For today’s retro gaming review, I thought we would return to the world of PlayStation 2 Survival Horror games. Specifically, I wanted to talk about one of the Silent Hill games that divided opinion more than any colour of a dress or sound of a recording could have ever done; Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.
Many people were instantly put on the defensive when the game was first announced, seeing it as a remake of the original Silent Hill game. As remakes are (usually) inferior to the original, since they don’t have the nostalgia element to play on, people are naturally wary of them. This is especially true when they change core elements of the original game. This is precisely what Shattered Memories did.
Rather than simply remake the original Silent Hill with better graphics, the developers at Konami remade the gameplay as well. No longer was it a slow trudge through a fog-infested world. Instead, you could now run and climb your way through a frozen nightmare of ice and screeching monsters. On top of this, the monster variety appeared to have been removed as well. Many people went into the game with negative feelings because of these changes, which made them very biased against the game. I, however, enjoyed it at the time. So, I thought I would go and take another look to see if I still felt the same way.
One of the biggest changes from the original Silent Hill to Shattered Memories was the storyline. In the original game, you were searching for your daughter (although that is debatable depending on your perception of the game) and have to deal with a cult. This is all very different in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Instead, there are actually two separate storylines going on at the same time; you trying to find your daughter and get home, and you having a session with a psychologist.
In the storyline within the town of Silent Hill, you make your way through the town, trying to figure out why ice keeps taking everything over and where your daughter is. Through phone calls on your mobile phone, your daughter will talk to you, giving you hints. On top of this, you have to find your home, deal with the police and meet a variety of different characters. It plays out like a normal Silent Hill storyline, with a lot of strange twists that don’t make sense at the time. This, in my opinion, is great for those of us who are coming back to the series. It gives them the sort of plot that they expect.
When it comes to the second storyline of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, however, I actually think it is better! The second plot plays out in very short clips that are interspersed throughout the sections of the first game. Each clip involves answering the psychologist’s questions as if you are actually having a session. Along the way, the psychologist evaluates you based on your answers and actions, which also changes the way the first storyline plays out.
As the second storyline continues, you learn more and more about the reality of the situation, leading to a final twist that has stuck with me ever since I first finished the game. Personally, I feel it outweighs the plot twist in Silent Hill 2, but only just. It just seemed to be even more of a shock to me.
Because of all of these things, I have to admit, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories has my favourite storyline of any Silent Hill game. In fact, Silent Hill 2 was the first game I ever gave a 100% score to for the storyline… Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is the second.
Another huge departure from the original Silent Hill, Shattered Memories threw out all of the old gameplay mechanics. Rather than having you run through darkened, blood-soaked streets covered in fog, you ran around a nighttime town that felt eerie but not creepy. With a new, over-the-shoulder camera and a torch that could be moved around separately to the camera, you had far more control over what you saw at any one time. On top of this, the game would record and remember what you looked at, how you acted at any one time and what you did. This would then be used by the game to change the way things happen and the type of experience you have.
In fact, that is probably one of the best things about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The game puts together your actions in the main scenario with your behaviour & answers in the psychological analysis session and then changes itself to suit you. For example, whilst people were worried that enemy types were cut down, the game actually changes the way that the enemies look and act based upon you and your own psychology. The events of the game also change, as do the characters. In fact, everything about the game can change.
This is one of the most in-depth gameplay mechanics I have ever experienced. The developers did an incredible job making it so that everyone gets a different experience when playing Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.
When it comes to the horror aspect of the game, this really only kicks in when the town of Silent Hill freezes over temporarily. It is at this point in time that the monsters appear, constantly chasing you. However, you have no way to actually defend yourself as you are entirely unarmed. Instead, you have to run as fast as you can, climbing over obstacles and knocking things over to slow the monsters down. This creates an incredibly frantic sense of tension as you try to escape and survive.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a very different type of game compared to the other Silent Hill games. This caused a lot of people to be very upset with it, whilst others found it to be a very fresh take on the series. For me, I was in the second group and still am. Personally, I think Shattered Memories is one of the most interesting examples of experimentation with gameplay, as well as pure genius in how it was implemented.
Whilst graphics aren’t the most important aspect of any game, it is worth mentioning that Silent Hill: Shattered Memories had some really great graphics for the PlayStation 2. The camera angle of the game meant that you had a much closer view of everything, so the developers obviously put a lot of time into the way everything looks. Each of the characters, in all versions of themselves, look incredible and unique. The enemies also look really creepy, with each iteration of them having their own individual features.
On top of this, the visual effects that happen when the town freezes look incredible. When it comes to the little aspects of the game, like the flares, the particle animations used to create the smoke are amazing.
Without going on forever, saying the same things over and over, the graphics of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories are a treat for the eyes. The developers put so much effort and detail into the world and its various inhabitants, and it really shows.
And That’s All Folks
In the end, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories really is a divisive game; you’ll either appreciate the intelligence of the story and gameplay, or be put off by the huge departure from the typical Silent Hill games. When it comes to my opinions on the game, I must say that it remains my favourite in the Silent Hill series. This is because I cannot get over the amount of depth that the game holds, as well as the fact that the twist at the end hit me harder than any other Silent Hill twist to date.
I would definitely recommend this game, even if you are worried about the huge change in gameplay style. It is a very unique and original game that offers great replay value and boasts the fact that you’ll almost certainly have a different experience than other people you know.