Sunday, March 14, 2010

Silent Hill (Game)

Silent Hill (サイレントヒル Sairentohiru?) is a survival horror video game franchise, developed and published by Konami. In the series, the player takes control of an "everyman" protagonist traversing through the decrepit and nightmare infested remains of the town of Silent Hill. Typically, the storyline unravels a psychological repression regarding the cast of characters along with the tainted history regarding the eponymous town.
The first four games in the series were created by Team Silent, a development staff within Konami, which has since disbanded. Subsequent titles have been created by other developers: Silent Hill: Origins and the reimagined Silent Hill: Shattered Memories by Climax Studios, Silent Hill Homecoming by Double Helix Games, and a currently untitled installment from Vatra Games. There is also a series of comics, books, and novelizations based on the series. A film adaptation loosely based on the original game was released in 2006 directed by Christophe Gans. A second film is currently in pre-production.

Main series
Conceived by the game designer Keiichiro Toyama, the first Silent Hill was released in 1999 for the Sony PlayStation. The plot of the game centered on Harry Mason arriving in Silent Hill and his subsequent attempts at finding his adopted daughter, Cheryl. During the progress of the game, the protagonist Harry finds that Cheryl has a disturbing past as the details of her genesis are revealed. This game was followed by the release of the side story for Game Boy Advance called Silent Hill: Play Novel. Silent Hill 2, was released in 2001 for the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and PC. The extended versions for Microsoft Xbox and PC are sometimes referred to by the name Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams and feature an extra subplot scenario, as does the "Greatest Hits" re-release for the Sony PlayStation 2. The plot centered on James Sunderland, who had received a letter from his deceased wife informing him that she is waiting for him in their "special place", which leads him to Silent Hill. The second full sequel, Silent Hill 3, was released in 2003 for the Sony PlayStation 2, as well as for PC. Highly tethered to the events of the first game, the plot surrounds a teenager named Heather as she uncovers the mysteries that surround her past — including her own link to the haunted town. Silent Hill 4: The Room was released in 2004 for the Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox and PC. The plot follows Henry Townshend who finds himself mysteriously locked in his own apartment until a hole appears in his bathroom wall. The game features characters that are mentioned in previous titles.
A prequel, Silent Hill: Origins, developed by Climax Group, was released in 2007 for the Sony PlayStation Portable, and in March 2008 for the PlayStation 2. The plot features Travis Grady, a trucker with a disturbing past who becomes trapped in Silent Hill after rescuing a girl from a burning house. During his quest to find the fate of the burned girl, he encounters characters from the first game and some new ones from his own subconscious. The sixth installment, Silent Hill Homecoming, was officially confirmed on July 11, 2007, during E3 2007 for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360 and PC. The game tells the story of Alex Shepherd, a soldier who has returned from a war overseas. Shepherd discovers upon his arrival that his father has gone missing and his mother has become catatonic. Joshua, his brother, is the only one who can provide solace, but he soon vanishes. The game chronicles Shepherd's search to find his missing brother. Like Silent Hill: Origins, Team Silent did not develop the project; instead, development was done by Double Helix Games. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a reimagining of the original Silent Hill by Climax Group, and was released for the Nintendo Wii and later released for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. It is "not a remake or a port" and all the character designs have been redone. The largest changes were a total removal of combat (monsters only appear in select areas of the game, where you're chased by them), and a focus on psychological horror. The game would test your personality at select points, and alter the game's story & monster designs accordingly. A new Silent Hill game was announced in April 2010. It is being developed by Czech studio Vatra Games for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It was confirmed at E3 in 2010, and a trailer was displayed. The music will not be created by Akira Yamaoka, but by film and TV composer Daniel Licht.

The first map obtained in Silent Hill.

Silent Hill is a small town situated around the edge of Toluca Lake and a large forest, with the older sections of town located to the north and along the banks of the adjacent river. Due in part to heavy commercial development, the town is fairly self-sufficient; it has an elementary school, a shopping mall, a church, two separate hospitals, a sanitarium, and other stores and attractions. The majority of the town's businesses are locally-owned mom-and-pop stores, with no apparent influence of chain stores or franchises other than a burger joint (called "Happy Burger") and a Shell gas station. Old Silent Hill and Paleville have large residential areas with both apartments and homes, as well as several motels and the grand Lakeview Hotel. The beachfront area of Paleville also has a lighthouse and hosts the Lakeside Amusement Park.
Prior to the 17th century, the area where Silent Hill was established was home to an unnamed Native American tribe that used the land for rituals. At the end of the century, settlers arrived and founded the town; shortly thereafter, they began to rapidly die off. The deaths were attributed to an epidemic, and Brookhaven Hospital was built to treat those affected. Eventually the settlers fled the town, leaving it abandoned for nearly a century, until it was resettled as a penal colony in the early 19th century. Twenty years later, another epidemic broke out, and Brookhaven Hospital was rebuilt and reopened. In the 1840s, the prison was closed, and the town once more abandoned; in the 1850s, coal was discovered there by another wave of settlers, and it became a boomtown.
During the American Civil War, the town served as a prisoner of war camp; after the end of the war, the building used to house prisoners was converted into a state penitentiary, and later on, Silent Hill became a resort town. Around the same period, a group of religious zealots founded a series of small doomsday cults based upon the eschatology of the unnamed Native American tribe which occupied the land before settlers arrived. Collectively referring to themselves as "The Order", the cults, each of whom worshipped a different sub-deity, practiced human sacrifice and necromancy in an ongoing effort to resurrect "The God", an ancient deity which they believed would usher in an age of paradise by killing all humans. The belief system incorporated such obscure terms/concepts as "Gyromancy", "Mark of Samael" and "Seal of Metatron". To fund their efforts, The Order dealt a psychedelic drug called White Claudia, manufactured from a plant indigenous to the town. The drug trade served to increase tourism to the town from the residents of surrounding areas, who traveled there to obtain White Claudia. The drug trade was eventually crippled in the midst of a war between The Order and local authorities in which members of The Order murdered several police officers. Users of White Claudia often experienced hallucinogenic encounters with demons.
Silent Hill manifests itself in at least three distinct parallel layers, or dimensions: a normal, populated town; a quiet, seemingly abandoned town veiled by supernaturally thick fog; and a dark and decaying town (called the "Otherworld") filled with disturbing, hellish imagery. Only the latter two layers are explored by the games' protagonists, where demonic and disfigured creatures roam the streets and buildings (appearing in greater numbers in the Otherworld). Electricity and lighting are extremely limited or nonexistent as well. Occasionally, characters will transit between dimensions, and in some cases the dimensions may intersect with each other, creating an incoherent space called "Nowhere".
The different appearances of both the town and its inhabitants manifest from characters' personal fears, though not necessarily those of the protagonists. These manifestations may be shared between characters, or otherwise appear exclusively to only one of them. It is implied that Silent Hill always held a supernatural presence, but the town's virulent history since the early modern period had made these energies into something darker.
Commentary published by Konami has stated that the power of Silent Hill has "intensified greatly" since the events of the first game. While the first, second and prequel games featured protagonists who were drawn into Silent Hill, in the third, fourth and fifth games, the Otherworld has reached out to people in nearby towns of Ashfield, Portland and Shepherd's Glen.

A combat scenario in Silent Hill 2, with James preparing to attack an approaching monster.

The first Silent Hill title, which served as the gameplay model for its first two sequels, utilized a third-person perspective with fixed camera angles at certain points. Most sections take place indoors, connected by open streets and alleyways (though the third and fourth games feature greatly reduced exploration of outdoor environments). The alternating fog and darkness only allow the protagonist and player to see within a ten-foot radius at any time. At the beginning of the game, the character is usually equipped with a pocket flashlight and a seemingly broken pocket radio that emits static in close proximity to monsters.
Much of the series' gameplay revolves around solving puzzles, often to obtain a key or other item essential to the plot. Various monsters are also encountered in nearly all parts of the game. The player has access to a variety of improvised melee weapons and firearms, although most characters do not show any indication of experience with firearms.
All the games feature multiple endings. Silent Hill, for example, has a progression of endings from bad to good, depending on how many side objectives the player accomplishes prior to the final boss fight. The endings of Silent Hill 2 are presented as being all equal, with no clearly defined bad ending. There are also humorous joke endings in every game (except Silent Hill 4), most commonly referred to as the "UFO Ending" because the main character comes in contact with extraterrestrials. Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill: Origins, however, both force a good ending on first-time players, with bad and joke endings for players who use a continuing save.