Silent Hill, originally released by Konami for the Playstation in 1999, marked the first time players made their way through the foggy streets of the small town. Given the time period in which Silent Hill was released, it was easy to naively count this horror title as a simple clone of the hit game Resident Evil 2. However, players who gave this game a shot immediately realized that this assessment couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Silent Hill follows the saga of Harry Mason, a 32 year-old writer and father who is driving with his daughter Cheryl to the small resort town of Silent Hill when a figure suddenly steps out onto the road, causing Harry to crash. When he comes to, he realizes that Cheryl is missing and he must navigate through the foggy town to search for his missing daughter. Immediately, things don’t seem right. As Harry chases who he believes to be Cheryl down an alleyway, he becomes enveloped in darkness and is immediately attacked by demonic creatures. All seems lost until Harry loses consciousness and wakes up unharmed in a diner, apparently rescued by Cybil Bennett, a police officer from a nearby town. Harry then spends the rest of the game attempting to find his daughter and uncover the truth behind what happened in the town. What he uncovers is the unfortunate plight of Alessa Gillespie, a young teenage girl whose suffering is the cause of the nightmarish visions and creatures that have taken hold of Silent Hill.
Silent Hill grips the player with a sense of urgency as Harry faces unimaginable horrors in an attempt to rescue Cheryl. The game constantly provides an unsettling atmosphere, and that, combined with its story, are the roots of its genius. As the graphics and the voice acting are a bit dated, however, I propose that Konami should consider remaking this classic.
Apt fans of the series might point out that Silent Hill already received a remake. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was released in 2009 for the Wii and then later for the PS2. Shattered Memories provides a unique gameplay experience, presenting the player with an interesting psychological mechanic consisting of game changes that are based on the actions of the player as well as the way he or she answers questions during a therapy session that is concurrent to the game’s main events. The psychology mechanic is my favorite part of Shattered Memories and I would be interested in seeing this mechanic employed in other games.
Despite the innovation of the psychology mechanic, however, comparing Shattered Memories to Silent Hill reveals that it is not a true remake. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, much like the original game, begins with Harry Mason attempting to look for his daughter Cheryl, who has gone missing after Harry crashes his car. However, apart from the use of character names and the opening crash scene, little else from the original title is maintained in Shattered Memories. In fact, Shattered Memories is more of a re-imagining of the story that was presented in Silent Hill. Gone is the cult that victimized Alessa Gillespie. Also, gone are the different types of enemies that plagued the player in the 1999 title. The contorted nurses and doctors that would chase you throughout the hospital corridors as well as the ghostly children were just a few of the different enemies that were encountered in Silent Hill. However, none of them are present in Shattered Memories. Perhaps this was a necessary departure given the alterations made to the story in the updated title. After all, Alessa Gillespie is nowhere to be found in Shattered Memories, and in the original game, many of these enemies are manifestations of experiences and nightmares of the young teenage girl.
How are these nightmarish sequences presented in both games? The visuals of the otherworld are entirely different in Silent Hill versus Shattered Memories. In the original game, the dark version of Silent Hill is characterized by steel grate floors in place of the concrete ground as well as walls covered in blood and flesh. In Shattered Memories, however, the transition of the town to the otherworld is characterized by its buildings and streets being frozen over. For me, the darkness and rust of the otherworld in the original game literally made me uncomfortable, and is hands-down a more frightening representation of a nightmare than that of Shattered Memories.
The pacing of the horror in Shattered Memories is also vastly different from that of the original game. Intriguingly, the 2009 title, unlike the original game, forced the player to run from every enemy in an attempt to find the exit from the otherworld. While this alone provides a sense of tension, this only occurs in the otherworld. Simply put, when the world isn’t frozen over, you are completely safe, and when the ice begins to appear, it is time to run. Also, it is important to mention that Harry will be running from essentially one enemy type throughout the entire game. Taken together, these elements provide a sense of predictable urgency which, in my opinion, is simply not as intense as the horror experience provided by the original game. In the original Silent Hill, enemies were always present, whether you were journeying through the foggy version of the town or trying to survive the more nightmarish Silent Hill. The 1999 title always had me on edge and constantly guessing just what type of enemy was around the corner.
While I strongly prefer the original title, it is important to state that Shattered Memories is by no means a bad game, though I do have to mention that at times the controls seemed unresponsive, particularly when I was attempting to throw enemies off of Harry while playing the Wii version. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories has a riveting plot, and I would have appreciated it more if it were a side-story or a new game outside of the Silent Hill series altogether. I am a gamer who enjoyed the story in the original 1999 title and would love to see it retold and further developed in in a remake.
My request for a Silent Hill remake would be simple. In addition to updated graphics, I wouldn’t mind seeing additional enemies and story arcs that complement the story of the original title.
Would my proposed remake work? Much of what I suggested was accomplished by Capcom, who remade the original Resident Evil. The REmake, as it is called by fans, was originally released for the Gamecube in 2002, and largely kept the style and spirit of its source material. The addition of crimson heads (faster and more dangerous versions of the standard Resident Evil zombie), room alterations and extra boss enemies complemented the updated and polished graphics. REmake was a success, so I can’t imagine why a Silent Hill remake that is more similar to the original 1999 title wouldn’t work.
All in all, Shattered Memories is an interesting experiment with intriguing gameplay mechanics and an engaging plot, but I feel that there was nothing wrong with the story in the original game. I have many unanswered questions about the 1999 title and I would be interested in a remake that featurs additional story and gameplay elements that supplement the original plot. I, for one, would enjoy going back to where it all began.
Do you think Silent Hill deserves a remake or are things fine the way they are?