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When I first saw the theme for this month's Musing, Digital Devil Saga immediately came to mind. I had a blog ready to go in my head, and I started typing it up a few days ago.
And then I bought Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.
I've tried playing Silent Hills 2, 3, and 4 in the past, and I could never get into them. (I know, I'm a blasphemer for not liking Silent Hill 2.) But when I saw the videos and the reviews of this game, I knew I wanted to play it. I figured it was a good place to start, too, seeing as how it's a reimagining of the first game. So I grabbed it, and I've been playing it pretty constantly. Thanks to what I've experienced so far, I can safely say I've never been torn between loving and hating a game so much in my life.
There's a ton to love right off the bat when it comes to SH: SM -- The ambiance is mysterious, the graphics are excellent, and the controls are used in ways never before used. The flashlight mechanic is the best in any game I've ever played, and it single-handedly proves that the Wii Remote's greatest feature is the infrared pointer. And even though it's pointless, I think it's absolutely awesome to be able to look behind you while you're running away from those faceless skin people that love to chase you so much.
The attention paid to detail in the game is really amazing, and there's so much that can be overlooked. I don't know how many dozens of phone numbers you can manually dial throughout the experience -- Most of which don't matter in the least, but some of which provide ways of unlocking doors and finding items. The psychological part of the game is amazing as well -- Depending on what you answer and what you do, characters will look and act differently. The game does an amazing job of reading the player and almost tailoring the game specifically to him/her.
So if this game is so amazing, then why do I hate it so much? Well, how about because it's about as scary as Resident Evil 5? This game, which is a part of what many gamers consider to be the scariest series in existence, barely made me flinch even once. There's one main, glaring reason for this: What should be the scariest parts of the game -- the parts when the only light anywhere near you is merely coming from your flashlight -- are completely devoid of threats. Unless you're engaging in a chase scene while Silent Hill is frozen over, there are absolutely no enemies to be found. So whenever all the lights go out and you can barely see a thing even with your flashlight, you have absolutely nothing to worry about because you will never be attacked throughout the entire game. The parts that do contain enemies are actually pretty well-lit, meaning you'll be able to see the monsters coming before they get to you. Sure, there are a couple times where this rule doesn't apply, but for the most part you won't be surprised at all.
Another element of this game that pulls me in two different directions is the story. The method in which the story is told is actually extremely well-done. You're not even given an inkling of what's really going on throughout the entire thing, and the ending is actually a pretty big twist when looking back at everything you'd done. The problem is that the twist has been done so many times before that the shock only lasts for about half a second before you say "Oh, well that's a cop-out." See, when Konami said this game was a "reimagining" of the first Silent Hill for the PlayStation, they weren't kidding -- Absolutely every single thing in the game aside from the find-your-daughter plot is completely different from the original. I may not have completed the original game, but I have a pretty good idea of what happens in the end, and it's way more out there than this iteration -- Whether that's a good or a bad thing is up to the player, though, since the presentation here is quite good.
Shattered Memories almost mocks you, to be honest. It takes what is essentially the absolute best horror environment in gaming history -- the real world -- and it gives you the absolute best control scheme ever seen in a horror game, and it completely removes any feeling of actual horror. It's like they were thinking "Hey, we've got this awesome, scary game, but instead of actually scaring the players, we're just going to hold their hands throughout the entire thing, completely removing any sense of survival." It just don't get it. The parts of the game that should be scary aren't, and the parts that shouldn't be scary -- the chase scenes -- are the ones that try to scare you the most, but ultimately fail. It's literally backwards, yet the depth of the story and the innovation of the control scheme kept pulling me in more and more, even though I became increasingly disappointed every time I played it. When I pick up a horror game (which is a genre that seems to be growing quite rapidly on the Wii, as crazy as that is), I expect to be scared. I want to be scared. I don't want to know exactly where and when all the game's threats will appear. There's no suspense involved anymore when that happens.
Ironically enough, though, there's one thing that this game managed to accomplish that I never expected it to -- I've officially become very interested in the rest of the series, even to the point that I'm willing to give the games that I have played and didn't like another chance. I think I'm going to end up downloading the original Silent Hill from the PlayStation Network very soon, and at the this-should-be-illegal-it's-so-good price of $6, too. I already know the story and gameplay are completely different in Shattered Memories, but I think that's a good thing -- It's not the same game. Good or bad, that's the fact of the matter, and I really am interested to see exactly how much was changed, and if the original iteration will scare me as much as I've heard it will.
Will I keep Silent Hill: Shattered Memories? Probably not. But I am thankful for it's ability to renew my interest in the previous games, and that alone was worth the experience.