PSU Champions: Silent Hill
- Posted January 28th, 2008 at 09:41 EDT by Michael Harradence
PSU Champions: Silent Hill (PSX, 1999)
Intro: PSU Champions continues as we scrutinize a number of our favourite PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games under the microscope; this time, we take a look at Konami’s inaugural title in the Silent Hill franchise, and explain why we’re just itching to see it remade for Sony’s next-generation console, PlayStation 3.
Author’s Name: Mike Harradence
PSU Role: Editor
Game Title: Silent Hill
Platform: Sony PlayStation
Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment (Team Silent)
Release Date(s): January 31, 1999 (North America), August 1, 1999 (Europe) March 4, 1999 (Japan)
Synopsis of original game:
Silent Hill takes place during an unknown time period (though fans speculate it is set some time during the 1980s), and centres around a 32-year-old writer named Harry Mason and his adopted daughter, Cheryl. Having lost his wife to a mysterious illness four years ago, a heavily traumatised, yet determined Mason has done his best to raise their seven-year-old daughter by himself over the years, ultimately giving him the strength to see each day through to the next.
Upon visiting the quiet resort town of Silent Hill for a much-needed vacation, Mason is forced to crash his jeep as he swerves to avoid a mysterious figure in the middle of the road. Upon awakening, he discovers that the town has been completely obscured by an ominous fog, and finds Cheryl is no longer at his side. Dazed and without answers, Mason sets off toward the fog bound streets of Silent Hill in an attempt to locate his missing daughter at all costs.
Silent Hill takes much of its concept from Resident Evil, in that it places gamers in a third person perspective, with the majority of gameplay comprised of battling against a wide variety of foes and solving various environmental puzzles. However, unlike Capcom’s Survival Horror outing, Konami’s effort utilized fully 3D rendered environments, ranging from expansive, outdoor locations to the more familiar interior locations found in Resident Evil. Silent Hill also introduced melee combat and placed less emphasis on gunplay than other Survival Horror titles, focusing more on exploration and narrative. Despite this, the game featured a number of memorable boss encounters, which remained a prominent feature throughout latter instalments.
Why is the original so good?
Although many initially dismissed it as a “poor man’s Resident Evil”, Silent Hill was fundamentally different to Capcom’s zombie Survival Horror fest in its ability to convey a visceral sense of dread among those who played it, making it a stand out release at the time. Unlike other horror titles, which focused primarily on traditional ‘jump out of your seat’ set-pieces to frighten the player, Silent Hill offered an entirely new approach; the psychological element.
Though hardly innovative by today’s standards, back in 1999, Konami was able to take the creep factor to the next level by adding playing on the gamers mind, focusing on elements that were obscured by view, but ultimately proved to be more effective than any monstrosity leaping out of a cupboard or crashing through a window. Examples of this include ominous, haunting sound effects and melodies, orchestrated by the now renowned music composer, Akira Yamaoka, in addition to the bizarre, macabre themes used in the titles infamous “Otherworld” scenes, depicting images of malevolent ritualistic behaviour.
This combined with the dark, often fog-shrouded in-game environments afford the opportunity to play on the users mind, creating a perpetual sense of fear and uncertainty even though Mason may in fact be out of harm’s reach (needless to say, this was even more effective when the player was in fact approaching danger)
The narrative was equally disturbing, and ultimately offered a far more compelling tale than stories of nefarious corporations and biological experiments, telling the emotional struggle of a father desperate to locate his missing child in a town overcome with pain and insanity. Furthermore, it contained a healthy dose of twists and turns at every corner, a factor that has become something of a staple in many of Konami’s subsequent releases, most notably in the Metal Gear Solid series.
Elsewhere, ... (continued on next page) ----
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