Siren: Blood Curse
Year of Release: 2008
A trip to remember
Note: The following retrospective is spoiler free.
Siren: Blood Curse turns your expectations upside down in the first 10 minutes. Protagonist Howard Wright is an American teenager on a motorbike trip through Japan, who stumbles upon a strange village housing terrible secrets. A shocking scene kick-starts a wonderful, if somewhat confusing, horror game.
Blood Curse is the third and final entry in the Siren series. It released on the PS3 in 2008 and offers an interesting and varied cast of playable characters. Alongside Howard, an American film crew has arrived in the village to make a documentary on paranormal events.
The crew includes Sam and Melissa, a divorced couple who still work together, along with their young daughter Bella and cameraman Sol. A local doctor, Seigo, is the only native Japanese playable character, and a mysterious nun called Amana rounds off the cast. Miyako is another local to the village, but isn’t playable.
The player doesn’t choose who to control, but rather switches between perspectives at various points in the game. Characters have unique equipment that sets them apart. These include Seigo’s rifle, while 10-year-old Bella has to rely on her wits to stay hidden from enemies.
The result is a beautiful, atmospheric game that has a pretty confusing plot but it nevertheless a hell of a lot of fun to play.
The main quirk in the Siren series is the ability to see what other people or creatures see, a trick called ‘Sight Jack’. Simply put, this usually means the screen splits in two, somewhat like the TV show 24, to show what you and someone else are looking at.
This is put to great use by the game when running away from an enemy. There’s nothing quite like watching yourself run helplessly from a horrific monster as you try to escape an area. In true survival horror style, weapons are fairly limited or even nonexistent depending on who you’re controlling.
Sight Jack can be triggered at will to help you survive. It’s especially useful to see where nearby enemies are, for example when planning how to sneak past them. Sight Jacking sometimes triggers automatically, usually during tense moments, which definitely ups the fear factor.
Distraction, stealth, and using the environment to your advantage are the name of the game in Siren: Blood Curse.
The Siren universe
Although this is the third entry in the Siren series, Blood Curse is a standalone story. It has elements of the previous games that fans will enjoy, but it’s not necessary to play all the games in any kind of order.
The game’s director was quoted as saying that he included a mostly Western cast in the Japanese setting to create a sense of fear and isolation. The cast’s connection to one another, particularly the dynamics between Sam, Melissa, and their daughter, is an interesting one.
Seigo helps ground the story in the setting of Hanuda Village, while Amana the nun’s role turns out to be one of the most intriguing. The main character, Howard, is perhaps someone the player would aspire to be: an adventurous, fun-loving guy who does what he can to help those in need.
The way each stage is presented, with the character’s name and the current date and time, is important in grounding the player in the story’s sense of time. I’m a particular fan of this kind of storytelling: There’s a sense of impending doom as time keeps ticking (somewhat like the original Ringu movie).
The soundtrack is superb, with a wailing chorus set against the sound of traditional Japanese music setting the tone immediately. The game frequently makes use of air raid sirens to signal incoming enemy attacks, which certainly seems inspired by Silent Hill. The enemy design, including nurses and other possessed locals, also gives strong nods to that franchise.
Should you play Siren: Blood Curse in 2020?
All told, Siren: Blood Curse is a fantastic survival horror game. Its unique Sight Jack mechanic and strong cast of playable characters, along with terrifying gameplay and excellent presentation make it a must-play for fans of the genre. The story becomes quite confusing by the end, but overall it’s a solid experience.
If you have a PS3 or a PS Now subscription on PS4, I’d definitely recommend it.