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The Reason This Infamous N64 Rail Shooter Never Made It Out Of Japan

We all want what we can't have, and video games are no exception. There are huge communities dedicated to sourcing, translating, emulating, and playing games that aren't available in their own country or language.

Given Japan's reputation as one of the behemoths of great game design, it's not surprising that a large portion of sought after titles are Japanese games that never saw a North American or European release. Some never reached shelves because they were banned in the USA altogether, but others didn't make it for economic reasons — translation and export is, after all, expensive. Take "Monster Hunter" as an example. Although it's a highly popular franchise around the world, there are several titles you just can't get in America

There are, of course, many others, including 2000's "Sin and Punishment," co-developed by Treasure and Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. With an 85% score on former review aggregation site GameRankings, now part of MetaCritic, "Sin and Punishment" is considered in retrospect to be one of the best N64 games ever released (via RetroGamer).

So why can't you play it outside Japan?

History of Sin and Punishment

"Sin and Punishment," or "Tsumi to Batsu" in the original Japanese, began development in 1997 when Treasure approached Nintendo with their proposal to create a game that encouraged players to interact with the N64 controller in a new way. In an interview with Satoru Iwata, Masato Maegawa discussed how, although there were two ways to hold an N64 controller, the left way and the right way, most games were designed for the right. For "Sin and Punishment," developers "thought that maybe you could aim with the analogue stick and move with the +Control pad in the left position." It was a radical idea, one that would require a lot of polish and passion to pull off.

If you've done the math, you might have noticed that three years is quite a long development by cycle by rail-shooter-on-N64 standards. "Mario 64," for example, was developed in only 622 days, according to Kotaku. The long development cycle for "Sin and Punishment" can be attributed to the initially tiny development team, only four people strong according to Maegawa, and the difficulty in reaching a compromise between Treasure and Nintendo. In fact, Hitoshi Yamagami described Treasure as "in the top three most difficult" companies he had ever worked with, saying "to put it bluntly, they were a weird company." He did, however, admit to being blown away by the game's prototype when it was eventually released to him.

Sadly, by the time the game was finished the Nintendo 64 was reaching the end of its life cycle, with production of the system ending in 2002. This effectively took the creation of a North American SKU (stock keeping unit) off the table.

Can you play Sin and Punishment now?

Unless you have a Japanese N64 and a pretty good grasp of the language, you can't play "Sin and Punishment" on its original system. The game was released on the Virtual Console for Wii U in 2015, but was initially not made available in North America. Worse still, the Virtual Console will be discontinued in 2023, and as of May 2022 players are unable to add eShop funds to a Wii U system.

However, all is not lost. In September 2021, Nintendo confirmed what we all expected. An additional tier of Nintendo Switch Online was coming, which enabled members to play classic Nintendo 64 games on their Switch. "Sin and Punishment" is included in the list of playable titles, along with beloved classics like "Star Fox 64" and "Ocarina of Time."

If you have a Switch lying around with the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership, pick up "Sin and Punishment". Better yet, if you have a compatible N64 controller, set it up and play it as intended.