I don't even like shooters much, and this game still rocked my world.
I've always been pretty terrible at shoot-'em-ups, and while Nintendo and Treasure's latest collaboration isn't a typical entry in the genre, it has a lot in common with bullet hell, high score-focused shooters. However, Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, even more so than its Nintendo 64 predecessor, is a wonderful showcase of excellent game and enemy design that just so happens to be a hardcore shooter.
If you missed the previous game in the series - and you probably did since it was only released in North America as an import Virtual Console title - then you are likely unaware of the unique qualities of the game. It's kind of like Sega's arcade classic Space Harrier, as you control a character on-screen who, thanks to the addition of hovering in Star Successor, functions more like an Arwing in Star Fox than he does anything else. Each level is set on a fixed path, and you switch between side-scrolling and behind-the-back action throughout each of the seven stages.
You use the Wii Remote pointer to aim your weapon at on-screen targets while you move your character around the screen with the analog stick. You can also dodge and perform melee attacks, which are useful in deflecting projectiles or defeating enemies in close quarters. You can also unleash a powerful special attack, with the caveat being that it takes time to charge up. There are two different characters to choose from, with only minimal differences; the jetpack-wearing Isa has a manual lock-on, while the hoverboard-riding robotic Kachi has an automatic lock-on.
There is also a cooperative mode that adds in a second player as a reticule. It's beneficial to have another player to help you through difficult parts, and it's also nice that more casual players might be able to have an entry point into the game. It doesn't amount to anything more than something a guy might want to play with his non-gaming girlfriend or a father might want to play with his son, but it's still fun for all involved.
With a basic set of skills to learn, Star Successor throws everything at you at once. Outside of a few lulls, legions of enemies attack you during each lengthy stage. Most of them are just cannon fodder, but they are all different and can be defeated in a variety of ways. The bosses are spectacular and interesting, even though you'll sometimes face three or four in a row. For example, one boss fight begins strictly as a melee battle, while another has you working your way through a level while deflecting projectiles at the boss in the background every so often. Sometimes these bosses can get very tough, but they're always an entertaining challenge to overcome despite the trial-and-error approach they occasionally require.
The challenge presented by the game is sure to be an issue for many players, especially given the fact that Treasure games are notoriously difficult. The Wii controls, Co-Star Mode-esque co-op, and Easy mode alleviate some of this stress, but not all of it. Star Successor is a challenging game, but the forgiving checkpoints make getting through tough sections possible for even novice players. Mastery is encouraged, though, especially with the interesting and in-depth high score mechanic and online leaderboards.
Players who love incrementally improving their best score should not hesitate to buy what is one of the best retail-released shooters in recent memory. If you're not into the high score thing, you might want to think twice about Sin & Punishment: Star Successor, but you should still keep in mind that this is a fantastic and unique game with creative level and boss design, awesome controls, and excellent fast-paced shooting gameplay.