comes to its presentation. But I can't help but forgive the game for making up for the unoriginality by presenting its unoriginal elements in such amusingly high quantity. Dozens of soldiers can occupy the screen, firing dozens more energy bullets while a fleet of flying manta rays swoop through the background in geese V-formation. Your eyes are constantly bombarded by chaos and destruction. So much chaos, in fact, that you really can't play this game in any long stretch. After an hour, my eyes were fatigued, my brain was spent and my heart was withered down due to overexposure of insane elements popping at the screen. I would have to rest my eyes afterwards by playing something a little more tame or visually dull, like chess or crosswords or Uncharted 2. This game, if released on the 3DS, would cause seizures, aneurysms and spontaneous combustion of the skull. Keep in mind that isn't a knock against the game, but rather a warning; attempting to power-finish Sin and Punishment in an evening may prove fatal.
And I haven't even gotten to the boss fights yet. Between this and God of War 3, I feel like the groin-smashing boss fight is undergoing a renaissance in 2010. But while God of War impressed the masses with the size of its enemies, Sin and Punishment will thrash you with quantity. You'll fight many bosses of varying sizes and varieties, and often in succession of each other. Each of the game's seven levels can have upwards to five or six boss battles each, think about that. The ratio of boss fights to levels is lopsided like never before. Bosses vary from your typical tanks and battleships to typical dragons, griffons and sea monsters to your less typical fare. For example, one boss is a black ooze that shapeshifts from a giant bipedal spider to a flock of dolphins that nose-juggle their projectiles at you. The final level, while not as memorable as the final battle in Sin and Punishment 1, features a grueling gauntlet against about 6 straight massive boss monsters, in which a golden plaque should be mailed to any gamer whom can complete it without losing a life.
(And if you don't know, the final battle for Sin and Punishment 1 involves you running across the PLANET EARTH'S OZONE deflecting meteors at a GIANT CLONE of the PLANET EARTH. No game is topping that. Ever)
Checkpoints are scattered throughout the game with slight modesty. Just enough to have your nerve slightly chipped away at certain late-game segments but nothing that some patience and elbow grease can't overcome. However, your score resets upon dying, and you'll look like a slight dweeb uploading your paltry scores onto the online leaderboards for a level in which the final boss chipped your life away. So it's the online scoreboard-obsessed that'll probably get the most value out of Sin and Punishment 2. The rest of the world will probably finish this game in 7 hours worth of scattered play sessions. (Mind you, 7 hours is something of an eternity by the standards of rail shooters past.) There's a two player mode that I think lets the second player control a second targeting reticule, but I couldn't test it out for myself. Asking friends to play my obscure Japanesey anime shooter was admittedly a harder sell than the Aliens light gun game at the theatre arcade. It took us $8 each to beat the Alien Queen. I am still not certain if it was worth it.
For inquiring minds that must know, Sin and Punishment 2 is a very specific game that caters to a specific audience. For the high score-driven people that crave international leaderboard recognition, specifically from a game that kind of resembles Panzer Dragoons of past. My heart still goes out to Panzer Dragoon Orta as the best "this-kind-of-rail-shooter" I've ever played, but this would be a plausible second. And finally, the gun fights are flashy and the bosses are bossy, so it could be said that Sin and Punishment is one of the more meaty rail-gun experiences to fly by in recent years.
3 ½ stars