Review by ploder44444

Reviewed: 01/22/08

A unique but slightly flawed survival horror

Forbidden Siren 2 tells the story of a group of people travelling to an island named Yamijima, who get caught in a red coloured tsunami, and wash up on the same. Each has their reasons for wanting to visit this island, despite it being called 'the island of hate/the dead.' Mamoru Itsuki, for example, is the editor of a science and mystery magazine, and Shu Mikami is a blind writer who wants to visit the island to try and recover lost memories. So far so good, but things are far from straightforward. Apparently all the former residents of the island disappeared 29 years ago, after the same red coloured tsunami. The only clue being a severed underwater power cable.

The story is related to us through the eyes of each character or combinations of the two. When those visiting the island awaken they find strange, light sensitive smoky spirits known as 'Shiryos' possess the bodies of the dead. Even more disturbing is the fact that the walking dead (Shibito) are those former residents of the island that had apparently vanished 29 years ago. As well as the smokey spirits there are these light sensitive slug like creatures (Yamirei) that become goth looking human hybrids (Yamibito) What exactly has happened to the island?

Without wanting to spoil the story too much, the main themes involve parallel dimensions, two groups of evil supernatural entities at war and Japanese folklore. The story is somewhat confusing as it is related to us in a series of snippets depending on the character being played, and it is not always in chronological order. This is bound to frustrate many players as you are not spoon fed the story. Instead you are made to carefully consider the events each character has witnessed and try to put something together from that. As a result you are probably not going to get a full picture until the end, and even the ending raises many questions. Very disjointed, but it is actually a great story if you have the patience.

The first thing you will notice about the graphics of this game is the photo realistic faces of the characters. Most of the time this looks good as you can really see the emotions of each character as they go through the ordeal of the island. At other times though, the faces look like a bit fake like masks depending on the angle they are viewed.

The character and enemy models are well designed and you can spot small details like blood around the eyes or dirt on their hands. The environments also look nice, although as it is a survival horror the main colours used are all dark. The draw distance is adequate, but even with the zoom of a sniper rifle don't expect to be able to see more than a few hundred yards. Aliasing is mostly unnoticeable which is good. The cut scenes use a kind of grain filter. This gives the graphics an almost ethereal quality, which suits the game and is probably what the developers were aiming for.

The game is mission based and makes use of an interlinking excel spreadsheet looking grid from which you choose the different stages from the 9 or so playable characters. Each stage has 2 missions, which are set in the same location but have different objectives. The various objectives must be completed to unlock stages with other characters, so you are given a limited choice as to which missions to attempt. The grid based layout does a good job of showing you which objectives you haven't completed although it may appear confusing at first.

Although each mission is short (15 minutes tops) you may often spend a lot longer trying to find the 'correct way' through the mission. Each mission is preceded by its own cut scene. FS2 is actually a lot tougher than most other survival horror games. For a start you don't have the speed advantage that you have in other games of this type. Enemies are at least as fast as you, and spend to long running and you become out of breath, after which you become very slow. The only option is to stand still and let your character recover. Your also don't have a visible indication of your health, even in the pause menu like most other games. You regen over a period of time, but this makes you more adverse to taking on enemies.

The various playable characters all have differences in speed, health and abilities, which makes it important to get to know their limits and plan accordingly. You will often be collecting items or performing certain actions that will help the other playable characters. There are characters which use fire power, but most of the time you will be creeping around trying to avoid detection. A nice touch is that you can pick up the weapons of defeated enemies and use the but of a gun to bludgen. Quite how enemies have inifinte ammo using the same weapon is a mystery!

In FS2 your torch is surprisingly useful, as many of the enemies hate sunlight. They will writhe for a crucial couple of seconds which will often give you the chance to either attack or run away! Your character can only hold 2 weapons at a time and in a novel twist pressing triangle will bring up a menu in real time allowing you to switch between the two. This menu also allows you to shout (distract enemies) and switch between characters in some missions.

The biggest novel feature in FS2 is 'sightjacking.' Pressing L2 will bring a white snow effect on the screen (like a TV) and rotating the left analogue stick will allow you to see through the eyes of your enemies depending on their location. For e.g, pushing the analogue stick forward will allow you to see though the eyes of an enemy in front of you, and left to the left of you etc. This is important as the enemies follow a set pattern and it often helps to slip by them unnoticed. You can also shortcut views for easy access and switch quickly to the views of 'alerted enemies' who see you marked with a red cross.

There are some twists to this formula in that one of the characters is partially sighted and you have to use the view of his dog to get by. Another character can see memories from the past in certain locations and one character can also possess enemies and use them to kill each other. That was the most fun, but sadly there aren't many missions allowing you to possess and kill other enemies. You can only save at the end of missions, although this is not as bad as it sounds as there are an infinite number of retries from the checkpoint and the missions are not that long anyway. The game does a great job of choosing the checkpoint so that you won't have to do too much again. Also, any story based items you have collected are remembered if you die.

Opening the map and menu screen is very fast and there is hardly any delay. The map is a little more complex than in most other games, having multiple floors and swivelling round to face where you face. I actually found it a bit confusing to navigate with and preferred just checking on marked locations now and again. As with most other survival horror games pushing the stick forward will make your character walk in the direction they are facing. There is no option to switch to 2D control. There is also a side step and crouch which you will undoubtedly need to use.

Another thing I should point out is that FS2 makes use of analogue control so that pressing attack harder will result in a more powerful blow, and pressing R2 harder lets you zoom in further. There is also a siren warning when you get too close to enemies which can lead to some tense moments when you can't see your foe.FS2 records archive items you collect from each level which tell you a little bit more of the complex story. What is cool is that many of the items incorporate a multimedia element. For example there is a robot that lets you play its sound effects, FMV of news footage, music, photos, journals, scrolls etc. This makes you feel that you are an investigative reporter trying to piece together exactly what has happened on the island. The developers have also gone to the trouble of creating convincing websites based on the game which is cool.

FS2 is a good PAL conversion, running almost full screen although it doesn't appear to be running at 60Hz or have an option for this. There is no visible slow down, although this is hardly surprising given the small self-contained areas and the few enemies on screen at any one time.

The biggest gripe I have with FS2 is the controls as they are a bit clunky at times. You cannot move at a quick pace, which is not so bad in itself but the characters take too long to rotate on the spot meaning that you will inevitably be killed by enemies that can juggle attack you one after another by the time the recovery animation is done. There is a quick turn although this is still too slow imo. Another thing is that having an NPC 'helping' you often results in them hitting you, you hitting them, getting stuck in the corridors and not letting you pass etc. This can be frustrating at times and lets the game down a bit. Certain weapons are slow to use such as the iron bar and you will inevitably become annoyed by enemies biting you before your get a chance to swing.

Although there are many novelties in FS2, such as driving a car, sightjacking, using the but of guns to hit with, after a while I began to tire with the small bite size missions that basically came down to getting to point B and activating/unlocking/defeating something. It is not always clear what you are supposed to be doing and despite the sightjacking I found myself getting bored of the gameplay mechanics and the enemies coming back to life. I know that most other survival horrors use a similar formula, but for some reason I didn't find FS2 as compelling as others. Only the interesting story kept me playing.

Background music is kept subtle as with most other survival horrors. Instead we are treated to atmospheric music, which is very well produced and can often be unnerving. The screams and shouts of unknown victims is very convincing, as are the weird melodies that play when you are near certain enemies. The wails, muffled voices and screeching that come from your enemies is delightfully unnerving at times and these often change depending on whose body you are sightjacking.

The English voice acting is probably the games weakest area in terms of sound. The English sounds a bit odd, as in having a Japanese accent. I found it hard to take the dialogue seriously and luckily the game allows you to switch it to Japanese from the main menu and have English subtitles.

FS2 is longer than your average survival horror and has easy, normal and difficult modes to complete. My game clock stood at 24 hours after having completed normal mode and gaining all 100 archive items. There are bonus missions to unlock as well as a couple of minigames. I don't think this will be a game I come back to though.

If you like weird mind bending stories that make you think then FS2 is for you. If you've enjoyed playing all the other survival horror games and are looking for something a bit different then FS2 is also for you. I wouldn't recommend this game to people just starting in survival horror, those that like to shoot enemies over creeping around or those people who lack patience.

FS2 is an interesting take on the survival horror genre. It is not ground breaking, but does try to do things a bit differently by letting you have choice over which missions to select. Despite a strong and interesting plot it is let down by the controls and sometimes obscure mission objectives. Overall, I just didn't find it fun after the novelties had worn off. It is still a decent survival horror that fans of the genre should pick up though.

Rating: 7

Product Release: Forbidden Siren 2 (EU, 08/04/06)

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