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.)

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