By the late 1990's, games such as Resident Evil and Parasite Eve had already brought the survival-horror genre mainstream success - but it was Silent Hill that truly introduced us to how frightening a video game could be when it was shown for the first time in 1998's E3 show held in Atlanta, GA in the form of a trailer. Developed by Konami’s Team Silent for the PlayStation, Silent Hill shifted the importance of survival horror games from strictly survival to more of a horror approach. Silent Hill was an immediate critical and commercial success, spawning several sequels on the PS2, Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360, PC, and PSP, and a movie adaption released in 2006.
On March 19, 2009, Silent Hill became available for download from the European PlayStation Network store of the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Portable. However, the game was removed two days later due to unknown reasons. It was re-released on October 26, 2011. Silent Hill was released on the North American PlayStation Network on September 10, 2009.
A remake/ reimagining of the game titled Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was released for the Wii, PS2 and PSP on December 8, 2009. It featured the same characters (plus some new ones) from the original but the storyline was completely different.
"The fear of blood tends to create fear for the flesh".
Silent Hill opens with this phrase, in an FMV that shows protagonist Harry Mason finding an abandoned infant girl with his wife, interlaced with shots of mysterious people in a foggy town - a nurse, a man with a gun, a police officer, etc. Some years later Harry is driving along a winding road with the little girl he found so long ago, now his adopted daughter Cheryl, in the passenger seat. Suddenly the figure of a young girl appears in the fog, forcing Harry to suddenly swerve and crash his car. Harry wakes up in the crash with the door open and Cheryl missing. Silent Hill beckons and our game begins.
The player controls Harry running along dense, foggy streets in search of his daughter. Snow is falling out-of-season, an air raid siren wails in the background, blood and rust begin to cover the landscape like a growth. Small chittering creatures begin to swarm Harry, attacking him, when he awakens in a restaurant from what appears to be a dream. A police officer from the next town, Cybil Bennett, has found him and warns him of strange events that have been reported in Silent Hill before giving our hero a gun. With this Harry must traverse through the explicit horrors of Silent Hill and its diverse environments to find his daughter.
Along the way, he meets several anomalous characters, ranging from a maniacal religious zealot in Dahlia Gillespie to Dr. Michael Kaufmann, whose paranoia and fear appear to stem from a suppressed knowledge of the situation at hand, and finally Lisa Garland, a young nurse trapped in terror.
As Harry delves deeper into the mysteries of Silent Hill, it becomes clear that the quaint vacation town has a dark history - an apocalyptic cult and brisk drug trade control everything behind the scenes. It is revealed that Cheryl is actually the reincarnated half of a girl named Alessa, Dahlia's daughter, a child of vast supernatural powers who had been tortured by her mother and the cult for years so that her agony could nurture their God her womb. Alessa was understandably displeased with getting the short end of the stick in this situation and thus used her powers to destroy the town and manifest the monsters that stalk Harry throughout the game. In the climax Harry must fight Alessa and the deity inside her, whereupon their defeat the player sees one of the games five endings based upon their actions.
- The "BAD Ending": Both Cybil and Kaufmann die, with the entire game revealed to be a dying dream of Harry's.
- "BAD+ Ending": Kaufmann dies and Cybil lives, with Cybil and Harry escaping the town after Alessa disappears.
- "GOOD Ending": Kaufmann lives and Cybil dies, where Kaufmann is revealed to have been partners with Dahlia. Harry finds Alessa/Cheryl reborn again and decides to raise her a second time. This is the canonical ending.
- "GOOD+ Ending": Both Cybil and Kaufmann live, identical to the GOOD ending but featuring Cybil going off with Harry and the reborn Alessa.
- And a Joke Ending where Harry gets abducted by aliens.
In both "good" endings, a monstrous Lisa appears to drag Kaufmann down into a pit.
Just as memorable as its characters and story are the environments contained within the town itself. Horrifying environments highlight a chilling atmosphere that succeed in inducing feelings of fear and panic upon the player. The town’s many environments range from city streets, an elementary school, a hospital, and much more that all serve to make you afraid of what lies beyond the next corridor.
Perhaps most importantly is the inclusion of the “Hell” side of Silent Hill, known as the Otherworld. Triggered by certain events, this version of Silent Hill is practically the same area but with a far darker overtone. Walls can be seen seemingly melting and/or rusting away, exposing horrific sights ranging from blood to the silhouettes of creatures not present before.
While the settings were enough to scare the average player, the music and sound effects brought a new dimension of terror to visitors of Silent Hill. Shock value was in plentiful supply with well-timed sound effects laid atop an already frightening atmosphere. Combine this with the fog and intense encounters with the unknown, players were never quite sure if investigating the strange sounds abound was really the greatest of decisions.
Outside of Japan, Silent Hill had problems passing censors due to a specific monster design of the "Grey Child". The questionable design that caused the controversy was the killing of a nude, knife wielding, child monster found in the school areas of the game.
To pass censors, the "Grey Child" went through two design changes in the North American release, resulting in a larger, faceless version of the creature. It took four design edits before the European version would see a release, with the "Grey Child" eventually just being taken out of the game entirely, and replaced with the "Mumbler" monster.
Silent Hill was a runaway success with critics and players alike upon release, leading to sales that warranted inclusion in Sony’s Greatest Hits line. The experience of the game, composed of its unique plot and graphical advancements for its time, inspired many game developers to push the boundaries on survival horror gaming. The game also introduced a side of horror unfamiliar to gamers, and brought to life an entirely new idea of what it meant to be scared of a video game.
If you are new to the genre, prepare for some of gaming’s greatest thrills right here in the original Silent Hill. Veterans of the series have no reason to doubt why the game and its subsequent franchise have been so successful, and the original that spawned it all is sure to be a landmark in video game history for many years to come.
The Silent Hill Original Soundtrack is composed by Akira Yamaoka.
01. Silent HIll (2:47)
02. All (2:06)
03. The Wait (0:09)
04. Until Death (0:51)
05. Over (2:04)
06. Devil's Lyric (1:26)
07. Rising Sun (0:57)
08. For All (2:39)
09. Follow the Leader (0:52)
10. Claw Finger (1:32)
11. Hear Nothing (1:33)
12. Children Kill (0:19)
13. Killed by Death (1:25)
14. Don't Cry (1:29)
15. The Bitter Season (1:26)
16. Moonchild (2:48)
17. Never Again (0:45)
18. Fear of the Dark (1:13)
19. Half Day (0:39)
20. Heaven Give Me Say (1:47)
21. Far (1:14)
22. I'll Kill You (2:52)
23. My Justice for You (1:21)
24. Devil's Lyric 2 (0:25)
25. Dead End (0:17)
26. Ain't Gonna Rain (1:12)
27. Nothing Else (0:51)
28. Alive (0:33)
29. Ever Again (1:01)
30. Die (0:56)
31. Never End, Never End, Never End (0:46)
32. Down Time (1:38)
33. Kill Angels (1:16)
34. Only You (1:16)
35. Not Tomorrow (0:48)
36. Not Tomorrow 2 (1:38)
37. My Heaven (3:17)
38. Tears Of... (3:14)
39. Killing Time (2:52)
40. She (2:33)
41. Esperandote (6:24)
42. Silent Hill (Otherside) (1:38)
43. Silent Hill Bloopers (1:33)
44. UFO Ending (2:29)
45. Silent Hill Pianissimo (3:05)
46. Not Tomorrow (Extended) (1:19)
- Lisa Garland's last name is taken from the famous Wizard of Oz actress, Judy Garland.
- Cheryl Mason's first name was taken from Twin Peaks actress Sheryl Lee.
- The name for the character of Dr. Michael Kaufmann is actually a combination of Lloyd Kaufmann and Michael Herz, both are founders of Troma Entertainment which is an American independent film production and distribution company.
- In the resort area, there is a motel, and the owner's name is "Norman", being also the name of the motel owner in the movie " Psycho".
- The word REDRUM (Murder spelled backwards) can be found on a garage door, a reference to the movie the " The Shining."
- Most, if not all of the roads in the town are named after famous horror and mystery authors, including Richard Bachman (Steven King's pseudonym), Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, Michael Crichton, Ray Bradbury, Carl Sagan, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Finney, and finally Robert Bloch, to name a few.