Sony Interactive Entertainment‘s announcement that it is shuttering the PS3, PS Vita and PSP storefronts came with a wave of criticism. After all, the preservation of digital games is something we should all consider, and the repercussions of these legacy stores going the way of the Dodo are pretty major – once they’re shut, you can’t download any titles for those formats anymore.
Being a major retro gamer, the preservation of these titles is something I feel very strongly about. However, and perhaps most disappointing of all, is Sony’s own Jim Ryan’s rather tone deaf stance on older titles. What was it he said again? “Why would anyone play this?” Honestly, it would be hilarious if it wasn’t for what this viewpoint actually meant for gamers.
While there’s a myriad of titles that are going to be affected by this bullish decision, consider this: the original Silent Hill is no longer going to be legally downloadable to play on any PlayStation console. Ever. Yep, if you want to play Konami‘s 1999 psychological horror game on your PS3, PS Vita or PSP, then get it now – or you’ll have to break your PS1 (the backwards compatible PS2 and PS3), or download it via unscrupulous means.
Game Preservation Is A Problem For Sony
That’s no problem for me as I still play the pant-wetting horror fest on my 90s grey box of tricks, but it’d be disingenuous of me to suggest that everyone has access to the disc version and an old console, or even wants to play the game in that fashion for that matter.
The fact Silent Hill won’t be playable digitally after the closure date for those storefronts is a massive blow and is indicative of what will start to happen as we move forward in regards to legacy titles.
Silent Hill is a stone-cold classic, and unlike Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3, hasn’t been remastered or remade in any shape or form. The PSOne version is the only edition of the game that was ever released (not counting the reimaginging Silent Hill: Shattered Memories). Therefore, should gamers – whether they be fans of the series or newcomers – be permanently shut off from downloading the game? Absolutely not.
As mentioned above, this leads to the wider topic of video game preservation. Silent Hill is just one example of the problem faced by gamers if platform holders systematically restrict access to legacy content.
Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if the PS5 was backwards compatible with the complete PlayStation family of consoles, but it isn’t. That’s where Microsoft has a unequivocal advantage over its competitor, as it allows for Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One content playable in one ecosystem. Furthermore, it’s now also making select classic games available to users via the cloud.
Silent Hill Is A Legacy Title That Should Remain Accessible
Still, let’s talk about the actual game for a moment. Far from a Resident Evil knockoff, Silent Hill introduced a more cerebral approach to soiling sofas than Capcom‘s zombie brain-splattering romp. While its peers leaned heavily on traditional jump scares, Team Silent’s fog-soaked supernatural title delved into more psychological fears; it was more a case of what might be ahead, rather than what actually there.
While technically creaky by today’s standards – and even back in 1999, the perpetual fog was used as a means to cover up the technical limitations of the PSOne hardware – Silent Hill exudes atmosphere from every pore, and weaves an intricate narrative that looks to Jacob’s Ladder and Twin Peaks for its influences than classic B-movie inspired trappings such as flesh-eating zombies and nefarious, virus-manufacturing corporations.
Yes, the franchise went on to greater things, but the original Silent Hill remains a key part in that success and should be preserved. The fact Sony is effectively forcing users to download the game via illegal means to play it on modern platforms is frankly ridiculous.
It’s a complete utter disservice to an iconic, landmark title.
Silent Hill is currently available to download for the PlayStation Store on PS3, PS Vita and PSP, but will no longer be available after August 27 for any of those platforms. Grab it now before it’s too late, eh?