"Sin & Punishment was going to be a defining moment for the Nintendo 64... too bad there was nobody left to care. Released exclusively in Japan at a time when most gamers had already moved onto greener pastures, mainstream success seemed to be an all but impossible dream for this, the little shooter that should have. "
Sin & Punishment was going to be a defining moment for the Nintendo 64... too bad there was nobody left to care. Released exclusively in Japan at a time when most gamers had already moved onto greener pastures, mainstream success seemed to be an impossible dream for this, the little shooter that should have. We didn't care that ace code shop Treasure were behind it, nor did its classic, run'n gun action appeal. Then to add further insult to injury, nobody bothered to tell us how Sin & Punishment was really the Nintendo 64's ultimate swan song in disguise. Conker and his furry friends be damned. Ah yes, life can be cruel indeed...
R.I.P. Nintendo 64 (1996 - 2001) We barely knew you.
For what it's worth, Sin & Punishment starts with a story. More specifically however, it starts with a jumbled mess of a narrative that for all intents and purposes, can be mostly ignored. There's something about Tokyo finding itself under siege yet again, this time by a strange cult imaginatively dubbed "the Saviors". There's also talk of a mysterious revolution going on amongst our food animals, the how's, why's and wherefore's being of particular concern. And finally we're introduced to our hero Saki, a young boy with a girl's name, who may or may not be the savior/destroyer of the human race. Intrigued? Don't be. The back story is as vapid as it gets, often to the extent of replacing direct answers with yet another explosion, another boss, another encounter... and always to frustrating effect.
At any rate, it's cast in the role of our aforementioned troubled teen that players will look to strap on their pumps and charge off into battle, always running into the screen on a one way path of mass destruction. And that's destruction with a capital D. As in, let no man, woman, child, or beast stand in your way. The opening stage begins with a dream, a field of wheat at sunset, and enough potential canon fodder to get the old blood pumping. A swarm of alien attackers (read: food animals) sweeps in from the right, a volley of heated plasma splashing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of the bastards in turn. The camera then swings around to the left, maintaining the third person perspective though altering your view as if it were on the rails. A tag Sin & Punishment nicely avoids by giving you almost complete control over your character.
For you see, it's by allowing movement across the horizontal axis, as well as providing means for an incredibly useful double jump, that Treasure have freed Sin & Punishment of the genre's typically stolid action sequences. Sure, you're still shooting down enemies as they rush towards you in a standard, take no prisoners type of fashion, only now you're also expected to dodge, dash, and jump your way through the carnage as well. Scripted events further build excitement, serving to inject a heady sense of danger while upping spectacle for spectacle's sake alone. Fighter jets come crashing to Earth as sun blocking, tidal waves of blood fill the screen. Then there's a particularly memorable encounter with an alien mecha, never mind how you're also surfing through the sky on the deck plate of an aircraft carrier, in hot pursuit of a nuclear warhead that's screaming towards its target.
And just for the record, we haven't even touched on the bosses yet!
Must I also mention the way each stage comes jam packed with multiple, screen filling guardians? Do you need to be reminded of how Treasure can seemingly instill these encounters with more charm and charisma than most shooters could ever muster? Or should I once more go on at length about how great the pyrotechnics look? No. That's all too obvious. Instead, let's talk about the overall difficulty and the way it's been gently curved to welcome players from all walks of life. Those that aren't up to the 2 hour challenge however, will be glad to know that extra continues can be earned for every 100 bad guys they down in a row. Consider it the homicidal variant of Mario's classic, 1-up formula and you'll be blasting your way to Nirvana in no time flat.
So, Sin & Punishment really is all that. It's a monumental 12 gun salute to the Nintendo 64, and a warm send-off for fans that stuck with the console until the very end. There's action a plenty, thrills by the clip load, and if you're still not convinced, the all English voice acting might just do the trick. Likewise, the music manages to hold its own, staying on the right side of "not bad" while occasionally rising to the moment. And though that's hardly the strongest of praise, it's still good to know nothing seems truly out of place or broken. If you have the chance, the means, or even the opportunity, you'd be well advised to check this one out. Don't make the same mistake twice, learn from history, and enjoy the swan song... this is the Nintendo 64 we barely knew.
* The usual Treasure trademarks are all in place
* Lightning fast run'n gun action
* A variable difficulty curve satisfies all comers
* The standard N64 FPS style controls work a treat
* Sin & Punishment is loaded with boss battles
* Scripted events keep the adrenaline pumping
* There's nary a flicker of slowdown
* Some phenomenal graphics showcase what the N64 was truly capable of
* All English voice acting
* Forget Conker's Bad Fur Day, Sin & Punishment is the swan song to remember
* The narrative can be quite confusing
* Sin & Punishment isn't the longest of shooters, but nor is it the shortest
Staff review by Michael Scott (June 14, 2005)
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