Genre: Rail Shooter
Year: 2000
Developed by: Treasure
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: N64
Feeling Like: Hardly

Typically at the end of a console’s lifecycle, I start to want better hardware. I don’t know whether the developers have mastered the ins and outs of the digital guts, or if I’m getting impatient looking at the same graphic fidelity for nearly a decade. I’m nearly done Ghost of Tsushima and the painstakingly detailed, gorgeous backdrops are absolutely stunning. However, I can’t help but wonder how much better it would look on a Playstation 5. Hearing early reports of Cyberpunk 2077‘s pathetic performance on PS4s and Xbox Ones has me nervously looking at my wallet. I don’t need 4K at 60 frames per second, but I need to achieve SOME kind of technical benchmark before I take the plunge, surely?

Sin and Punishment is a marvel, considering it was original created for the N64. You can tell Treasure pulled out all the stops to make it happen. The fact that the graphics look as good as they do, and the framerate is as strong as it is, and with the amount of enemy fire and robots and monsters on screen, it’s a miracle this is playable at all. It needed better hardware, yet they made it happen with the resources they were given.

You really don’t see many on-rails shooters, do you? I suppose the genre doesn’t lend itself well to mass appeal; they’re usually quite short, intense and don’t have a ton of replayability. I see them as bite-sized treats, something I don’t get to play all that often but when I do I’m more than satisfied. No manual exploration, very little story – the focus is entirely on your ability to stay alive and try not to get distracted by the new challenge in front of you. They’re quite similar to the classic shoot em ups; it’s all aim and movement within a very limited space. You can’t turn around and check something you missed.

It’s a type of game that is devoid of filler, and stuffed with action. Sounds exactly like a Treasure game to me.

Since it took forever for this game to be released in the West, I didn’t play it until 2007 when it was available for the Wii. Going back nearly a decade was rough, but I still had a blast. Teenage Henry would have absolutely loved this game.

The combination of melee attacks, rolling around and firing your gun limits the possibilities of strategic choice, but the tactics remain the same – dodge and shoot. It’s not rocket science. What is impressive is the technical performance on a system that has probably aged the worse of any Nintendo console. It was simple to get into. I didn’t get lost. I wasn’t puzzled about how to take a boss down. Your aiming reticle is there, enemies are there. Simple. The choice to allow players to lock-on targets, albeit with reduced damage, is a smart one. Being the glutton for punishment at the time, of course I went with full manual control; it meant a lot of deaths for me, but it also meant I could cruise when I started to get a feel for the levels.

I don’t remember a single ounce of the plot, or even a good amount of Sin and Punishment in general, to be honest. The fact I have such fond memories for it is a credit to the inventive look and nature of how the game plays. It absolutely deserved more attention, it deserved a release to the west at the time instead of seven years later. It’s obvious that somebody else thought so too, since a sequel, Sin and Punishment: Star Successor was released in 2009 to critical acclaim. The Wii remote was tailor made for an on rails shooter and the precision is vastly superior, but we’ll get to that another time.

If you’re not used to bullet hell, you’ll have a lot of adjusting to do if you’re going to enjoy Sin and Punishment. It was a quick wake up call for me when I died on the first boss. Knowing when to repel projectiles and when to get the hell out of the way is only going to be learned through experience. Success, after numerous failures, tastes very sweet. It’s not for everybody, but I’d love to see a third Sin and Punishment game with the hardware it deserves.

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