sinandpunishment1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Tsumi to Batsu: Chikyu no Keishousha (Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth) for the Nintendo 64, published by Nintendo and released in Japan in November 2000.]

Glass Soldier

It's really difficult to evaluate a Treasure-developed game based on its merits alone, without Treasure's fans getting in the way of things. The company has produced several titles of varying quality over the years, but Treasure loyalists will insist that every single one of them is gaming gold. They'll argue that Stretch Panic is worthy of being featured on a magazine cover, for instance, and some would even go so far as to say that Advance Guardian Heroes has redeeming qualities.

Conversely, Treasure detractors will tell you that all of the company's titles are overrated, and that none of them are worth playing. Yes, this includes Radiant Silvergun. It always includes Radiant Silvergun.

Both parties do an equally good job of making one question whether it's okay to enjoy Treasure's games. Does liking Sin and Punishment make me a mindless Treasure fanboy drone? Man, I sure hope it doesn't.

sinandpunishment2.jpgAnd now, a 5000-word tribute to Buster's Bad Dream.

The majority of Sin and Punishment plays like an updated version of Cabal or Nam-1975. Your character is able to shoot, jump, dash, and move left and right along a limited 2D plane while the game automatically guides you between destinations. Shooting comes in two flavors: lock-on bullets that are the key to defeating enemies who move around a lot, and a gun that requires manual aiming, but also fires more powerful shots.

Sin and Punishment sticks to the standard rail-based shooter formula most of the time, but some of the more interesting moments come when the game breaks away from what is to be expected from the genre. In its final moments, Sin and Punishment abandons its run-and-gun gameplay for a level that plays like a side-scrolling platformer, and the multiple bosses in every level offer their own surprises in terms of strategy requirements.

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Its gameplay may be fast and fun, but Sin and Punishment has not gone without its share of criticism. Much has been made of its lack of difficulty and short length, sometimes in reviews that complain about the game being easy when it's played on the easy difficulty setting. In reality, the title is actually a fair bit longer than the average shooter; most playthroughs will take about an hour or so. As with most shooters, the appeal in Sin and Punishment comes not in grinding through the game by dying repeatedly and abusing the generous checkpoint system, but in finessing through the waves of enemies and using as few continues as possible.

Sin and Punishment was at one time considered for release in the United States, but the waning popularity of the Nintendo 64 in 2000 ensured that the title never left Japan. Rumors have suggested that Sin and Punishment will be a part of the Nintendo Wii's download service, however, so the game could very well find new life with the next generation of consoles. Treasure fans, your frothing demand should increase with haste.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]