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Virtual Console Review: Sin and Punishment

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Upon the announcement of the Virtual Console, Wii owners began to come up with dream lists of titles they wanted to see on the Wii's downloadable game service. One of the games that appeared most frequently was a title Treasure developed for the Nintendo 64 named Sin and Punishment.

A long-time staple for importers, Sin and Punishment showed up on the North American Virtual Console on October 1, 2007. But how does Sin and Punishment hold up eight years later on a system it wasn't designed for?

A bizarre marriage of the third-person action and rail shooter genres, Sin and Punishment bears the markings of both. The game features action-based areas that require you to jump over obstacles or move side-to-side, often while simultaneously shooting at enemies. There is little freedom of movement other than the side-to-side strafing; the game runs on rails and pushes you forward through the level automatically. You can also switch between manual and lock-on targeting, with lock-on targeting being weaker than manual targeting. At the top of the screen sits a counter, which counts down to zero. When it gets there, you start losing life until you die. Sin and Punishment features both single-player and co-op mode, which lets two players control the same character cooperatively. One controls movement and the other controls targeting and shooting.

The game's story is very bizarre at times, but centers around the creation of a new species for food in the future to stop food shortages. Of course, there's the cliche moment where the new species, called Ruffians, gets out of control and starts attacking mankind. The story follows Saki's attempt to lead those he cares about to safety from the attacking swords of Ruffians.

The one thing of note is that this game is hard. Really, really hard. In fact, the biggest part of replay value for this game might come from the fact that it's just so hard, even on easy, that you'll have plenty of challenge on harder levels.

In the transition from the Nintendo 64 to the Wii and its controllers, Sin and Punishment takes a bit of a hit. Moving the cursor, shooting, and jumping are relatively easy, but a poor choice when it came to mapping the buttons for strafing makes the game harder than it really should be. This might not be an issue if it wasn't for the fact that strafing is often key in surviving boss battles, and I ran into problems beating some bosses simply because I couldn't get out of the way quickly enough.

Now, the graphics aren't great, as to be expected. They're from 2000 and look very much the part of a Nintendo 64 game. However, the actual design of characters and enemies in the game is notably good. The Virtual Console version features English dubbing with Japanese subtitles, a nice addition. The voice acting itself isn't too bad, and the soundtrack fits the game's stages and battles.

Sin and Punishment stands out as one of the best deals on the Virtual Console service: a well-polished rail shooter that is cheaper on the Virtual Console than importing the game from Japan. It's certainly not for everyone and is namely something hardcore gamers will enjoy, but it's a game that's definitely worth being the highest-priced VC title.

Pros: A very unique and well-polished game with plenty of challenge. Feels a lot like Radiant Silvergun, Treasure's other notable shoot 'em up.

Cons: Even on the lowest difficulty levels, this game is hard. Somewhat abstract storyline and dated graphics might "scare off" some casual gamers.

Sin and Punishment is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Fantasy Violence and Mild Language.

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About Brian Szabelski