Special Feature: Happy 15th Anniversary Silent Hill!
Happy birthday Silent Hill, it’s hard to believe that the franchise is celebrating its 15th year since the release of the original and what most perceive as the great instalment. Over the 15 years we have been gifted some great games and some not quite so, a comic book series, arcade games, excellent soundtracks and two movies. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons why some of us hold this franchise so dear, after all there’s so much we love about the series as a whole.
Despite an unparallel love for the series, many believe it has lost its way and hasn’t captured the essence that perhaps the first three titles provided. Looking back at the series, is kind of looking back at a past fond relationship, an old flame that one day you hope will burn again. But regardless of some questionable releases, it’s the first three games that I will always have a special connection with, a connection that can never be broken. Fans of Silent Hill will understand that special bond that I talk of. In this celebratory feature of Konami’s Silent Hill; I (Richard) and Harris will take a look into why we hold this beloved franchise close to our fog filled hearts. We will speak of our love for the town of Silent Hill, so let me kick things off by letting you know why I love this franchise and I always will, from Silent 1 – 4.
The year was 1996, the year that the survival horror became my linchpin, with the release of Resident Evil on the Playstation. For the first time ever I was scared witless of a video game, never before have I been so terrified outside of the movie medium. Zombies, wacky stories, puzzles and plenty of jumps. I’ve never enjoyed being scared as much as this, so fast forward two years on and I was highly anticipating the release for the sequel of Resident Evil. But despite Resident Evil 2 being arguably my favourite from the series (at least for nostalgia anyway), 1998 wasn’t remembered for the most part of the release of Resident Evil 2. That treasured memory belonged to a simple trailer, a trailer that despite my new found love for Resident Evil and the horror movie genre, for the first and only time in my life, I fell in love with a simple trailer. This was no mere trailer however, this trailer was for a new kind of horror, a kind of horror that I have experienced. Of course that horror would be for the original Silent Hill.
The significance of this trailer from back in the day was before the internet was a common luxury. It was a time when often the opportunity we had to experience new video game trailers and demos, came via a disc from our monthly issue of the official Playstation Magazine. So when I had watched this Silent Hill 1 trailer countless times, I then had to wait an agonising year until I was able to play this game that I so longed for. It was an agonising wait because we had never seen anything like this before, from the nightmarish monsters, the harrowing soundtrack from Akira Yamaoka, the tale of a father that had lost his daughter in this mysterious town. Almost everything about this trailer had me gripped and even to this day and no trailer since that defining moment has ever had me feel so excited, this was an experience that would never to be repeated.
What made this even more unique for me was that my family was too poor to even own a Playstation 1. So back then I had a good friend that would allow me to spend as much time round his house playing his Playstation, then I often would spend at my own home. So when me and my friend first experienced that Silent Hill 1 trailer in 1998, by the time 1999 came round our excitement to play Konami’s new game was through the roof. But no matter how often we had watched that trailer, read previews in magazines, nothing could have prepared ourselves for experiencing the full game at first hand. This was one of those moments in which it was a defining moment in all my years playing video games; this was the first moment in which I truly experienced the town of Silent Hill.
Fast forward to 2001, this was a time that I had found the true benefits of ordering games online for a discounted price. As it happens the first three games that I had ever ordered online were all from Konami, but on this particular moment I was torn between two games that had arrived on the same day, the original Pro Evolution Soccer and Silent Hill 2. This was a particular great moment for me, because it would be the first time that I would own a console to play my new found love of Silent Hill, no longer did I have to rely on playing it round a friends. This led to some many long nights and some very odd dreams, but it was all worth it.
Harry Mason was no more, as we had a new protagonist in James Sunderland. Silent Hill 2 will go down for some as the best in the series, and rightly so. Silent Hill 2 started off with an iconic and impressive cutscene of our new protagonist James Sunderland looking at himself in the mirror, perhaps in the first stages of the game, he was already asking himself “What had he become?“, which would go on to be a key question as the game progressed. Silent Hill 2 had it all, a gripping story, terrorising monsters that included the debut of the infamous and iconic Pyramid Head, challenging puzzles and an amazing soundtrack. The story focused on James Sunderland and his apparent dead with his wife Maria, it was a story of a man desperately trying to cling on to the memory of his wife, so much so that he ventured into the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife! Unbeknown to him, what he was letting himself in for and ended up being not only a truly nightmarish experience, but it was a man that battled with his life’s guilt’s and these nightmares were represented in this foggy town.
Throughout the history of Silent Hill, all most each one had excellent written scripts, featured multiple endings and huge plot twists and turns. But perhaps no twist was more memorable than the one from Silent Hill 2, when during the last moments James Sunderland watched a video tape that would not only shock him, but also the gamer at hand. I won’t reveal what this shocker was (you may already know considering how old SH2 is), but in case you don’t, play the Silent Hill HD Collection to find out for yourself and discover one of horrors most gripping and immersive storylines.
If you would ask any Silent Hill 2 fan what their favourite moment is, it would be very difficult to pinpoint just a single one. But I think it’s fair to say that the letter sent from James deceased wife Mary talking of their “special place”, will be one of the most iconic moments from this truly iconic game.
In my restless dreams,
I see that town. Silent Hill.
You promised me you’d take me there again someday. But you never did.
Well, I’m alone there now…In our ‘special place’…
Waiting for you…Waiting for you to come to see me. But you never do.
And so I wait, wrapped in my cocoon of pain and loneliness.
I know I’ve done a terrible thing to you.
Something you’ll never forgive me for. I wish I could change that, but I can’t.
I feel so pathetic and ugly laying here, waiting for you…
Every day I stare up at the cracks in the ceiling and all I can think about is how unfair it all is…
The doctor came today. He told me I could go home for a short stay.
It’s not that I’m getting better. It’s just that this may be my last chance…
I think you know what I mean…
Even so, I’m glad to be coming home. I’ve missed you terribly.
But I’m afraid, James. I’m afraid you don’t really want me to come home.
Whenever you come see me, I can tell how hard it is on you…
I don’t know if you hate me or pity me… Or maybe I just disgust you…
I’m sorry about that.
When I first learned that I was going to die, I just didn’t want to accept it.
I was so angry all the time and I struck out at everyone I loved most. Especially you, James.
That’s why I understand if you do hate me.
But I want you to know this, James.
I’ll always love you.
Even though our life together had to end like this, I still wouldn’t trade it for the world. We had some wonderful years together.
Well, this letter has gone on too long, so I’ll say goodbye.
I told the nurse to give this to you after I’m gone.
That means that as you read this, I’m already dead.
I can’t tell you to remember me, but I can’t bear for you to forget me.
These last few years since I became ill… I’m so sorry for what I did to you, did to us…
You’ve given me so much and I haven’t been able to return a single thing.
That’s why I want you to live for yourself now.
Do what’s best for you, James.
James… You made me happy…
So with such the high standards that the first two Silent Hill instalments had set, as time has proven with almost every trilogy, it’s incredibly difficult to give us three hits in a row! But this is no mere series, this is Silent Hill after all, which brings me on to arguably the best Silent Hill sequel; Silent Hill 3 in 2003.
With Silent Hill 3 we had a new protagonist, a female lead and she would unexpectedly tie into the original game and possibly have the strongest story from the series. Now I know you might be thinking “so what if SH3 had a female lead?” and rightly so in this day and age. But back then, other than Lara Croft it wasn’t all that common to have female leads in such already established video game franchises. In came Heather Mason, daughter of the original Silent Hill protagonist, Harry Mason. In my humble opinion Heather was to be my favourite of all Silent Hill leads.
Heather was both mentally and physically strong, she was witty and when you thought she was going to break and give into this nightmare world, she refused to do so and marched onwards flipping the bird to the town of Silent Hill. Which is something that the male leads failed to do, as their stories progressed they began to get lost amongst their surroundings, but not our Heather. She was ready to take the monsters head on with a big f@ck you! Depending on what day you ask me, I very well might tell you that Silent Hill 3 is my favourite from the series. On other days I may tell you it’s one of the first two games, but one thing’s for sure, Heather Mason will always be one of my fondly held characters in the video game industry, let alone Silent Hill.
In 2004 we saw the release of Silent Hill 4: The Room, which originally was set to be called just ‘The Room’. So for purposes of easier typing in the article, I will continue to call it The Room. This instalment into the series had taken in a different direction in comparison to what we have come use to in the series, perhaps too much as, as The Room received very mixed reviews across the board and split opinions with Silent Hill fans alike. For the first time in the series we had a game that wasn’t actually set in the iconic town, but rather the town of South Ashfield on the outskirts of Silent Hill.
The Room followed the life of Harry Townshend and after waking one morning, he found himself locked in his apartment thanks to some very eerie and unwelcome supernatural forces. To make events even more odd for Harry, mysterious holes appeared in his apartment and acted as gateways to other worldly dimensions. Throughout the course of the game, Harry’s room began to get possessed with spirits and for a location that acted as you’re only save point, his apartment become increasingly unsafe and soon evolved into something very unnerving. The Room also featured two different view perspectives, depending on your location. In the apartment, you would be in the first person perspective, which didn’t go down to well with some fans, while the rest of the game was in the traditional third person perspective.
Other then Harry himself, The Room centred on many characters, but perhaps none more focal then his neighbour Eileen Gavin. Which as the game progressed, the character and the player would develop somewhat of an unexpected attachment and this element would play a key role in the stories immersiveness. There were also moments in the game when Eileen’s survival would be in your hands and on more than one occasion it would be your focus to keep her alive. Depending on how well you protected her, would also play a key role in the games ending.
The other focal character in The Room is none other than Walter Sullivan, a serial killer. Now it’s very difficult for me to talk about Walter without giving away major spoilers for the game, but what I will say is that he will evolve into one of the most memorable boss fights from throughout the Silent Hill series. Now despite the mixed opinions that Silent Hill 4: The Room brought, the game had two of the most sinister characters from the series, in my humble opinion. Which were the Twin Victims, which can only be described as some kind of scary ass Cherub like Siamese twins and not forgetting these creepy ghosts like zombies.
The ghosts were the fallen victims of serial killer Walter Sullivan and they would stalk you throughout with their harrowing groans, as their legs dragged and floated unnerving towards you. The best option to deal with these ghosts would simply be to run away (Monty Python and The Holy Grail style), because as soon as they get near you, they will do damage without even touching you. The only way to defend yourself from the ghosts would be via the use of a Saint Medallion.
Much like asking me which is my favourite Silent Hill from the series could all depend on the day, which is pretty much my feelings forwards The Room. Sometimes I love it, sometimes not much so, but one thing is for sure, The Room provides some of the most disturbing characters from the series and that’s some claim considering the warped would that is Silent Hill.
With Silent Hill being one of the video game industries most successful franchises, with a true cult like following, it was only natural that the series would reap its successes and branch out from the video game media. With novels from Sadamu Yamashita, memorabilia items from Konami, a comic book series and a superb soundtrack through the course of its history. It would be impossible to talk of Silent Hill without talking about the iconic soundtrack composer and long time veteran of the series, the great Akira Yamaoka. Providing iconic main themes for each of the games, to which you can hear by playing any of the gameplay trailers found above.
Spanning from Silent Hill 1 – 3, the theme music to each game are easily among my favourite in the entire of the video game industry, placed firmly alongside another Konami giant, the Metal Gear Solid series (but that’s an article for another day). For the benefit of your hearing pleasure and for the joy of some good old Silent Hill nostalgia, below are my favourite Silent Hill themes from Akira Yamaoka.
- Silent Hill (1998) – Silent Hill
- Silent Hill 2 (2001) – Theme of Laura
- Silent Hill 3 (2003) – You’re Not Here
Carrying on with Silent Hill’s success away from the video game media, two big budget movies were also made, in which Akira Yamaoka playing a vital creative role in both. In 2006 we had the first of two movies and whether you’re a fan of the Silent Hill games or not, the movie wasn’t all that bad. In fact many consider it to be one of; if not the best video game adaption converted into a movie. It followed the common tale of a parent looking for her daughter, but rather than being based directly from the video games step by step, they were used as more of an influence. Warning, there are some character spoilers ahead when talking about the two movies.
The movie featured iconic Silent Hill characters such as Cybil Bennett and Dahlia Gillespie, and of course Pyramid Head, to name but a few. It also featured two Hollywood stars in the lead roles, with Radha Mitchell as the mother Rose Da Silva and her husband Christopher Da Silva played by Sean Bean.
The second movie was to follow in 2013, called Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. While this may not be considered the best movie from the two, it had some awesome cameos and even more references to the Silent Hill games. In many ways it felt more of homage to the games, which perhaps in hindsight may not have worked in its favour, rather than creating an original story for the movie. Revelations featured Harry (Sean Bean) and Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens), Douglas the private detective from Silent Hill 3 and Travis from Silent Hill: Origins, and a few more great surprises.
While I loved the original games, and even liking Silent Hill: Homecoming, Silent Hill: Downpour failed to make that connection with me. I know Harris shares a different approach to me with Downpour (which he will talk about in part two), but that’s the joy of having an opinion, we often share a different one. But in my opinion the franchise has lost its way somewhat, with recent instalments not quite capturing that horror that terrified us as much as they did in the early years.
But with the new generation among us and Hideo Kojima making it no secret by declaring his fondness for the Silent Hill franchise, perhaps there’s hope for us yet? Just imagine a Silent Hill game being released with the power of the PS4/Xbox One with Hideo Kojima working in collaboration with Akira Yamaoka, running on the all mighty Konami’s Fox Engine! It’s a Silent Hill fans wet dream, but maybe, just maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for us yet. If there’s one thing you can expect from Silent Hill, is to expect the unexpected. Which in essence, isn’t that why we love the series so much?
Well that brings the first part of our 15th Anniversary article for Silent Hill. I will now hand you over to Harris, in whom he will continue on with share his thoughts and memories of Silent Hill. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my memories of my beloved franchise and I hope you enjoy hearing from Harris just as much. Thank you for reading; I’m now off to play some Silent Hill.
Even though Silent Hill Origins was made with the PSP in mind, it was in no way a washed down or lacking Silent Hill experience. Climax gathered everything that made the first three games so unique and translated it into a portable, but proper experience.
Taking place before the game-changing events of the original game, Silent Hill Origins introduced players to the gruff and broken character that is Travis Grady. Travis Grady is a young trucker by profession, and one day, whilst on a job, decides to cut through Silent Hill in order to catch up on lost time. However, his arrival in Silent hill isn’t co-incidental at all, as the place has been calling out to him for so long… hiding secrets related to his past.
I loved absolutely everything about the game, the story was absolutely scary, strong and canonical, the music was as amazing as always due to Mr. Akira Yamaoka and the puzzles were good too. They were so good in fact, that they effectively blended a mixture of insanity and logic into some really clever puzzling. Some really creepy and dark puzzles involved you going through two different worlds, co-existing side by side in order to progress. Oh, and Travis was extremely badass, in fact, he is the reason a lot of things even happened in the Silent Hill lore.
- This is the track that plays in the opening moments of the game. Strong vocals with clear guided lyrics. Altogether a fresh kind of song.
- Another song from Origins, with a different and more vibrant pace. The lyrics are relative to someone once close to Travis… No spoilers here.
Silent Hill Homecoming is perhaps the most underrated of all Silent Hill titles in my opinion. I really find it sad that a lot of people don’t realise just how important this game was to the overall lore of Silent Hill. Mostly, the hate came from people not accepting the fact that this was made by a western developer rather than a Japanese one. I really don’t think anyone could have done a better job.
Back from war, Alex Sheppard comes home to find his hometown riddled in some kind of horrible fog, and most of its inhabitants missing, with some really scary creatures roaming around. Fearing for his family’s safety he goes home and upon arriving there finds that his younger brother Josh and his father are missing. It is revealed after talking to his now-in-shock mother, Josh had gone missing and his father had gone to try and find him… in Silent Hill. Now worried for his younger brother, Alex decides to go to Silent Hill and bring back his younger sibling.
Where can I start with this game? The music was beautiful and effective, the graphics were amazing, and for the first time ever… the combat was damn good! This time, it actually felt responsive and heavy, with the enemies feeling more personal and scary. Furthermore, this game has some of the best and creepiest boss designs in Silent Hill history. However, in my opinion the best thing Homecoming was the story. Even though it strongly referenced Silent Hill 2 in relations to the themes present, it had its own flair. The story was dark and heart-breaking, exactly as it should be. I really loved whatever instance of interaction between the brothers it showed, as it really made me feel for Alex by the end.
One thing some gamers had a major issue with, was that Homecoming featured the all mighty Pyramid Head. However if “these” few gamers had taken the time to follow the original director’s vision of the game, they would know why this iconic character featured. Basically, Pyramid Head isn’t only unique to James from Silent Hill 2, but is instead the universal symbol for punishment in Silent Hill. He was also seen in the dark world paintings in Silent Hill origins, so how could it be unique to only one game? Pyramid Head also featured in the Silent Hill movies.
Anyways, the story was really beautiful in this game, and it had a really good cover art as well. Also, the history of Shepherd’s Glenn was really interconnected with the Silent Hill history, and had details filled in every corner. This was not a bad Silent Hill game, Book of Memories is a bad Silent Hill game… this was in my opinion a great Silent Hill game!
- Right as you start the game, and you get to the menu, this beautifully sombre theme introduces you to the world of Sheppard’s Glenn. It is beautiful but ominous as well, not to mention memorable!
- This serves as Josh’s (Alex’s little brother) theme. It has this very unique vibe to it that is also unsettling. The piano part really has the “innocence” of the child standing out, kind of playful too! Probably my favourite.
- This song plays at a very important moment in game, when he meets his old childhood friend. The lyrics are very descriptive, and kind of play on what both protagonists feel.
I was very curious to see what the developers exactly wanted with this Wii/PSP remake of the original game. There were all these ideas going around about it being a true Silent Hill experience, and the game changing on how you answer the psych questions. I actually wondered if it was going to be any good, and fortunately, it was… it was damn good.
Following the iconic original story of a father trying to find his daughter in a hellish town, Shattered Memories had everything that was creepy about the original and managed to throw it on its head. It was an absolute fresh new take, with many things that were different from the common Silent Hill experience, especially to take advantage of the platforms it was on.
Everything about Shattered Memories was enjoyable, you had the classic characters like Cybil, Harry and Cheryl returning, oh and of course, who can forget the good Dr Kauffman. The coolest thing in my opinion was that it did not have any combat, and most of the dark side of the game was spent running and hiding. It actually made sense, because this new Harry was everything you’d expect a normal father to be… vulnerable, but unrelenting. You saw that Harry was scared at times, but he never gave up, because the love for his daughter always won.
However, what really hooked me in were those little therapy sessions with Dr. Kaufman. You keep following these little scenarios, changing… depending on how you proceed with them. It is only by the end that you see the genius amount of work shining in this game. Shattered Memories is a Silent Hill game that should not be missed by fans, and I hope to play something like this set in Silent Hill again!
- This is the main melody for the game, that plays especially during the more beautiful moments. I really love how it transitions into a flute piece midway. The drums are also well done. The beauty of most Silent Hill tracks like this, is that they are not at all scary, but instead beautiful.
- This powerful track plays during one of the endings… The melody is simple, but it is the vocal work by Mary that takes the centre piece once again!
- Undoubtedly one of the best Silent Hill songs of all time. I love how joyful it is, something that would play after a tedious journey, when you can feel relaxed. Mixed with the cool ending, this invokes so many emotions!
Oh boy, by the time a quarter part of development was left, the lead writer had departed the projecr, and Korn’s involvement was announced… it wasn’t looking good. However, I was dead wrong! This canonical entry to the main series followed inmate Murphy Pendleton as he found his way into Silent Hill after his prison transport bus crashes into a ravine. Once there, it turns out he was meant to be there, and the dark forces of that place are calling for him, to remember his dark past.
The game was fortunately, I believe that this was a huge push in the right direction for this series, one that I hope they keep. The game was completely open world, and the best thing about it was the really creepy side-quests. One of them involves you following these hanging ribbons, with a sad tragedy waiting at the end. While another, has you manipulating time during this really scary encounter in an abandoned apartment. Basically put, the side-missions were top notch.
Now, what I wasn’t surprised to know was that the music was amazing. The thing is, when they first revealed Dexter helm, Daniel Licht as the composer, I was extremely happy, and genuinely thought they couldn’t have made a better choice for Akira’s replacement, as Daniel has his own beautiful style. Hell, I was even surprised to like the main theme from Korn so much, as it actually worked and was memorable!
I truly hope that we will get to see another Open World horror game like Downpour that is littered with creepy and heartbreaking quests. Downpour in my opinion was a top-notch Silent Hill experience!
- I am going to be honest with you, I do not listen to a lot of Korn, or any at all… but this was really good. It gave a new flavour to the Silent Hill mood, seemingly more aggressive.
- Serving as the main theme for the game, this track alone showed that Daniel knew what he was doing, and he referenced all the classic icons like the vibrato mandolin! A beautiful track with beautiful vocals by Mary once again.
Silent Hill Arcade
Konami had some of the best Arcade Cabinets back in the day, so it isn’t surprising that they created one for Silent Hill as well. The game is set around Toluca Lake, focusing on a very unfortunate boat accident… The game was actually stellar and had some really engaging boss fights. The voice work could’ve used a lot more work though.
Silent Hill Orphan
This was a very great little series that Konami had made for the phones back in the day. It followed a group of people who appeared to have been called back to the orphanage they had come from. The game was basically a point and click horror adventure that had a mesmerising and creepy storyline. I actually want Konami to put another adventure game based in the Silent Hill universe in production, as the genres match beautifully!
Silent Hill Book of Memories Soundtrack
As far as I am concerned, the game Book of Memories does not exist… it never happened. The soundtrack by Daniel Licht however, TOTALLY DID! This was the first time he actually wrote a song with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and it came out absolutely perfect. I also liked hints of the Downpour theme returning into this game as well, that was cool. I honestly hope that if they aren’t getting Akira Yamaoka back and they continue to hire Daniel Licht, as he has something impressive and different to give to the legacy of Silent Hill.
Recommended Listen From An Unknown Game
- This was a remake of a classic Silent Hill 2 track… masterfully done.
- This is the first proper Silent Hill song Daniel Licht had wrote, and it is absolutely impressive. Daniel definitely does bring his own unique flair to the Silent Hill scoring stage.
What I want from the next Silent Hill.
I really hope that the next Silent Hill game picks up the strongest features of each previous instalment, and adds to it in a unique way. However, one thing I really would love to see return, is the open world that was present in Downpour, filled with scary and mysterious quests. I would also like the combat to be more responsive next time round, perhaps something similar to Homecoming? Furthermore, I want dark and clever puzzles similar to Silent Hill 2 or Origins. At the moment, the only thing we know about the next Silent Hill is that Konami wants Kojima to do it, and he himself has said that he’d love to watch over it… I am honestly curious, let’s hope for the best, and let it use the Fox Engine! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts and memories of Silent Hill, as much as I have telling them to you.
So there you have it, I hope you have enjoyed reading my (Richard) and Harris’s thoughts and memories for our beloved Silent Hill. Let’s hope the new generation console gives rebirth to our franchise and we will celebrate another successful 15 years of Silent Hill.
Part One of this article was written by Richard Breslin and Part Two by Harris Iqbal.