Siren was an interesting creation released in the US in April 2004 for the Playstation 2 and developed by Project Siren, a team comprised partly of developers who were involved in the creation of Silent Hill. Steeped in Japanese mythology, Siren follows the journey of ten characters as they navigate the perils that are presented to them in the small village of Hanyuda in rural Japan. The narrative centers around a religious ceremony that is interrupted, and as a result a massive earthquake ensues. Intriguingly, the small town becomes surrounded by a mysterious body of red water. Anyone exposed to the water eventually turns into a shibito. Shibito are more than your standard slowly shuffling and relatively unintelligent zombies. These enemies typically engage in repetitive activities, but if they’ve spotted you, they are relentless in their hunt. Unfortunately for the survivors, many of these shibito are capable of using weapons at their disposal such as farming tools and even rifles. Though this in and of itself is frightening, the scariest element of this game is that you cannot kill the enemies. If the characters have any hope of surviving, they must stealthily navigate through the town without alerting enemies, and even if the player gets lucky and manages to knock out an enemy, the effect is only temporary.
Thankfully, the player is presented with a tool to assist them in this frightening journey. Known as sightjacking, each of the characters has the intriguing ability to see through the eyes of enemies in order to figure out a path they need to take in order to avoid a potentially deadly confrontation.
It is at this point that I must bring up the main criticism that players have made about Siren. Many critics of the game mention the unmerciful difficulty, citing that inexperienced players will have to try and retry many segments in the game. Given that quite a few of the enemies can perform a one-hit kill on the player, I would agree that this assessment is apt. I would also say that the voice acting in the game is at times questionable.
Despite its faults, what is intriguing to me about Siren is its complex narrative. Without venturing too much into spoiler territory, I will say that having the village mysteriously transported somewhere outside of the confines of time is truly intriguing and perplexing. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the game is told in a non-linear fashion. Taking place over 3 days, the player can at one moment experience a scenario in the middle of day two and then jump to a scene which took place the night before.
This is an example of a game that received the remake treatment thanks to it achieving a ‘diamond in the rough’ status. More of a re-imagining of the original game, Siren: Blood Curse was released for the Playstation 3 in 2008, and it largely follows the formula established in the original game. It does depart from its source material by including American characters, several of which combine elements of some of the characters in the original game. The enemies are as relentless as ever, and the chills will once again run down your spine as you are often only a hair’s length away from being chased by a merciless shibito.
Thus, if you are looking for a decent scare with elements of mythology and the supernatural, Siren should be right up your alley.