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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories [Dec. 17th, 2009|01:03 am]
Manga Bento in (Video) Games


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Before I say anything about this game, I want to make something clear.

Silent Hill 1, for the PS1, is one of my all-time favorite video games. All-time. Without hesitation, I can say that it's one of my top five all-time favorites. It's not really something I can explain, but something about it really warped my opinion of what games were really capable of in terms of storytelling and atmosphere. It wasn't exactly phenomenal, but at the time, it totally blew me away.

So when I heard they were going to have a western developer, the same guys who did Silent Hill: Origins, remake the first game, I was more than a little skeptical. Maybe even downright offended. After the slap in the face that was Silent Hill: Homecoming and Konami coming out to say that their new big survival horror franchise was going to be SAW, I decided that Silent Hill as a franchise was dead.

But a part of me felt responsible to at least give this new game a try. I learned a few things about it that quirked my interest, which I'll get into later, and one gift card later I was playing.

I was wrong. This game is fantastic.

Right away, the point that must be made is that this game isn't a true remake. It's more of a 'reimagining' of the original. In terms of storyline and gameplay, it's grasp on the original is tenuous. To begin with, Shattered Memories is part-time game, part-time psychological examination. At the very beginning of the game, you are introduced to a therapist, who guides you through a session and has you fill out a brief examination form. Depending on your answers, the way your story will unfold will change, and trust me when I say it's best to answer truthfully. At the outset within the actual game, the story loosely follows the plot to the original: the protagonist, Harry Mason, searches for his daughter, Cheryl, in the mysterious town of Silent Hill following her disappearance after a car accident that left him unconscious. The rest of the story is radically different. As his story is spun, it twists and turns, and occasionally, he will find himself in the nightmare realm.

In this game, the nightmare realm is treated differently than in previous installments. They swap out rust and decay with ice and frostbite as hell seems to freeze over and you are tasked with finding a way to escape the nightmare. Monsters are nowhere to be found in the real world, and you are left to explore and examine the world around you, but in the nightmare realm you are never given this level of freedom. You have no weapons throughout the entire course of the game, and you have no combat capabilities. With only your cell phone to tell you of nearby danger (as opposed to a radio) your only option is to run, hide and do whatever is necessary to escape the nightmare. If a creature manages to catch up to you as you flee, it will grab you and latch on, at which point you use gestures with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck to shake them off. If they latch on from the front, you 'shove' them away by pushing outward with the controllers. If they manage to grab you as you climb a wall, you jerk your arm down to elbow them. If you're crossing an object that can be toppled as you run by, you make a swift sideways gesture to knock it down and slow the creatures. There is also a flare you can light and carry that will ward monsters off on their own, but it's use is limited and is best saved for emergency situations. In essence, you have very little empowerment, which makes the nightmare sections of the game very intense.

When not in the nightmare realm, you're left to get to specific goals within the town, and more often than not you'll be forced to take the long way there. Some locations from the original game return, others are brand new, but most of them are dark. Your flashlight is controlled by your Wiimote, with an on-screen reticule guiding where you have it pointed. You use the nunchuck to move and you point the reticule at the edges of the screen to turn, which is less clumsy than it sounds.

Visually, the game holds up. It's not very pretty in some spots, even by Wii standards, but most of what it does is done very well. The lighting and shadow effects are wonderful and spooky, with your flashlight casting shadows over everything you point it at.

Saying much more than what's already been said might spoil too much of the game for people potentially interested in seeing what this game has to offer. I've played through twice so far, and the storyline differences were radically different in both occasions.

While this game has little to do with the original game, I personally look at that as a positive. With just the right amount of 'references' here and there, Shattered Memories manages to be a modernized reimagination without trying to replace the original. It personally struck me as a kind of fan project, a game made by people who understand that the best way to pay homage to the Silent Hill franchise is to do what that game set out to do. Which is to say, tell a layered, dark, and detailed story in an interesting way without sticking to conventions or cliches.

Game of the Year for the Nintendo Wii.