|System: Wii, PS2, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Climax Group||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 19, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
You probably wouldn't be alone if you were thinking that the PSP port of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories wouldn't be a very good one. Even with the Wii being as comparatively underpowered as it is, Climax's twisted first-trip-back to the cursed town looks damn good-it's easily one of the best third-party efforts I've seen on the system.
That being said, I'm tagging this review with the disclaimer that if you already own or have played Shattered Memories on the Wii (or for that matter, the PS2), there's no real reason to re-visit the game on the PSP. However, if you're not among this group, you're in for a treat.
For those that many be unfamiliar with Shattered Memories' conceit, it's essentially a drastically different take on the events of the original game in the series. The game is presented as a series of therapy sessions (Dr. Kaufman is the therapist), with Harry re-visiting past events to try and figure out what exactly happened to him. But this isn't the same foggy, monster-infested Silent Hill that debuted over a decade ago; there are still monsters, so to speak, but the town is a much less surreal place on its own. Instead, the unreal elements of the game come from Harry's own experiences, lending it several shades of Silent Hill 2, while simultaneously raising issues of identity, moral ambiguity, and sexuality (some of which is dictated by your actions in-game-the game psychologically profiles you and changes accordingly, to some extent). The original skeleton of the first game is there, to some degree, but it's buried under layers of subtext-in short, Shattered Memories is one of purest embodiments of the themes the series has become known for since its second outing.
Thankfully, Shattered Memories' portable iteration is an amazingly faithful translation of its higher-powered console cousins; the game is pretty much entirely intact, from the title screen to the closing credits. This is a feat in and of itself, given the dynamic lighting, shadows, environmental effects, and streaming load times Shattered Memories has, but somehow Climax was able to cram the same experience into a pocket-sized UMD, with in-game loading, textures, and models taking a slight hit. This is probably due in large part to the compression the game uses, taking all the in-game cutscenes from the Wii version and playing them back as video files. Even when using the scaled-back in-game engine, this is still a pretty PSP title. With new games like this and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker coming out, it's good to see that the system's power capabilities are finally (finally) being harnessed to an effective degree.
On the gameplay side, Shattered Memories' is essentially broken up into two parts: exploration and combat-less chase sequences, with the former taking place in 'reality' and the latter in the game's icy otherworld. Obviously, with the crux of the Wii version's controls based on gesturing and other motion-based actions, Shattered Memories has also had to make some control concessions for its PSP port. One of the coolest things about the Wii version was using the Wii-mote to point Harry's flashlight around on-screen, which clearly can't be replicated on a non-motioncontrol-based platform. To compensate Climax gave more precedence to the look button, which, when held down, allows Harry to move his flashlight beam around using the PSP's control stick.
Other similar concessions are made elsewhere: during the game's nightmare sequences, Harry throws off the creatures chasing him using the PSP's face buttons (corresponding to whether or not they're jumping on your from ahead, behind, or either side); climbing and crawling away are sped up by tapping X; various commands for Harry's cell phone, a touch-screen wonder that does everything from GPS and phone numbers to saving the game, are handled with D-pad hotkeys. Since using Harry's phone to make calls is such an important part of the game, I'm glad Climax didn't skimp on the presentation here-all of the Wii version's superb voice acting (and Akira Yamaoka's beautiful soundtrack) have survived intact-though I did encounter some issues with uneven sound levels, particularly comparing sometimes quiet-ish dialogue to roaring sound effects. Similarly, the textures are flatter and character models a little more angular (and when they turn to ice it's just blue rather than an actual ice layer), but Climax has still done an admirable job with this port.