The Forbidden Siren was huge when it released on the PS2 back in 2004, and with a new generation of machines the people behind the title wanted to create something new in what was originally going to be a sequel to the 2004 title. In the end they decided they already had a more than decent game on their hands and with a few tweaks could bring the scares to a whole new group of gamers.
With a few changes to some of the characters, a slight adjustment in story and a new episodic style, SCE Japan managed to release the game on both the PSN as a downloadable “chapter by chapter” style, as well as the retail “buy in store” style we know and love.
It’s been a while since I got my hands on the first 3 chapters via preview code, and while a whole lot hasn’t changed, the presentation was more than enough to get me hooked back into the series. I say series because it is one of the first videogames that really plays out like a television show, not only because it’s episodic but because of how each and every episode starts and ends.
The game starts with your not so typical cutscene, the entire first chunk of the opening cutscene was filmed in a forest with actual people, and seamlessly flows into in-game graphics once it becomes time to familiarise yourself with some of the main characters. This group of characters are the cast and crew of a documentary crew who are checking out the site where decades earlier an entire Japanese village disappeared. What they weren’t expecting to see was the sacrifice of a couple of girls and the rumbling of the ground they walk on.
The ceremony is interrupted by a young man who is trying to save one of the girls from being killed. Upon succeeding he runs off to try and get help, and this is where the game starts. After entering a small house and trying to use the phone you take control and are slowly drip fed information on how to control the people you’ll come to know rather well. Strangely, the moment you take control will also be the moment where you come into a little trouble, not only storywise but also because everything plays out a little different to your average game.
After walking out of the small hut you are given your mission objective: to escape the policeman. What policeman? The undead one that’s about to arrive with order to shoot to kill. The weirdest thing about this game is that a lot of it is trial and error. Run to attack the officer and you’ll die, run to escape him and he’ll put two bullets into you and if you can’t find the small path you’re meant to be running to the third bullet will kill you.
You will retry sections of this title again and again, not because you’re bad at the game but simply because you might be doing one small thing wrong, attacking in the wrong way, being unable to see where in the pitch black you’re supposed to be running, or you weren’t able to see enough thanks to sight-jacking taking up far too much of the screen. All of these things aren’t exactly things that are broken inside the game, but more so it’s a play style that you’ll need to get used to.
There’s a map so you can find those hidden paths, there are different strength attacks which when used with different weapons are better against certain Shibito in certain situations than others, and the sight-jacking will help you more than it will hinder you. These things all have one big thing in common: you just need to know how to use them. Once you get the hang of it all and you can focus on what is happening around you, that is when the fear starts coming in.
After all, the game is a survival horror, it’s just that nothing seems scary when you’re fighting with a new control system. Once you start appreciating the game for what it is, you’ll also start noticing how amazingly creepy and gory the game really is. Everything has been motion captured, from the standard human motion to the creepy disjointed motion of the Shibito and even more disturbingly a whole bunch of the execution moves.
The Shibito are terrifying with bleeding eyes and mouths as well as moth appendages further into the game. SCE Japan have certainly managed to capture the unnerving tenseness that Japanese horror films are renown for, and the episodic style captures the seasonal Television style presentation that the Western world has all but perfected. You’ll see “in the next episode” style videos at the end of every chapter, and a recounting of what has gone down before the start of the next chapter. It makes saving and coming back to the game much easier than ever before.
This won’t be a game for everyone. The fear found in Siren isn’t the typical style you’d find in a series like Resident Evil or Dead Space. Instead it grows over chapters as things go from bad to worse, main characters are hurt or presumably killed and you start piecing together the rather abstract story. Those who do struggle through the first chapter or two will undoubtedly fall in love with the game, so maybe it’s better off as a downloadable title? For a game that installs to the HDD from the disc, I expected less loading times, as the placement and time of them really detract from the experience.
All in all, Siren Blood Curse is a title for those looking for a survival horror in a sea of action adventures.