Resist the Call
Today I am writing to tell you about Forbidden Siren or just Siren, depending on where you are. Siren is a videogame. A stealth/survival game where your characters have the ability to see and hear what other characters can see and hear.
Siren was released in 2003 on the PlayStation 2 and developed by Keiichiro Toyama. I’m talking about it under the heading of Obscure horror as the game isn’t well known and is more of a cult classic, though it did get some sequels and even a movie.
The story centres around a group of people surviving a supernatural disaster in a small rural village in Japan. The story is told in a non-linear style with parts of the plot being told out of sequence.
The group first believe the disaster to be an earthquake but the truth is revealed quickly that it was no ordinary disaster and the majority of the population has effectively become zombies. They are hostile, with low brain function and almost impervious to harm.
But there is more to things than that, with the towns water also being replaced with a new substance dubbed Red Water. The town has also moved from its previous location in the mountains to an island surrounded by the Red Water. Lastly parts of the town have vanished and been replaced with past versions of itself.
While the titular siren can be heard throughout the town.
Through exploration the history is revealed. That being that the town was very isolated and many of its residents followed a syncretic faith known as Mana. Because of this the nun Hisako Yao attempted to sacrifice a girl, Miyako, who was considered holy due to her mental abilities. The ceremony was disturbed however and Miyako used the distraction to flee. It was the failure of the ritual that caused the disaster which moved the town to another world.
It is also shown that the Siren is the god of the religion and the call is driving people to put themselves in the Red Water which is what is turning them into zombies. The zombies are shown to be building a temple/nest for the god.
My Thoughts General
I’m a big fan of non-linear story telling. Especially in games when you control the character or characters and you really feel like you are the one unearthing the story yourself. It proper tickles my detective vibe.
I was also a big fan of the gameplay. You’ll recall in my earlier letters that I get frustrated with games that label themselves horror but then make your character a super badass, as this makes combat a large part of the gameplay and in my personal opinion combat should be minimal in horror games. This game strongly encourages you to avoid conflict and I bloody love that. It makes threats feel real and ups the tension wonderfully.
My Thoughts – Characters
The games story unravels through the perspective of ten different characters. Because of this some of the characters could be better developed. But overall, I found them to be well realised.
I’m not used to playing a horror game with such a large playable cast, the closest I’ve come is games like Man of Medan etc by Dark Pictures. I did enjoy how playing as different characters gave you a range of perspectives.
The character motivations felt very believable, as they are trying to escape and discover what on earth is going on.
Though I did note that having so many playable characters made me feel like the tension was lowered. As the characters felt more expendable.
My Thoughts – Plot
As I said above, I love the use of non-linear storytelling and this game makes great use of it. The events being presented outside of chronological order makes the mystery of what’s going on more compelling than it would have been otherwise.
Once revealed the plot is not terribly original, you may already know that Keiichiro Toyama was involved in Silent Hill and the plot here certainly had some similarities. Though I did enjoy the use of ‘zombies’ and the Red Water.
My Thoughts Gameplay
The game is broken down into stages and I was a big fan of how the stages impact each other. For example, a character in one stage can carry out a task that will directly impact a different character in a different stage.
I enjoyed the use of Sightjacking, which is a skill the playable characters have. It allows them to see and hear through the perspective of NPC’s and lets you get an idea of what’s ahead.
As I said before the game encourages you to avoid combat which is a great thing in a horror game as this ups tension. A large part of the gameplay is devoted to you keeping a low profile and alluding detection be it by hiding or causing a distraction.
I very much enjoyed this game and would recommend it.