Review: Sin and Punishment

June 25, 2002 9:10 AM PST

Sin and Punishment is something of a paradox. Itís the kind that you occasionally find in video games that encapsulates the new and the old of entertainment. On one hand, Sin and Punishment uses a refined type of linear plane, 3rd person gameplay, similar to Cabal or those great side levels in the original Contra. And the story itself draws heavy inspiration from that archetypical model of anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion. But then on the other hand, this is a fresh and new step for both Treasure and Nintendo. Treasureís trademark off-beat humour is all but missing because this game is nothing but business. And as for Nintendo, this is a rare glimpse at their dark side, for this is a bleak journey thatíll get worse before it gets better. Indeed, Sin and Punishment is a strange beast but it can take you to some of the most exhilarating places that have yet to be seen hitherto.

Occurring sometime well into the future, world peace and camaraderie reigns but so does overpopulation. Primal animals called Hokkaidos are engineered and created to feed the humans but they naturally revolt, running loose and rampant. Enter stage right and left are the corrupt Armed Volunteers and the naÔve Relief Group. There are frequent clashes between the two organizations as they both have polar views on how to get rid of the Ruffians (the Hokkaidos who chose to rebel). Youíll switch between two Relief Group protagonists, Saki (14 years old, and I really do hate the video game industryís trend to use younger and younger characters) and Arian (15), and along with them for the ride is their leader, Achi (13). As the story progresses, it becomes clear that only Saki and Arian can save themselves from death and find redemption for their planet. And all before puberty. Wonderful.

Like mentioned in the introduction sentence, the game of Sin and Punishment can best be described as a polygonal Cabal, but with much more fervent and constant activity on the screen (so I suppose itís more akin to the first two Panzer Dragoons). The control layout fits like a glove: move your cursor with the analog stick, fire with the Z button, move with the C buttons, and jump with the R trigger. The difficulty balance is steady and intuitive, with basic maneuvers in the beginning, and by the time you reach the end, you should be able to juggle double jumps while strafing and moving your cursor on your appointed target. This is simply classic, on-rails gameplay, a blistering arcade game at heart and one thatíll make your palms sweat.

Thereís one particular level that always seems to gets mentioned in every Sin and Punishment review, and I apologize for being formulaic, but I just canít pass by without talking about it. So surely, youíve heard about the famous Ďaircraft carrier levelí, right? Merely stated, this really canít be possible on the Nintendo 64. It starts after the characters tear out a chunk of an aircraft carrier, where youíll then levitate around on it, shooting down air and sea fleets, moving between planes, boats, and skipping along the ocean surface. Itís a mesmerizing, unbelievable level and it climaxes with a race against a gigantic missile, requiring you to shoot it down before it reaches its destination. Every decent game worth its name has at least one portion that absolves its asking price and this stage is it.

The graphics are, well, quite distinct. While the environment is impressive at times, almost every creature and human all look like triangles meshed together that got run over with a blur tool about six-hundred times (though an interesting side effect to this is that it gives the Ruffians an almost-organic look and aura). And while Iíd like to believe that these graphics are some kind of new style that dilettantes or ingrates like me canít appreciate, Iím relatively sure that itís due to the limitations of the system. Still, itís all tolerable.

However, the music and voice acting is inexcusable and inappropriate, and they fit as well as a jigsaw piece from a different puzzle set. There are plenty of heavy, serious moments in this game and youíll wonder what idiot decided this was a good time to play pornography music. The plot itself wouldíve had a much more lasting impact if they had hired actors who completed more than a few minutes of drama class. Not only do they sound pained and stilted, the lines are utterly laughable. Speeches that run to the effect of ďItís clear that we love each other but our hearts just havenít opened to each other yetĒ deserve to topple whatever game is at the top of the bad quote heap (probably the original Resident Evil or The House of the Dead 2).

There are moments that are awe-inspiring and there are other times that make you want to look down on those wacky Japanese. But once you get down the nitty-gritty, Sin and Punishment is a classic story of well-meaning gameplay defeating its other shortcomings. Despite the graphics, music, and voice acting (and Iím not so keen on the sound effects either), this beautiful collaboration between Nintendo and Treasure has given life to what could possibly be one of the best games for the console. Perhaps now, the Nintendo 64 can rest easy in its grave.

Alex Vo

Pros: Velvety smooth control and button layout, skip cutscenes with the press of a button, the aircraft carrier level, the final boss, fun, fun, fun

Cons: Music, voice acting, dialouge, clumsy and contrived story, very short











Cheesy Quote Factor







Release Date
November 21, 2000