Siren: Blood Curse is a survival-horror game developed by SCE Japan Studio and published by Sony for the PS3 in 2008. It's a remake of the original Siren that goes through the same basic plot with the addition of a bunch of new American characters that get roped into the horrors of Hanuda village. One of them is the exchange student Howard Wright, who interrupts a ritual in the village, which brings about calamity for everyone present.
Blood Curse was penned as "the movie based on the "true" events of the original game", but I think a more appropriate moniker would be to call it the American remake TV series (it's even episodic with needless recaps and previews) of the original Japanese cult horror film. I say that, because it's more approachable (both in story and in gameplay) but loses a lot of the original appeal in the process. The original game is borderline evil (or just incompetent, hard to tell) in its design, but the story underneath is layered with room for interpretation and is pretty awesome.
Blood Curse in comparison is just sorta there. The change to a (sorta) linear narrative is welcome, as it is much easier to get through and understand with the better pacing, but everything else is just lesser. There are fewer characters, meaning that some have been smashed together just to make sure that the key scenes of the original are still referenced, even if their impact are lessened due to characters pulling double duty.
Take Melissa, who is the fusion of the teacher Reiko and the TV host Naoko. She fights with her ex-husband Sam (the only proper new character), thus mimicking Reiko's personality. But she also cares for her daughter Bella (the fusion of Tomoko and Harumi), mimicking Reiko's relationship with Harumi in the original. On her own, she's a believable character (though I can't say I like her, she's at the forefront of a lot of bickering between the characters), but her story is not as good as either Reiko's or Naoko's, nevermind twice as good as one would hope. The same holds true for the other compiled characters who simply do not get enough screen-time to match the characters they represent.
The whole thing is frankly goofy schlock. The direction, animation and acting is not good at building proper tension. In fact, it feels like they had less budget this time around relatively speaking (I blame the PS3 and Japan's problems with HD assets at the time) and simply rushed to redo the most important scenes and forget about the rest.
As much as the whole story stinks (particularly the changes made to the major plot that undermines a lot of the original's interesting touches), I can't hate it exactly. Watching the included documentary shows that the team is full of a bunch of film nerds with eye for camera effects and costuming (once again, real people were photographed to make the models).
I particularly enjoyed the archive items this time around, as they recieved a lot of thought and some even include some amazing real-life footage. All that effort doesn't translate into the game being very scary sadly (something the original barely manages, to be fair). As such, I think the game would probably do well when played with a bunch of schlock horror-movie fanatics at least.
Something that is immediately noticeable about Blood Curse is how fast it is. It's bordering on stupidly so, as every character you play as can rush through a mission with little effort. I realize that a part of that was because I played on easy (the first game hurt me, ok?), but even so, your mobility allows for actions that would be inconceivable in the original. As such, the game wastes much less of your time (though the worst mission in the original remains the worst here, though for slightly different reasons).
With the game being chopped up into 12 chapters, the Link Navigator is no more, meaning that actually making progress is so much easier than in the original. You only need to complete a mission in order to move on. There are no secondary objectives and no secret objectives required in order to beat the game. Instead, the secret objectives have been relegated to a few of the archive items.
The archive items can now easily be tracked, as each one is clearly available in a particular chapter. But I don't think there's a way to get a hint as to which mission houses the secret objective needed to unlock a select few of them in other missions, so that aspect of the game has become even more obtuse!
But seeing as most archive items can be found by just exploring the relevant mission and that simply making progress isn't a nightmare anymore, I consider it an overall improvement. Also, the checkpoints now save your mid-mission progress! Well, as long as you don't try to go for the game's most complicated archive item, then it betrays you yet again. Still, progress nonetheless!
The incredibly scripted nature of each mission remains, but now you are at least told what the game wants you to do with pretty clear map markers and multi-part objectives. Being given explicit instructions like this really undermines the horror aspect, but it sure beats not knowing what the hell to do like in the original. And thanks to your improved mobility, it's even possible to sequence break every so often, which felt very empowering compared to the original.
Speaking of empowering, combat is less sluggish and offers greater parity between the male and female characters now (women can't use heavy weapons but seem to have the same amount of health as the men). As such, beating down Shibito isn't as harrowing and I swear they take longer to revive, though that can just be a result of the improved pacing letting you practically glide through even the longest missions.
What isn't better is the franchise's key mechanic, Sightjacking. It's effectively the same, but not as easy to make use of and frankly kinda useless if you're playing on easy like I did. It's no longer radial and instead dependant on either aiming at a Shibito or cycling through available sights using the shoulder buttons. Aiming at an enemy through walls is a real crapshoot, so using the automatic cycling is the better option.
Successfully sightjacking doesn't swap your view to the enemy's and instead splits the screen, making it possible to keep playing while keeping track of one or up to three enemies. Now thankfully, you don't really need to sightjack unless you're without a weapon or after a few of the trickier archive items. Which I'm glad for, because sightjacking turns the framerate to absolute shit.
Should you dare to split the screen into 4 segments by sightjacking 3 enemies, you'll be met by a framerate in the single digits. It's excruciating and I can't believe this change got through the conceptual phase. I suppose the idea of multiple shots at the same time were irresistable to the film nerds on the dev team.
Even though I am giving Blood Curse the same rating as the original, I thought it prudent to hammer home what sets the games apart. The original is a nightmare to get through with guide in hand, making it terrible on a gameplay front. But unearthing the story was highly appealing, which kept me going in spite of what I was forced to do.
The remake, for comparison, manages to elevate the gameplay from bad to acceptable, but loses most of the appeal that the original offered. There's just no reward at the end of the dark road that could possibly make the middling adventure worth it. If this remake was simply the same game with prettier graphics and more lenient gameplay with better checkpointing it would have been completely superior, though admittedly less creative.
I will say that it was interesting to play a remake that ends up being about as good as the original, though for different reasons. I hope I'll be able to replay to the second game next year and conclude that the series has a single good game in it, but I'm not betting on it. This series seems to be more cursed than Hanuda village itself.