With the release of the digitally remastered HD editions of "Silent Hill 2" and "Silent Hill 3" for PS3 and "Silent Hill" available for purchase for PS3 on the PlayStation store, I suffered a fit of nostalgia and decided that I'd play my way through the first three installments of the Silent Hill franchise. I'll be starting at the beginning of the series with the original PlayStation game and will drag you with me on my descent through madness and down into the hellish landscape that is Silent Hill.
Ah, yes. Good old "Silent Hill." Back when the only PlayStation on the market was, the PlayStation. None of that new fangled PS3 stuff. Just hexagonal 3D characters and pixelated, rendered backgrounds.
I still remember when I first learned of this game it was advertised on the insert of the "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" game insert. It looked so freaking cool, I had to get it. So I did.
During the intro we see our first glimpses of Harry Mason and his dead wife (she's never given a name), Cheryl Mason, Police Officer Cybil Bennet, Nurse Lisa Garland, Dr. Kaufman, Dahlia Gillespi and Alessa Gillespi. Alessa is the tall girl in the blue dress that steps out onto the road in front of Harry and makes him swerve and crash his Jeep.
I still think the intro song to "Silent Hill" is one of the coolest ever. It sets up the tone for the entire game and provides the main theme song for the Silent Hill franchise as well. Speaking of music and soundtracks-- "Silent Hill" is one of the first games to effectively use sound to induce spine tingling fear in the player. There are no violin trills to be found here, just eerie synthesized ambiance by the master Akira Yamaoka.
After the intro we see that Harry survived the crash. When he comes to he finds that Cheryl is gone.
Being the loving father that he is, Harry immediately starts looking for her in the snowy, dense fog. This is the first time you get control of Harry.
Man, I forgot just how WIDE the streets are in this game. The alleyways are more normal street size, and the streets are the size of a four lane highway. They're HUGE!
|Harry's standing on the left lane of a two lane street!|
Harry hears footsteps while exploring the fog choked streets of Silent Hill and then spots Cheryl's silhouette as she runs away from him in the dense fog. He runs after her and is lead to an alleyway and then to a chain link fence gate with the sign "Beware of Dog" on it. There he finds the blood and guts of a maimed dog.
Then, it's on through it into another section of the alleyway and into the first Nightmare Realm of Silent Hill. (It's commonly called the Otherworld and I supposed it could also be called the netherworld of Silent Hill. However, in my play-throughs, I will refer to them as Nightmare Realms, because I'm Old Skool.)
Cue the air raid sirens, the darkness and the rain.
The sirens go off in "Silent Hill" when the Nightmare Realm takes over the town and sucks Harry into a pitch black hellish landscape full of rusty chain link fences, blood and death. The air raid sirens are just one of many homages in "Silent Hill" to Stephen King and his novel "The Mist." In "The Mist" air raid sirens go off just as the mist rolls in, bringing with it monstrous horrors from another dimension.
There are more monsters out and about during the dark Nightmare Realm levels; where there used to be one dog, there will be two or three, and they tend to be stronger than the ones you encounter during the day time in the snowy fog. Oh, and they really, really want to kill you too. Yay!
In the alleyway Harry and the player first come across one of the creepiest icons of Silent Hill- an empty wheelchair.
Further down the alleyway Harry comes across a corpse on a gurney and another one tied to the chain link fence with barbed wire in a sick form of crucifixion. Then the creepy monkey sounding demon children come at you with huge knives and try to kill you and quickly find that you are trapped. You can't escape. All you can do is die.
While it may not seem so scary now, at the time it was unheard of to run into monsters that will KILL YOU NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO within the first 10 minutes of a game.
And no, the game doesn't end there silly. After Harry "dies" he wakes up in a restaurant and is greeted by police officer Cybil Bennet.
She asks him what happened but Harry isn't sure. All he knows is that his daughter is missing and that he has to find her. Cybil tells him that the phone lines and radios are dead and that something strange is going on out there. Cybil, knowing Silent Hill isn't safe gives Harry her gun for protection. (Her words here foreshadow events that will occur much, much later in the game.)
|Here, take my registered gun civilian. Just don't shoot me with it. Lulz!|
|This is Harry Mason. He's looking for his daughter, Cheryl. Rather dashing, isn't he?|
While in the Cafe 5to2, there is the first save point, where when you interact with it, Harry says lines reminiscent of the opening of "The Mist."
After making my first save, I picked up a few health drinks, a kitchen knife from the counter. Then I went over to look at a broken pocket radio. In anticipation of the monster appearance, I equipped my handgun and went to leave the cafe. When you try to leave, the radio starts making a very peculiar noise reminiscent of a school bell ringing.
When you go to inspect it, a pink pterosaur monster breaks through the glass and attacks you. (A pterosaur-like creature was one of the nocturnal monsters in "The Mist.")
Ack! Shoot it! Shoot it dead!
And I did.
OK, time to explore the sleepy abandoned town of Silent Hill. There are some health drinks that look like tiny brown bottles of hydrogen peroxide and red boxes of bullets to pick up.
There are two buildings that you can enter at this time: the "8" (read 7-11) convenience store and the house on Levin street. Head over to the 8 convenience store to pick up some health drinks and the Channeling Stone behind the counter. The Channeling Stone is used to get the ridiculous UFO ending to the game. (Seriously. It is.)
While wandering around town, it helps to check the map, like constantly, in order to keep your bearings because:
1. the camera moves around in such a way to make it difficult to discern which direction you are going through the streets
2. there are areas that are cut off.
Seriously, the roads just end, like the city was picked up by a giant and dropped somewhere else. Creepy!
Fortunately, pushing the triangle button on the controller brings the map up onto the screen for easy access.
Upon returning to the alleyway marked "Cheryl" you find pages from her coloring book that say "To School", "Dog house" and "Levin Street." Oh yeah, and Cheryl's awesome drawing of her daddy:
|Heh. Yeah, that's you all right Harry.|
The next task is to head over to Levin street and find the dog house. Taped to the inside of the roof is a house key.
Then it's off to find the other keys. Yay.
While I was searching for them, I remembered an astonishing thing about the game play mechanics of "Silent Hill": you can run and shoot at the same time! You can't do that in "Resident Evil 2 " which was released one year prior to "Silent Hill," nor in "Resident Evil 3: Nemesis" which was released in 1999- the same year "Silent Hill" hit the shelves.
Of course, in my girlish excitement over being able to run around and shoot at things, I totally forgot to conserve my ammo and went ballistic on those stupid pink pterosaurs that kept clawing at my head. Oops. But, whatever. They give you more ammo. Right?
I had a hard time finding the mailbox that held one of the keys and I kept missing the wrecked police car where the other key was stashed as I wandered about the cut off streets. But, I eventually figured it out.
Unfortunately, while heading towards the school I totally forgot to pick up the good steel pipe, and you can only pick it up at that exact moment in the game. It isn't there once the town returns to "normal." Which means that I'm stuck with the rusty pipe for the entire play-through. *sigh*
There's also a school bus a little further down the street where you can save your game and pick up a few health drinks. I missed that too...
But at least they remain there, so if you miss it, you can head there after surviving the school.