Sega CEO Hajime Satomi says he wants to improve the quality of their games moving forward. That could mean a lot of things. It's nice to hear, but what they do next with their games is the real answer.
Virtual Console Imports: Sin and Punishment
While it might not be perfect, the Virtual Console has been a great addition to Nintendo’s last few console and handheld generations. Being able to replay old favorites like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda on my 3DS is always nice and it’s also allowed me to pay reasonable prices for classics like Secret of Mana, which would have otherwise cost me a pretty penny to own in its original cartridge form. There’s one aspect of the Virtual Console that I really like above all others though. Import games. While browsing through titles on the old VC, you might have occasionally noticed little icons of Japanese flags next to certain titles. These icons indicate titles that were previously unavailable outside of Japan that have in someone been updated or translated for English speaking audiences.
I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at some of my favorite import titles to grace the Virtual Console. To kick things off, I’m going to take a look at one of the first import titles released. It was poster child for actual N64 import carts back in the day and it’s the first game in a franchise I desperately wish Nintendo would show some love to. Let’s dive into Sin and Punishment: Successors of the Earth.
In the near future, mankind’s population problem has given rise to major food shortages across the globe. In an attempt to solve the issue, scientists develop a new species that can be quickly bred and easily harvested. Unfortunately, these creatures undergo a series of mutations and become increasingly violent, attacking any and everything. A peacekeeping group known as the Armed Volunteers attempt to suppress the threat of this new species, now referred to as “ruffians,” by creating a kind of military state around the origin point of the beasts, northern Japan.
Another group, one opposed to the Armed Volunteers, soon arises in the form of the Savior Group, led by a woman named Achi . Along with Saki Amamiya, and a young girl named Airan Jo, Achi leads a raid on an Armed Volunteer base in order to steal a transport ship. As the Savior Group work their way towards the base, ruffians begin to appear in the area and swarm the tower. The Savior Group must battle their way through swaths of enemy soldiers and ruffians in order to uncover the true motives of the Armed Volunteers and discover more about the strange connection between humans and the ruffians.
That brief summary of the plot is a quite a bit to digest and isn’t told in the most direct of fashions in the game itself. Sin and Punishment creates an interesting story, but doesn’t always explain itself to well or take a breather to reflect on the frankly bizarre twists and turns that occur. It’s a story that would fit rather nicely in a short anime OVA from the 80’s or early 90’s and much of the games aesthetic and even the dubbing really help cement that feel.
What makes this game worth your time though, is the gameplay. Sin and Punishment is a run’n’gun shooter developed by Treasure, a company which has made its name off of making sweet shooters like Gunstar Heroes, Ikaruga, and Radiant Silvergun. Players will control Saki as he moves along a fixed path through a stage. In addition to being able to shoot the entirety of the screen range in front of him, Saki can also jump, juke, and strike at melee range with a blade. It’s a simple set of options but the controls feel tight and combat is a blast. The game starts out pretty easy but gradually gets tougher, forcing you to learn enemy patterns and get used to dodging and juking away from enemy attacks between volleys of gunfire. The game also features a somewhat odd co-op mechanic which allows one player to control Saki’s movements while the other controls his firing reticle. I don’t really recommend this mode unless you have a friend who you really trust/don’t mind losing when you decide to murder him after he fails to dodge an obstacle for the hundredth time.
Your opinion of the game’s sound design is going to vary. Are you the kind of person that expects quality voice work and a diverse amount of variables sounds and music? Or are you the kind of person that can enjoy a somewhat silly and hammy voice cast, frequent chipper little announcer voices telling you got a bonus? If you’re the former, then Sin and Punishment isn’t going to be a fun experience on the ears for you. But if you’re a fan of old, bad anime dubs, you’ll probably enjoy the somewhat nostalgic cheese factor the game’s sound design has going for it. The game’s soundtrack is comprised of a lot of techno beats and tunes, none of which are bad, but none of them really stick out as memorable or noteworthy.
Sin and Punishment is a flawed game, but still a fun experience. It might just be my soft spot for the halcyon days of corny anime dubs combined with my love for run’n’gun shooters, but I find it hard not to enjoy this game despite its shortcomings. It hasn’t aged terribly well in the graphics department, but the game’s aesthetic still works in its favor. At $12, it’s well worth the price of admission and a must buy for fans of Treasure’s games.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition’s look at an N64 cult classic. Next time I’ll be looking at a little known title made by the team responsible for one of Nintendo’s most well-known and beloved franchises.