Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

After finishing the first game and realizing we still had two months before the release of the Silent Hill HD Collection, I figured it would be safe to play the "re-imagining" of the first Silent Hill, subtitled Shattered Memories.  What re-imagining means is that while you are still a character named Harry Mason looking for his daughter Cheryl after getting in a car accident, the story itself is very different.  While there are still characters with the same names and you visit some similar locations, gone are the black magic rituals and mentions of summoning demons.  Instead you are actually in a psychiatrist's office and switch between answering questions for him and then reliving what happened to you after the car accident.


Apparently I was not the only fan of the series very frustrated with the combat difficulty of the last couple games.  This game was an attempt at a return to form, but unfortunately they swung it back way too far.  The only time you can "die" in this game is during the nightmare sequences, where skinless, faceless creatures chase you through a frozen world and you must run through a labyrinthine level to find the way out.  You have no weapons at all - the only things you will pick up during the game are keys to unlock doors and mementos that, as far as I can tell, bear nothing on the actual story itself.  In the nightmare sequences all you do is throw the wiimote and nunchuck in various directions to throw the creatures off you. These creatures were really scary and I felt really frantic the first time I ran into them.  But seeing as how these sequences increased in difficulty but not scariness through the rest of the game, I stopped being scared and mostly became frustrated.

When you're not in the nightmare sequence, there is no possible harm that can come to you.  You'll run into ghosts or some other paranormal energy, and your flashlight will flicker and you'll hear a bunch of static and feedback.  But once you realize there's absolutely no threat behind these things, just more story to be revealed, you stop being scared all together.

This game had so much potential to be a really frightening game.  You use your wiimote to control your flashlight, and you walk around places in the dark looking for clues.  Any horror movie fan knows the potential here, the idea of things lurking in the darkness where you can't see,  paranormal happenings all around you.  Just picture how frightening and thrilling this game could be!  Then sigh really loudly at how much this game is not that.  I screamed out loud the first time the creatures in the nightmare world jumped out at me.  Yet throughout the game I occasionally had to open up cabinets or pull back curtains to see what was behind them but I never found anything remotely scary behind any of them and had absolutely nothing jump out at me!  Why would you not include that?!

One thing I can praise it for is that it's one of the very few adult games made for the Wii.  There is cursing and a lot of very adult situations that happen within it.  It shows that there really is potential for motion controls and mature subject matter to go hand in hand.  They also take advantage of the speaker on the wiimote to work as your cellphone.  When you get a call in the game, you actually hold  the remote up to your ear to listen to the call. It helps to try to put you inside the game as much as possible.


Another neat thing about the game was the time with the psychiatrist.  You were asked some personal moral questions and asked to make some interesting decisions.  For instance, he tells you a story about a princess who is forced into an arranged marriage to a prince she doesn't love.  The prince knows she doesn't love him, but asks for her hand in marriage anyway.  The king knows she doesn't love him, but agrees to the marriage because it's the tradition.  On her wedding night she runs away from the prince, and enters a field despite a warning sign that there is a dangerous bull there.  The bull kills her.  Arrange the four characters in order of guiltiness for who is responsible for her death.  Not the easiest thing to answer, is it?

Those questions, along with some sequences where you go into first person view and can control what the character looks at, directly affect what ending you get.  Much like Bioshock, the same thing still happens, but the tone changes.  I managed to get a positive ending.  During the credits you also get an evaluation from the psychiatrist, a kind of personality profile.  I answered the questions throughout the sequences honestly from my own perspective, and I found the profile to be eerily accurate, with only a couple things off.

Unfortunately that profile was practically the only thing about the ending I did like.  The ending is a pretty common horror twist ending trope and a bit of a cheat at that.  Like a lot of cheat twist endings, I feel a little better about the story with enough time and distance to have perspective on it, but at the time I felt really betrayed.  It definitely left me with no desire to attempt a replay and get a different ending.

If you have a Wii and can find this game on the cheap, I recommend getting it.  While the not the best of the series, it's certainly the best since Konami handed game creation over to Western companies rather than producing these in house.  Just don't expect it to scare you too much.

I wonder if, with the release of the WiiU, they will maybe try to improve upon this formula.  I would gladly give another game in this series a try if they made the effort to increase the scares in it.  Though the two games they have released since this one are nothing like it.


2 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    I want you to know that I've been reading all your Silent Hill posts, but have been unable to comment because I've never played any of the games! Nor have I ever played anything on a Wii. (The shame! I know . . .)

    The closest I ever got was "Kiddie Night" with some friends. We had just watched Monsters vs. Aliens and were playing the games in an arcade (trying to bring back the 80s and 90s, you know?) when I saw the Silent Hill game with the tattered black streamers. I didn't want to play on my own, so I kept trying to get a friend to join me, but for some reason, none of them wanted to. =(

    And there ends my brush with Silent Hill.

    But I think I really would have liked being in the psychiatrist's office and answering that question. And if I had a lot of time with this game, I'd answer every possible combination just to see what the different endings would be! =P

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    1. Considering how often my Wii lies dormant, I'm not that surprised that you haven't played one. There are some interesting games for it, but it's far outnumbered by mediocre kiddie games instead.

      It sounds like you ran into Silent Hill: The Arcade which they never released here. If that's the case, you've got the advantage on me in at least one Silent Hill aspect. :)

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