Silent Hill (video game)
North American box art depicting main protagonist Harry Mason (center) and other major characters
|Developer(s)||Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo|
Silent Hill is a survival horror video game for the PlayStation published by Konami and developed by Team Silent, a Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo group. The first installment in the Silent Hill series, the game was released in North America in January 1999, and in Japan and Europe later that year. Silent Hill uses a third-person view, with real-time 3D environments. To mitigate limitations of the hardware, developers liberally used fog and darkness to muddle the graphics. Unlike earlier survival horror games that focused on protagonists with combat training, the player character of Silent Hill is an "everyman".
The game follows Harry Mason as he searches for his missing adopted daughter in the eponymous fictional American town of Silent Hill; stumbling upon a cult conducting a ritual to revive a deity it worships, he discovers her true origin. Five game endings are possible, depending on actions taken by the player, including one joke ending.
Silent Hill received positive reviews from critics on its release and was commercially successful. It is considered a defining title in the survival horror genre, moving away from B movie horror elements, toward a psychological style of horror emphasizing atmosphere. Various adaptations of Silent Hill have been released, including a 2001 visual novel, the 2006 feature film Silent Hill, and a 2009 reimagining of the game, titled Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The game was followed by Silent Hill 2 in 2001.
The objective of the player is to guide main protagonist and player character Harry Mason through a monster-filled town as he searches for his lost daughter, Cheryl. Silent Hill's gameplay consists of combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving. The game uses a third-person view, with the camera occasionally switching to other angles for dramatic effect, in pre-scripted areas. This is a change from older survival horror games, which shifted constantly through a variety of camera angles. Because Silent Hill has no heads-up display, the player must consult a separate menu to check Harry's "health".
Harry confronts monsters in each area with both melee weapons and firearms. An ordinary man with minimal experience with firearms, Harry cannot sustain many blows from enemies, and gasps for breath after sprinting. His inexperience in handling firearms means that his aim, and therefore the player's targeting of enemies, is often unsteady. A portable radio collected early in the game alerts Harry to the presence of nearby creatures with bursts of static.
The player can locate and collect maps of each area, stylistically similar to tourist maps. Accessible from the menu and readable only when sufficient light is present, each map is marked with places of interest. Visibility is mostly low due to fog and darkness; the latter is prevalent in the "Otherworld". The player locates a pocket-size flashlight early in the game, but the light beam illuminates only a few feet. Navigating through Silent Hill requires the player to find keys and solve puzzles.
At the start of the game, Harry drives to Silent Hill with his daughter Cheryl for a vacation. At the town's edge, he swerves his car to avoid hitting a girl in the road; as a result, he crashes the vehicle and loses consciousness. Waking up in town, he meets police officer Cybil Bennett, who works in a nearby town, and realizes that Cheryl is missing. Finding that the town is deserted and foggy, with snow falling out of season, Harry meets several other people in the monster-filled town: Dahlia Gillespie, who gives him a charm, the "Flauros"; Doctor Michael Kaufmann, director of Silent Hill's Alchemilla Hospital; and nurse Lisa Garland, who worked at Alchemilla. He also encounters a symbol throughout the town, which Dahlia claims will allow darkness to take over the town if it continues to multipy. Eventually, this darkness begins taking over the town. According to Dahlia, the girl from the road is a demon responsible for the symbol's duplication. She urges him to stop the demon, because if he does not, Cheryl will die. Harry soon finds himself attacked by Cybil, who is parasitized by a creature; the player must choose whether to save her or not.
When the girl appears again, she is trapped by the Flauros. Dahlia reveals that she manipulated Harry into trapping it, since only he could approach it. It is a phantasm of her daughter Alessa, who possesses vast supernatural powers. Harry awakens in a logicless void known officially only as "nowhere" and encounters Lisa again, who realizes she is "the same as them" and begins transforming; he flees, horrified. Her diary reveals that she nursed Alessa during a secret, forced hospitalization. Harry soon finds Dahlia along with the apparition of Cheryl and Alessa, charred. Seven years earlier, Dahlia had conducted a ritual that impregnated Alessa with the cult's deity through immolation; Alessa survived because her status as the deity's "vessel" rendered her immortal. Alessa's resistance to the ritual caused her soul to be bisected, preventing the birth. One half of her soul went to baby Cheryl, whom Harry and his wife had adopted. Dahlia then cast a spell that would draw it back to Alessa. Sensing Cheryl's return, Alessa manifested the symbols in the town to prevent the birth. During the endings in which Cybil survives, Dahlia reveals these symbols to be repellent. With Alessa's plan thwarted and her soul rejoined, the deity is revived and possesses her.
Four different endings are available depending on whether Harry saves Cybil or discovers a bottle of Aglaophotis at Kaufmann's apartment, or both. Aglaophotis is a red liquid which is obtained from the refinement of a plant of the same name, it has the ability to dispel demonic forces and grant protection against such forces to those who use the item. The "bad" ending occurs if neither is done; Alessa electrocutes Dahlia and then attacks Harry, who ultimately defeats her. Cheryl's voice thanks Harry for freeing her and Alessa vanishes. Harry collapses and the game cuts to his corpse in the crashed car. The "bad +" ending finds Cybil alive and Kauffman missing; after the echoing of Cheryl's voice and Alessa's disappearance, Cybil walks to Harry and convinces him to flee. The "good" ending finds Cybil dead and Kaufmann shows up with the bottle of Aglaophotis which he then uses to force deity out of Alessa; Kaufmann is revealed to have secretly allied with Dahlia and enabled Alessa's hospitalization. Feeling betrayed, he forces the deity out of Alessa, also causing her to vanish. After Harry defeats it, the deity disappears and Alessa appears, who manifests a baby reincarnation of herself and Cheryl, gives it to Harry, enables their escape from the depths of "nowhere" and her own nightmare, and then dies. In the "good +" ending, Harry escapes with Cybil and the baby. In both "good" endings, a transformed Lisa prevents Kaufmann from leaving, and throws him into a pit. The joke ending sees an abduction of Harry by extraterrestrials.
Development of Silent Hill started in September 1996. The game was created by Team Silent, a group of staff members within the Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo studio. The new owners of its parent company Konami sought to produce a game that would be successful in the United States. For this reason, a Hollywood-like atmosphere was proposed for Silent Hill. The staff members that were assigned to the game's development had failed at their previous projects. They intended to leave Konami, as they were not allowed to realize their own ideas, and were not compatible with the company's other teams. According to composer Akira Yamaoka, the developers did not know how to proceed with the Silent Hill project, either. As the time passed, the personnel and management of Konami lost their faith in the game, and the members of Team Silent increasingly felt like outsiders. Despite the profit-oriented approach of the parent company, however, the developers of Silent Hill had much artistic freedom because the game was still produced as in the era of lower-budget 2D titles. Eventually, the development staff decided to ignore the limits of Konami's initial plan, and to make Silent Hill a game that would appeal to the emotions of players instead.
For this purpose, the team introduced a "fear of the unknown" as a psychological type of horror. The plot was made vague and occasionally contradictory to leave its true meaning in the dark, and to make players reflect upon unexplained parts. Director Keiichiro Toyama created the game's scenario, while programmer Hiroyuki Owaku wrote the text for the riddles. Toyama did not have much experience of horror movies but was interested in UFOs, the occult and David Lynch movies which influenced the game's development.
The localization company Latina International, which had previously worked on Final Fantasy VII, translated the script into English. The town of Silent Hill is an interpretation of a small American community as imagined by the Japanese team. It was based on Western literature and films, as well as on depictions of American towns in European and Russian culture. The game's joke ending came out of a suggestion box created to find alternative reasons for the occurrences in Silent Hill.
Artist Takayoshi Sato corrected inconsistencies in the plot, and designed the game's cast of characters. As a young employee, Sato was initially restricted to basic tasks such as font design and file sorting. He also created 3D demos and presentations, and taught older staff members the fundamentals of 3D modeling. However, he was not credited for this work as he did not have as much respect within Konami as older employees. Sato eventually approached the company's higher-ups with a short demo movie he had rendered, and threatened to withhold this technical knowledge from other staff members if he was not assigned to 3D work. As a consequence, his superior had to give in to his demand, and he was allowed to do character designs. Instead of relying on illustrations, Sato conceived the characters of Silent Hill while creating their computer-generated models. He gave each their own distinctive characteristics, but made Harry almost completely neutral as he wanted to avoid forcing interpretations of the game on the players. Creating the skull shapes for the faces of the American cast was difficult because he had no Caucasian co-workers to use for reference. Although Sato was largely responsible for the game's cinematics and characters at this point, his superior still did not want to fully credit his work, and intended to assign a visual supervisor to him. To prevent this from happening, Sato volunteered to create the full-motion videos of Silent Hill by himself. Over the course of two and a half years, he lived in the development team's office, as he had to render the scenes with the approximately 150 Unix-based computers of his coworkers after they left work at the end of a day.
Sato estimated the game's budget at US$3–5 million. He said that the development team intended to make Silent Hill a masterpiece rather than a traditional sales-oriented game, and that they opted for an engaging story, which would persist over time – similar to successful literature. The game debuted at the 1998 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, where the presentations of movies and in-game scenes garnered applause from the audience. This favorable reception persuaded Konami to allot more personnel and public relation initiatives to the project. Konami later showcased Silent Hill at the European Computer Trade Show in London, and included a demo with its stealth game Metal Gear Solid in Japan.
The names and designs of some Silent Hill creatures and puzzles are based on books enjoyed by the character of Alessa, including The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The game contains several real-life references, particularly in characters' names. Cheryl Mason's first name is based on actress Sheryl Lee's first name, and Lisa Garland's surname is taken from actress Judy Garland. "Michael Kaufmann" is a combination of Troma Studios producers Michael Herz's and Lloyd Kaufmann's first name and surname, respectively. Alessa's original name was "Asia", and Dahlia's was "Daria", based on the first names of actresses Asia Argento and Daria Nicolodi – Argento's mother. Harry's name was originally "Humbert", and Cheryl's was "Dolores", in reference to the protagonist and title character of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita. The American staff altered these names, as they considered them too uncommon. Fictitious religious items appearing in the game have used various religions as a basis: the evil spirit-dispelling substance Aglaophotis, which is said to be made from a medicinal herb, is based on a herb of similar name and nature in the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism); the "Seal of Metatron"'s name references the angel Metatron; and the name of the "Flauros"' was taken from the eponymous demon appearing in the Lemegeton, a book on magic said to have been compiled by writings of King Solomon. Certain items and doors in the "nowhere" dimension of the game were given names based on occult elements in order to symbolize magical traits of Dahlia. The names of these doors were taken from the names of the angels Ophiel, Hagith, Phaleg, and Bethor, who appear in a medieval book of black magic and are supposed to rule over planets. This motif of giving names that suggest planets was used to signify that "a deeper part of the realm of Alessa's mind is being entered," according to Owaku.
A 19-second sample of the composition "My Heaven"
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The soundtrack for Silent Hill was composed by sound director Akira Yamaoka, who requested to join the development staff after the original musician had left. In addition to the music, he was in charge of tasks such as sound effect creation and audio mastering. Yamaoka did not watch game scenes, but created the music independently from its visuals. The style of his compositions was influenced by Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti and the bands Metallica and Depeche Mode. To differentiate Silent Hill from other games as much as possible, and to give it a cold and rusty feel, Yamaoka opted for industrial music. When he presented his musical pieces to the other staff members for the first time, they misinterpreted their sound as a game bug. Yamaoka had to explain that this noise was intended for the music, and the team only withdrew their initial objection after he elaborated on his reasons for choosing this style.
On March 5, 1999, the album Silent Hill Original Soundtracks was released in Japan. The 41st track on the CD, the ending theme "Esperándote", was composed by Rika Muranaka. After Yamaoka had approached her to create a piece of music for the game, she suggested the use of bandoneóns, violins, and a Spanish-speaking singer. It was decided to make the song a tango, and Muranaka composed the melody for the English lyrics she had conceived. When she arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to record the translated Spanish lyrics with Argentine singer Vanesa Quiroz, Muranaka realized that the syllables did not match the melodic line any more, and she had to recompose it in five minutes.
Silent Hill had difficulty passing censors before it could be released outside Japan. The "Grey Child" monster went through two design changes for the North American release and four design changes for the European release, before it was finally approved by censors. Originally designed to resemble knife-wielding, nude children, these monsters were deemed too graphic, particularly because the player would have been allowed to kill them. The North American version of the game features a faceless, grey, "somewhat larger" version of them with a "modified head". In the European version of Silent Hill, the Grey Child monsters were replaced by "Mumbler" monsters, which appear later in the North American version. Near the end of the European version, however, Grey Child monsters can still be seen as transparent silhouettes that are similar to the "Larval Stalkers".
Silent Hill was released for the PlayStation in North America on January 31, 1999; in Japan on March 4, 1999; and in Europe on August 1, 1999. It was included in the Japanese Silent Hill Complete Set 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. Two days later, the game was removed due to "unforeseen circumstances". On September 10, 2009, Silent Hill was released on the North American PlayStation Network. On October 26, 2011 it was re-released on the European PlayStation Network.
A radically altered version of Silent Hill was released for the Game Boy Advance. Titled Play Novel: Silent Hill and released only in Japan in 2001, it is a gamebook-style visual novel. It contains a retelling of Silent Hill's story through text-based gameplay, with the player occasionally confronted with questions concerning what direction to take the character, as well as the puzzles, which are a major part of Silent Hill's gameplay. After completing the game once, the player has the option of playing as Cybil in a second scenario, with a third made available for download once the second scenario has been completed. When the game was exhibited, Western critics were unimpressed, and criticized the lack of any soundtrack as severely detracting from the "horror" factor of the game.
A film adaptation, also titled Silent Hill, was released on April 21, 2006. The film, directed by Christophe Gans, was based largely but loosely on the game, incorporating elements from Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4. Gans replaced Harry Mason with a female main protagonist, Rose Da Silva, because he felt Harry had many qualities typically perceived as feminine. When designing the film's visual elements, Gans was influenced by fellow directors Michael Mann, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg. The film's soundtrack includes music composed by Yamaoka. Although critical reaction was mostly negative, the film was a financial success and was praised by fans, especially for its visuals.
A "reimagining" of Silent Hill, titled Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, was developed by Climax Studios and published by Konami Digital Entertainment. The game was released on December 8, 2009, for the Wii and on January 19, 2010, for the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation Portable, to mostly positive reviews. Although it retains the premise of a man's search for his missing daughter, Shattered Memories branches off into a different plot with altered characters. It features psychological profiling which alters various in-game elements depending on the player's response to questions in therapy, lacks the combat of Silent Hill, and replaces the "Otherworld" with a series of chase sequences through an alternate frozen version of the town.
Silent Hill received critical acclaim, gaining an 86/100 and 84.99 percent aggregate at ratings websites Metacritic and GameRankings, respectively. The game sold over two million copies, which gained Silent Hill a place in the American PlayStation Greatest Hits budget releases.
Silent Hill has been compared to the Resident Evil series of survival horror video games. Bobba Fatt of GamePro labeled Silent Hill a "shameless but slick Resident Evil clone". Others felt that Silent Hill was Konami's answer to the Resident Evil series in that, while they noted a similarity, Silent Hill utilized a different form of horror to induce fear, attempting to form a disturbing atmosphere for the player, in contrast to the visceral scares and action-oriented approach of Resident Evil. Adding to the atmosphere was the audio, which was well-received; Billy Matjiunis of TVG described the ambient music as "engrossing"; a reviewer for Game Revolution also praised the audio, commenting that the sound and music "will set you on edge". Less well-received was the voice acting which, although some reviewers remarked it was better than that found in the Resident Evil series, was found poor overall by reviewers, and accompanied by pauses between lines that served to spoil the atmosphere.
Reviewers noted that Silent Hill used real-time 3D environments, in contrast to the pre-rendered environments found in Resident Evil. Fog and darkness were heavily used to disguise the limitations of the hardware. Along with the grainy textures—also from hardware limitations—most reviewers felt that these factors actually worked in the game's favor; Francesca Reyes of IGN described it as "adding to the atmosphere of dilapidation and decay". In using 3D environments, however, controls became an issue, and in "tougher" areas, maneuverability became "an exercise in frustration".
The game's popularity as the first in the series was further recognized long after its release; a list of the best PS games of all time by IGN in 2000 listed it as the 14th-best PS game, while a 2005 article by GameSpy detailing the best PS games listed Silent Hill as the 15th-best game produced for the console. A GameTrailers video feature in 2006 ranked Silent Hill as number one in its list of the top ten scariest games of all time. In 2005, the game was credited for moving the survival horror genre away from B movie horror elements to the psychological style seen in art house or Japanese horror films, due to the game's emphasis on a disturbing atmosphere rather than visceral horror. In November 2012, Time named it one of the 100 greatest video games of all time.
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- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Harry: It's not me. This whole town... it's being invaded by the Otherworld. A world of someone's nightmarish delusions come to life. Little by little, the invasion is spreading. Trying to swallow up everything in darkness. I think I'm finally beginning to understand what that lady was talking about."
- "Silent Hill Character Commentary". Silent Hill 3 公式完全攻略ガイド/失われた記憶 サイレントヒル・クロニクル [Silent Hill 3 Official Strategy Guide / Lost Memories: Silent Hill Chronicle] (in Japanese). NTT Publishing Co., Ltd. 2003-07-31. p. 24. ISBN 4-7571-8145-0.
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Harry: Was I dreaming? / Cybil: How do you feel? / Harry: Like I've been run over by a truck, but I'm alright, I guess. [...] / Cybil: What's your name? / Harry: Harry... Harry Mason. / Cybil: Cybil Bennett. I'm a police officer from Brahms, the next town over. The phones are all dead, and the radio, too. I'm going back to call in some reinforcements."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Harry: Cheryl. Where could you be? It's strange... It's quiet. Too quiet. This place is like a ghost town..."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Kaufmann: Thank God. Another human being. / Harry: Do you work here? / Kaufmann: I'm Doctor Michael Kaufmann. I work at this hospital. / Harry: So maybe you can tell me what's going on. / Kaufmann: I really can't say. I was taking a nap in this staff room. When I woke up, it was like this. Everyone seems to have disappeared. And it's snowing out, this time of year. Something's gone seriously wrong. Did you see those monsters? Have you ever seen such aberrations? Ever even heard of such things? You and I both know creatures like that don't exist."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Dahlia: I knew you'd come. You want the girl, right? / Harry: The girl!? You're talking about Cheryl!? / Dahlia: I see everything. / Harry: You know something? Tell me! [...] / Dahlia: Here, the Flauros, a cage of peace. It can break through the walls of darkness and counteract the wrath of the underworld. These will help you. Make haste to the hospital before it's too late."
- "Silent Hill Character Commentary". Silent Hill 3 公式完全攻略ガイド/失われた記憶 サイレントヒル・クロニクル [Silent Hill 3 Official Strategy Guide / Lost Memories: Silent Hill Chronicle] (in Japanese). NTT Publishing Co., Ltd. 2003-07-31. p. 25. ISBN 4-7571-8145-0.
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Harry: It's you. / Dahlia: Yes. Dahlia Gillespie. / Harry: Tell me everything you know. What's going on? / Dahlia: Darkness. The town is being devoured by darkness. [...] Only you can stop it now. Have you not seen the crest marked on the ground all over town? / Harry: So that's what I saw in the schoolyard. What does it mean? / Dahlia: It is the mark of Samael. Don't let it be completed."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Dahlia: The demon is awakening! [...] And what's more, the task is almost finished. There's only two left. To seal this town to the abyss, the mark of Samael. [...] Harry: So what am I supposed to do? I've got to save Cheryl. / Dahlia: It is simple. Stop the demon. The demon, the demon taking that child's form. Stop it before your daughter becomes a sacrifice."
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- "III: The Empress – Alessa". Silent Hill 3 公式完全攻略ガイド/失われた記憶 サイレントヒル・クロニクル [Silent Hill 3 Official Strategy Guide / Lost Memories: Silent Hill Chronicle] (in Japanese). NTT Publishing Co., Ltd. 2003-07-31. p. 88. ISBN 4-7571-8145-0.
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Dahlia: You've been a ghastly little pest, haven't you Alessa? I was careless, thinking you couldn't escape from our spell. But Mommy didn't know how much you'd grown. That's why I couldn't catch you all by myself. But what a pity, yes? Now you're half indebted to this man for his help."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Harry: Lisa... What's the matter with you? / Lisa: I get it now... Why I'm still alive even though everyone else is dead. I'm not the only one who's still walking around. I'm the same as them. I just hadn't noticed it before. / Harry: Lisa... / Lisa: Stay by me, Harry! Please. I'm so scared. Help me... Save me from them! Please... Harry..."
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- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Dahlia: Everything is going according to plan. Sheltered in the womb. / Man: But it's not done yet. Half the soul is lost. That is why the seed lies dormant. [...] But the power we could draw now would be very weak; almost nothing. Unless we get the other half of the soul... / Dahlia: We'll use a magical spell. Feeling this child's pain, it's sure to come."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Cybil: Harry... Why did they take your daughter? Why her? / Harry: I'm not sure myself. But, you know, Cheryl isn't my biological daughter. I actually haven't told her yet. She probably already knows anyway, though. We found her abandoned on the side of the highway. Nobody knew where she came from. We didn't have any kids of our own, my wife was sick, and it didn't look like she was getting any better. So we took Cheryl in."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Dahlia: I was shocked to realize the talisman of Metatron was being used. In spite of the lost soul returning at last. Just a little longer and all would've been for naught. It's all because of that man. We must be thankful to him. Even though Alessa has been stopped, his little girl has to go. What a pity..."
- Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Inc (1999-01-31). Silent Hill. PlayStation. Konami of America, Inc. "Harry: What? What's that light? [UFOs zoom in and extraterrestrials beam down] 'Harry: Um... Sorry... Have you seen a little girl anywhere? About seven years old with short black hair? [The extraterrestrials incapacitate Harry and abduct him]"
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