But when it does, some of videogamings most gobsmackingly frenetic blasting is often the result. The on-rails animal aggression of Lylat Wars; the bug-splattering beauty of Jet Force Gemini; and now, courtesy of Mischief Makers coders Treasure, the frighteningly fast screen-shuddering action of Sin and Punishment.
In fact, Sin and Punishment owes more than a little to the N64’s back catalogue of blasters. As you assume control of 13-year-old Saki – or one of his heroic cohorts – the camera usually sits behind you, and the sights chase skittering aliens around the screen as you wiggle the analogue stick about. That’s the Jet Force influence – Lylat Wars lends S and P its method of forcing you forward at a fixed speed, allowing the ruthless level designers to time the appearance of every alien wave and eye-popping set-piece.
It’s utterly relentless stuff. At any one time, you’ll be frantically trying to direct your fountain of bullets at anything up to twenty hovering police cars, Transformer-like robots, darting mosquito-alien hybrids or hideous orange stomachs. Gunfire, bomb blasts and fireworks join the pleasingly Manga-esque scenery and characters on-screen – and yet you’ll only see Sin and Punishment slow down when the odd exploding aircraft carrier creates a mile-wide ball of fire. Treasure’s move to 3D was aided by NTSC – the Ridge Racer 64 people – and the results wouldn’t look out of place stuffed inside a coin-op cabinet.
But 10 colossal levels of on-rails blasting, no matter how good-looking, could easily have palled. So Sin and Punishment doesn’t just take you roaring into the screen – it also plunges you into a rip-roaring horizontal race past fire-breathing dinosaurs and laser-spitting snakes, stands you atop a flying platform that dives, swoops and somersaults over an ocean populated with vast battleships and darting attack boats, and hands you a sword for a one-on-one battle with an evil genius and his cat. And, with the need to simultaneously leap, sidestep, lock-on, shoot, and – best of all – swat missiles with your blade, every moment is deliciously hectic.
The only disappointment to be had with Sin and Punishment, then, is when the end credits arrive – and they arrive quickly, after little more than an hour’s play. It’ll take far longer than that to conquer the brutally unforgiving ‘Hard Mode’, where aliens learn fresh attacks and new bosses pop up from nowhere, but with that polished off there’s precious little left to do. The multiplayer offers – groan – co-operative play, with one player controlling Saki and the other his gun sights, and, shockingly, the welcome level select is unable to save your best scores. As a result, this is a game that doesn’t last as long as you’d hope.
But you’ll still find it near-impossible to be disappointed with Sin and Punishment. While the so-called ‘next generation’ systems struggle with derivative fighters and racers, the N64’s been treated to a blinding shoot-’em-up that gives the likes of Lylat Wars and Jet Force a real run for their money. Borrow a foreign N64, steal a converter cartridge – this simply must not be missed.