GBAtemp Recommends: Silent Hill

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Welcome to our latest issue of the GBAtemp Recommends Revival Project REDUX! This is a revival of a revival of our once-weekly feature where we share our favorite games and applications with you. The titles we recommend may be “old school” games, a piece of homebrew, a ROM hack, sleeper hits, an application, and Giygas knows what else, but one thing is for certain: we think they are fantastic and deserve your attention!

Today, in the spirit of the season, we’re taking a look at a classic genre-defining horror title: Silent Hill. This game kept kids and adults awake at night since its 1999 release on the wildly popular PlayStation, and lesser-known to most later got a Visual Novel port on the Game Boy Advance in Japan.

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Silent Hill: undoubtedly inspired by Capcom’s Resident Evil yet taken one step further with a fully modeled 3D world to explore, dynamic camera movements, and the most haunting soundtrack you’ll hear for a long while. A team of misfit developers at Konami were tasked with creating a 'Hollywood action experience' as a response to Resident Evil, but the end result wound up to be far from Hollywood, and more rooted in the darkest minds of the player. Nobody at Konami had any faith in this group of developers, a blessing in disguise since this allowed the team to create their vision with minimal involvement from outsiders.

When people think about the original Silent Hill game today, many think of the very atmospheric music. While the later games had downright beautiful tracks, and some of the very best game soundtracks out there—it all started with the oppressive atmosphere of Silent Hill. The music alone could make you break out in a sweat, have your heart pound out of your chest and force you to turn the console off and turn on every light in your room.

But how do you make people uncomfortable in the most effective way? Use their fears against them! Many people are afraid of going to the dentist, so why not take a dentist's drill and use it as an instrument? Even if you aren’t noticing it, subconsciously you'll find yourself getting a chill of discomfort running through your spine. Add some overly loud industrial percussion on top of it all, and the adrenaline is pumping thanks in no small part to the stress.

One part of the game that hasn’t aged as well is the graphics. For some, the typical PlayStation 3D graphics are fitting for the horror genre, letting your imagination work a little bit more, and having the slightly jerky movements just adds to the unnatural feeling of it all. That is of course down to personal preference, but in my opinion, the graphical fidelity is just perfect for the game. The developers managed to turn the limitations of the console to the game’s favor, and you only have to look at the fog, or darkness later in the game, to see this in action. A way to hide the low draw distance that turned into a very atmospheric and scary element of the game, bringing in the element of the unknown. What is hiding in the fog? What is there just out of sight?

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The game’s protagonist Harry Mason is driving one night with his daughter in the passenger seat. Something appears in front of the car, making Harry dodge to the side and crash his car somewhere in Silent Hill. When he wakes up, his daughter is gone, and Harry is set out on a panicked mission to find her somewhere in the misty streets. It doesn’t take long before everything takes a turn for the worse, with the world-changing around him, rust and monsters lurking in the shadows. Defenseless, Harry is attacked and knocked unconscious by the monsters, only to wake up at a diner, apparently saved by a cop. She gives Harry a gun. While nice, this was perhaps not the greatest idea in terms of safety. From here on out, you are on your own to solve the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Harry’s daughter, and all the absurd things happening in the town. You will run into a few other people, learn about the history of the town, about religions, cults and evil gods. And maybe, solve the entire mystery?

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There is an elephant in the room: the tank controls. You’ll either love it, accept it, or hate it. Personally I never had an issue with tank controls. It feels intuitive for the genre, looking back at Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil for example. There are plenty of theories that it is intentional to simulate the clumsiness fear brings to people, but in reality, it was always just because it was how these kinds of games were controlled at the time. This will likely be one of the biggest hurdles this game has in this day though, trying to attract new players.

As I mentioned earlier there was a Visual Novel version of the game released for the Game Boy Advance, though only in Japan. Attempts to translate it has been made several times, and some more or less complete translations exist online through archived sites. Sadly they don’t exist as a patch, but as pure text or homemade flash games. Apart from that, the game has never been remade or ported to other consoles, not counting the re-release of the game on Sony’s digital platforms. Thanks to the aforementioned digital releases, the game is easy to find and play today!

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Earlier this year, this game turned 20 years old. In two decades, the horror scene has evolved many times; getting darker, more intelligent, very puzzle-oriented, and with a growing focus of survival. While Resident Evil pushed the survival aspects forwards, Silent Hill pushed the boundaries for puzzles and psychological horror instead. Without these two games, horror games wouldn’t be what they are today. Sadly, we will likely never experience anything new from Silent Hill that isn’t a Pachinko machine.

So let’s go back and enjoy the first game in the series, and shiver with fear once again.

our previous Recommends articles said:

:arrow: Screenshot credits: MobyGames

TAGS: [GAME=/game/silent-hill.480]Silent Hill[/GAME] [PLATFORM=/platform/ps]PlayStation[/PLATFORM]
 

sonicvssilver22

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I definitely recommend Silent Hill 2-4 as well if anyone wants to get into this series. Can’t say much for the rest since I haven’t played them.
 
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D34DL1N3R

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"undoubtedly inspired by Capcom’s Resident Evil"

No. Just no. Absolutely not. RE had very little, if any, inspiration for Silent Hill.
 
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I personally prefer Silent Hill 2 over Silent Hill 1 but the first game is still an amazing game for its era. The limitations didn't stop the game from being unsettling and even downright scary at times thanks to the atmosphere and buildup towards each reveal. It truly did show the basis for horror games.
 
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drazenm

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Even today with those graphics and engine and everything else it's more genuine, scary, soulful then any other so called trendy, Indie, fcuk me if I know what's what called today any more, "horror" game in last 10-15 years. When games were just games, no bullsh, no sucking up to certain population divisions, no manipulation, no catering. Just a game, here, take it or leave it, that's it.

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I personally prefer Silent Hill 2 over Silent Hill 1 but the first game is still an amazing game for its era. The limitations didn't stop the game from being unsettling and even downright scary at times thanks to the atmosphere and buildup towards each reveal. It truly did show the basis for horror games.
I have no idea what people see in silent Hill 2, personally I think it's over rated, over hyped like final fantasy 7 for example. I think silent Hill 3 is their most scary and ambitious project. Has atmosphere, you really feel alone, cold, trapped, confused. Heather has soul and personality, she's emotional, afraid but at the same time strong to push forward, survive and find out who her mother actually is and to find the killer of her father, discover her destiny, what brought her to silent Hill. Not to go into facial design, movement etc. Konami was way ahead of competition at that time.
 

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Even today with those graphics and engine and everything else it's more genuine, scary, soulful then any other so called trendy, Indie, fcuk me if I know what's what called today any more, "horror" game in last 10-15 years. When games were just games, no bullsh, no sucking up to certain population divisions, no manipulation, no catering. Just a game, here, take it or leave it, that's it.

--------------------- MERGED ---------------------------


I have no idea what people see in silent Hill 2, personally I think it's over rated, over hyped like final fantasy 7 for example. I think silent Hill 3 is their most scary and ambitious project. Has atmosphere, you really feel alone, cold, trapped, confused. Heather has soul and personality, she's emotional, afraid but at the same time strong to push forward, survive and find out who her mother actually is and to find the killer of her father, discover her destiny, what brought her to silent Hill. Not to go into facial design, movement etc. Konami was way ahead of competition at that time.
Silent Hill 3 is an amazing game and definitely did a lot of things far better than 2, but Silent Hill 2 has always held a special place for able to understand that less is more. I think it's just how Silent Hill 2 presented itself compared to Silent Hill 3 and how they handled and presented their existential dread that drew me towards slightly more towards Silent Hill 2.
 

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Uh, um, meh.... you might want to just skip to Silent Hill 2. Not saying this game is the worst, but I would pass it and go straight to the second game. Come back to this one afterwards if you want to be a completionist of the series.
 
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osaka35

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This is a great horror game. It's aged, and would benefit greatly from some of the new AI HD stuff, but it's still weird as heck. That's my favorite kind of horror game. The one steeped in atmosphere.

The way I usually describe "scary" games: "scary" is jump-scares and intimidating monsters. This is most of resident evil for me. shoot monster, have jump scares in old mansion, rinse and repeat.

truly scary, horror games like silent hill 1, 2, "I'm legit scared right now" is about being forced to go to that creepy place you legit don't want to go to, steeped in unsettling and terrifying atmosphere, one which messes-with-your-mind and makes you go "what. the. &#^K. ". Those things in the school level? They do no damage, but jesus christ when i first played it I got so freaked out. And the transformation stuff? Woof. That's horror.

Play this game with high-quality headphones, in the middle of the room, with your back to the door.

Silent Hill 2 is the superior game in terms of structure, story, and gameplay, but this is still an amazing game. Like jeez man. Far superior to any of the resident evil games if horror or psychological thriller is your kind of game.
 
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The definitive way to play Silent Hill is either on the PS2 with texture smoothing turned on, or in an emulator that offers texture smoothing. Once the textures are smoothed out and not shimmering all over the place, it's quite a beautiful game.
 
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relauby

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What's the point of recommendign something, that everybody already aware of?

As you can tell from some of the comments here, the first Silent Hill is kind of stuck in the shadow of its sequel. Even if most people are aware of it, the majority opinion seems to be that you should skip the first and go right to 2, so giving the original a spotlight independent of the rest of the series will hopefully get people to go back and give it a shot.

You got me somewhat into that series with that article. I still haven't started Chapter 2 of the first game yet, but dang, did the first chapter have me guessing for a while.

Awesome! Glad to hear it. I hope you stick with it, it only gets better from there.:D
 

MajinCubyan

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Loved the first Silent Hill, great game and a great recommendation.

Also, the other elephant in the room; the voice acting. God awful. I consider it worse than the first RE game and that has the immortal "Barry, where's Barry" line. But it works, it makes it feel all the more like a really good B-Movie.
 

relauby

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is there a remaster for this series

Konami did one back in the PS3 era, but by all accounts it's not very good. It only has 2 & 3 included and, for whatever reason, it was cheaper to re-record the dialogue than to use the original, and the re-records aren't very good. I think there were a lot of visual problems too, like the fog not appearing properly so the town just looked empty rather than mysterious.
 
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sonicvssilver22

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is there a remaster for this series

Only Silent Hill 2 and 3 got an HD remaster on the PS3/360, although those versions are pretty divisive among the fanbase. They aren't the worst versions in my opinion, but they do mess up a couple of things.

Konami did one back in the PS3 era, but by all accounts it's not very good. It only has 2 & 3 included and, for whatever reason, it was cheaper to re-record the dialogue than to use the original, and the re-records aren't very good. I think there were a lot of visual problems too, like the fog not appearing properly so the town just looked empty rather than mysterious.

If I remember correctly, they ended up releasing a patch that let you pick either the original voice work or the rerecorded lines in Silent Hill 2, although they never got around to doing it for the third game...
 
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