Silent HD Collection: My first real nostalgia test

Once upon a time, when I was a young boy just starting middle school, I got a PS2. I remember getting a few games for it -- Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder, Smuggler's Run, Jak & Daxter, and Final Fantasy X. I played these to death with a friend, even before I had a memory card. We'd start up Jak & Daxter, have my mom order a pizza and get us a gigantic jug of Lemon-Lime Gatorade, sit down, and not stop playing until the sun rose again, knowing that at some point... we'd have to turn that system off and lose all of our progress. We looked forward to the nights of pretending to be asleep to avoid scolding while keeping an eye out for those Girls Gone Wild commercials on Comedy Central and the uncensored episodes of South Park.

Occasionally, when my mom, my friend Alex and I would go out, we'd hit the grocery store. Here, we gathered snacks and sustenance to get us through a weekend of too much Halo and too little sleep, and every now and then, we'd get a chance to check out the now non-existent rental section.

I was still big on renting N64 games, like Ocarina of Time, especially when other people would work through puzzles I couldn't figure out and become Adult Link, so I could have a real sword and shield. But, once, in an adventurous move I decided to pick up a game that I knew nothing about, one that's cover, frankly, unnerved me.

Silent Hill 2. I was eleven at the time, and still excited to play just about anything but the games that were marketed towards my age range. I truly had no expectations about this game, had no knowledge of prior entries in the series -- it was the blankest of slates. I remember it starting somewhat slow and handling somewhat clunkily. But the gameplay is not what stuck with me. It was the story, the people, the characters, and the gruesome premise of everything that transpired.

I admit now that I was too young to be playing the game, but that was something I thought I was used to, starting with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, followed by a haunting experience with Max Payne (which is silly, having gone back and played through it again). But Silent Hill 2 really left a mark in a way that I still find hard to put in to words. A story of guilt and remorse, longing and lust. A cast of characters that are all psychologically broken. A set of endings, none that I encountered being uplifting. It was... shocking. Yet, for some reason, my young self continued to play. I didn't understand James and the complicated relationship with his wife at first, but I was willing to try. I empathized with Eddie's plight as an overweight child who had been picked on, but was too cowardly to stand up for himself, and watched as he became overwhelmed by madness and vengeful wrath, leading to his undoing. I felt pity for Angela, who at the time seemed to just be sad and crazy. Even as the player, I wanted to help her even as she pulled away. I didn't understand. It's only in the years that followed, looking at analysis of her character, that I understand why she acted as she did.

Everything about that game clicked with me in a very special, deep, unsettling way that I haven't found in a game before or since it's release. The story and characters drove me forward, their arcs being memorable and engaging to me, evident by the fact that I can still recall them almost nine years later. It's stuck in my head as perhaps my favorite game of all time, and incurred many a late-return fee. But now I'm at a crossroads.

I feel it is my duty now to play this HD re-release. But in a way, I'm scared to dive back in to this. The Halo Anniversary HD release made one thing incredibly clear to me -- the games you once played and loved often are not as you remember them. Even with up-resed graphics, will Silent Hill be ugly? Will I still find the characters and dialogue to be as hard hitting?

Will I find pleasure in this release or will I realize that the memory of one of my most beloved games is just a rose-tinted lie?

With trepidation, I march on, and can only hope for the best.

(As a post-note, I'm not even sure if this remake will do my memory proper justice, going by the forum posts, but it's time to soldier on.)

15 Comments
16 Comments
Posted by xxizzypop

Once upon a time, when I was a young boy just starting middle school, I got a PS2. I remember getting a few games for it -- Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder, Smuggler's Run, Jak & Daxter, and Final Fantasy X. I played these to death with a friend, even before I had a memory card. We'd start up Jak & Daxter, have my mom order a pizza and get us a gigantic jug of Lemon-Lime Gatorade, sit down, and not stop playing until the sun rose again, knowing that at some point... we'd have to turn that system off and lose all of our progress. We looked forward to the nights of pretending to be asleep to avoid scolding while keeping an eye out for those Girls Gone Wild commercials on Comedy Central and the uncensored episodes of South Park.

Occasionally, when my mom, my friend Alex and I would go out, we'd hit the grocery store. Here, we gathered snacks and sustenance to get us through a weekend of too much Halo and too little sleep, and every now and then, we'd get a chance to check out the now non-existent rental section.

I was still big on renting N64 games, like Ocarina of Time, especially when other people would work through puzzles I couldn't figure out and become Adult Link, so I could have a real sword and shield. But, once, in an adventurous move I decided to pick up a game that I knew nothing about, one that's cover, frankly, unnerved me.

Silent Hill 2. I was eleven at the time, and still excited to play just about anything but the games that were marketed towards my age range. I truly had no expectations about this game, had no knowledge of prior entries in the series -- it was the blankest of slates. I remember it starting somewhat slow and handling somewhat clunkily. But the gameplay is not what stuck with me. It was the story, the people, the characters, and the gruesome premise of everything that transpired.

I admit now that I was too young to be playing the game, but that was something I thought I was used to, starting with Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, followed by a haunting experience with Max Payne (which is silly, having gone back and played through it again). But Silent Hill 2 really left a mark in a way that I still find hard to put in to words. A story of guilt and remorse, longing and lust. A cast of characters that are all psychologically broken. A set of endings, none that I encountered being uplifting. It was... shocking. Yet, for some reason, my young self continued to play. I didn't understand James and the complicated relationship with his wife at first, but I was willing to try. I empathized with Eddie's plight as an overweight child who had been picked on, but was too cowardly to stand up for himself, and watched as he became overwhelmed by madness and vengeful wrath, leading to his undoing. I felt pity for Angela, who at the time seemed to just be sad and crazy. Even as the player, I wanted to help her even as she pulled away. I didn't understand. It's only in the years that followed, looking at analysis of her character, that I understand why she acted as she did.

Everything about that game clicked with me in a very special, deep, unsettling way that I haven't found in a game before or since it's release. The story and characters drove me forward, their arcs being memorable and engaging to me, evident by the fact that I can still recall them almost nine years later. It's stuck in my head as perhaps my favorite game of all time, and incurred many a late-return fee. But now I'm at a crossroads.

I feel it is my duty now to play this HD re-release. But in a way, I'm scared to dive back in to this. The Halo Anniversary HD release made one thing incredibly clear to me -- the games you once played and loved often are not as you remember them. Even with up-resed graphics, will Silent Hill be ugly? Will I still find the characters and dialogue to be as hard hitting?

Will I find pleasure in this release or will I realize that the memory of one of my most beloved games is just a rose-tinted lie?

With trepidation, I march on, and can only hope for the best.

(As a post-note, I'm not even sure if this remake will do my memory proper justice, going by the forum posts, but it's time to soldier on.)

Posted by Voxus

Honestly, I was really hoping this would be good ports of Silent Hill 2 and 3. But sadly, I'm not sure how, but SH2 just doesn't look 'right'.

Now the gameplay is the standard fare of the early SH games, take that as you will.

I played through SH2 at least 15 times in my midteens so it was a trip down memory lane hearing the familiar music and seeing the locals. Even after several years, I still remembered my way around the town and where the random boxes of ammo were scattered.\

If you can get over the graphics, which some can't due to HD being on the cover (which is perfectly understandable), you'll find that nothing about Silent Hill has changed all that much. For better or for worse.

Haven't touched Silent Hill 3 yet though.

Edited by Grivah

I was the same age as you when this game first came out and I too tried playing it and just couldn't, something about it, the fog, the music... pretty much everything combined with the monsters just freaked me out. It didn't freak me out enough to not watch my brother play it though, which I did. Ever since I got it last week it has just been a HUGE nostalgia trip for me everything I pop it in the system and start back in on it. Sadly though, the only problem with the game is that they 'cleaned' it up a bit TOO much. With what the fog did (not just setting the mood and scenes for the game) by covering up landscapes to help with performance back in the PS2 day... good in some spot bad in others where it was touched up. Still enjoying the game immensely despite the flaws of the port and glad I purchased it. Still have Silent Hill 3 to play and achievement hunting in 2.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I have because the feeling was still there for me from what eleven'ish years ago?

Posted by Moztacular

I'm skipping the HD collection and just playing the games on my computer since it sounds like more original versions of the game are "better." But your recounting of your first experience with SH 2 mirrored my own in so many ways I couldn't resist adding in how awesome a game it was even playing at a young age where much of the "heavier" content went over my head.
 
I remember renting the game and playing in broad daylight with 2-3 other friends. We laughed at the silly way the main character ran, didn't find much to be frightening, and so I turned it off. Later that weekend I spent the night at a different friend's house and I booted it up to show him the dumb run animation. We then proceeded to spend the next two nights huddled in fear around the TV pausing the game pretty much any time we felt frightened (every 30 seconds). The rest was history as I went on to buy the game so we could beat it after the rental period was up. I definitely remember the story just confusing me in a really cool way; why did everyone talk in circles about their problems, how come they were not really acknowledging all the crazy shit that was going on around them? The revelation in the hotel room was something older gamers likely saw coming a mile away, but completely blew our young minds. We also ended up getting what I consider the "best" ending, in water. While not a happy ending, the in water ending is in my eyes the best ending to the story told in SH2 so it was just a fantastically rewarding experience. Hope you enjoy your playthrough of the HD collection even if it is a bit flawed.
 
Thanks for sharing your experience with the game and reminding me of my own experiences at the same time!

Posted by xxizzypop

@Grivah: I'm actually finding no problems with the visuals. The fog is still heavy and ridiculously claustrophobia inducing. I could be wrong but the only reason I look at it critically is that as gamers, we've had the chance to look behind the curtains a bit. We know now that design like that was used as smoke and mirrors to hide a great deal of things that the player need not see. I'm still enjoying it immensely, although I'm finding my largest problem being that I haven't played a true survival-horror game in a long time. The puzzles and pixel hunting for objects is leaving me lost at times and the combat and controls are fairly clunky. Basically, it's the experience I remember, and that's for the best really

@Moztacular: I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who had this kind of experience, and certainly more than happy to remind you of yours! Those introductory sequences do serve to be kind of goofy initially, but as soon as you get more than ten minutes in... things get real incredibly fast. I believe Silent Hill 2 was my first experience with a game that served as more than just a game, but was treated as some kind of medium of art. To this day, I remember it was the first game where I wasn't necessarily satisfied when I beat it -- but in a good way. I finished the story, I beat the monsters, I vanquished evil and I overcame... but where's my happy ending? Where's my triumph? The trophy, the prize, the light? Those things weren't meant to be. Prior to this, I hadn't played much more than action games or platformers, both of which like to end on a high note. But Silent Hill? They told a story that was outside of anything that I had known to that point, and I can't appreciate that enough.

Posted by Morrow

@xxizzypop said:

the games you once played and loved often are not as you remember them.

That is unfortunately so very true. I have deep nostalgia feelings for some SNES games but don't dare to touch them again, because I'm afraid it will tarnish my memory of them.

Posted by CptBedlam

@xxizzypop: Honestly, the fog looks like shit in comparison to the original game. And some textures were altered as well; replaced with way too clean textures.

Posted by Grivah

@xxizzypop: I agree completely with the smoke and mirrors bit, I guess we just expect a bit more from a HD collection, kinda how Metal Gear HD Collection set the bar. Regardless of flaws though, as you said, the game still has 'that' feeling and all in all the core gameplay was untouched. Still happy with my purchase.

Posted by Sackmanjones

For someone who has never played these games, I think they look fine. Your right the fog does look a little weird, but man everything else is as terrifying as before. I'm only on Silent Hill 2 though, not sure what 3 looks like

Posted by ma_rc_01

I just want to say I never played Silent hill but when I was but a wee lad I played the demo for Max Payne and there's the part where you find dead wife and kid, I was so traumatised when Max said: Oh no junior or something, I physically couldn't walk into that room, already knowing what was going to be there.

Well, back to Silent Hill, looking at those screen shot the ps2 version looks way grimier and scarier, sorta like how serial killers still use vhs tapes and not the crisp hd video of a Sony branded bluray disc.

Posted by Brodehouse

They should've taken a look at that fog. Artistically, it's a mess. And it betrays the core design.

Posted by xxizzypop

@CptBedlam: @Brodehouse: Fair enough on those counts. It does look strange and certainly isn't the best but I'm not finding it as repulsive as most I suppse. Though that rowing bit. Ugh. If that is still in there by the time I reach it, uuuuugh.

@ma_rc_01: That's one of the exact problems I had when Max Payne first came out and I tried it. Couple that with the drugged up dream sequence where you have to walk along the blood trail and I was thoroughly freaked out and didn't want to play anymore.

Posted by StrikeALight

Just finished the Prison sequence in SH2, and journeying, quite literally, deeper and deeper into the bowels of hell.

Quite amazing how this game, after 10 years plus, still manages to scare the living crap of me. Time to call it a night.

Posted by Bloodgraiv3

I think it holds up really well to what I remembered it to be. It in a lot of ways scares me more now since I get a lot of the story and plot points now whereas when I was a lot younger I didn't.

Posted by Conzed92

@grivah said:

I was the same age as you when this game first came out and I too tried playing it and just couldn't, something about it, the fog, the music... pretty much everything combined with the monsters just freaked me out. It didn't freak me out enough to not watch my brother play it though

Oh yeah, been there :D I remember buying PlayStation and Xbox magazines, and managed to get a hold of both versions of the Silent Hill 3 demo and the PS2 demo of SH2 (I think, it is kinda blurry, could have been SH1). I booted the demos and quit again 30 seconds later, the atmosphere and the way the game already at its beginning seemed so ominous was just way to much for me.

Posted by Sackmanjones

Useless necro.