Silent Hill: 20 Years Retrospective. Part one. Cadelta Horror Month (Topic)

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Silent Hill: 20 Years Retrospective. Part one. Cadelta Horror Month


This year marks 20 years since the first Silent Hill was released on the PlayStation. The game was developed by a small division of the Konami Team Silent. It was one of the first third-person survival horror stories, telling about how a father searched for his missing daughter in an abandoned city where horrors were happening. She set the vector of development along which video games should move, and also was able to take full advantage of the resources of the first PlayStation, covering up all its flaws. It went on to become part of the original PlayStation Greatest Hits library, which has sold over two million copies and has established itself as one of the most iconic horror series of all time.

Since its debut in 1999, Silent Hill has spawned several sequels, films, comics, spin-offs, and has regularly appeared on numerous tops of the best horror games of all time. Rely on Horror decided to host a Silent Hill retrospective in honor of the franchise's anniversary to see what makes it special.

Each city has its own secrets. Some are just darker than others.

Development of Silent Hill began in 2016 with a budget of $ 3.5 million. The initiative for the creation came primarily from Konami, who intended to repeat the Western success of Resident Evil. They wanted a game that would sell well in the US. The small 15-person development team at Konami was known as Team Silent. She was recruited from a group of employees that had previously had little success in the company. The team, made up of a small group of outsiders with a few unsuccessful projects, did not know how to implement Konami's Hollywood-style horror challenge.


Work began to stagnate, and the management gradually lost faith in the project. As a result, the studio decided to ignore the directive about Hollywood horrors, creating instead a game that would scare people on an instinctive level. The project surpassed what action-focused Resident Evil was. While Silent Hill never had the same commercial success as its zombie-infected cousin from Capcom, it firmly established itself as the gold standard for the genre, and its impact on video game horror is still felt to this day. p>


“We tried to recreate the worldview from American novels, and also to instill instinctive fear in the players - these were two priorities in the development,” - Keichiro Toyama, head of the project.

The main distinguishing feature of the game was that it was an eastern interpretation of western horror. Keiichiro Toyama, like many Japanese directors, created the script for the game, taking various ideas and tropes from Western literature and cinema. He borrowed elements from Stephen King, Howard Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" and filtered them through an eastern perspective to create something familiar but completely different.


In general, such a mixture could become a kind of a set of hackneyed cliches. However, the game incorporated all of the above into itself in this way, becoming something new, like Star Wars in 1977, which borrowed various elements of mythology, fantasy and science fiction, combined them to form something new. The game worked on this principle and therefore was able to create a unique style of interpretation, which became the hallmark of the entire series.

There are enough examples of familiar elements in the game, and they can be seen, for example, in the names of streets on the city map, which refer us to various authors of horror and science fiction.


Character names and designs also refer to popular characters from movies, TV and books. Even Harry Mason's original name was "Humbert", which was a reference to the main character of "Lolita" Stanley Kubrick (1962). Later the name was changed to Harry, because Humbert was an unpopular name in the West [by the way, the name of the protagonist is also a reference to the famous American serial killer and cultist Charles Manson - WorldOfTopics]. The scene where Dahlia Gallespie is arguing with her daughter Alessa in a dark corridor is also a reference, everything - the framing, the corridor, and even the wallpaper - all refer to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The name Silent Hill, according to the authors, is also a kind of reference, a tribute to the legacy of the game.

“The arc world in the first game is the world that emerged from the subconscious of Alessa. The transition to this world, which is somewhere outside the city itself, is due to a unique power. The power that absorbs a person and reflects all his innermost fears that people hold in their hearts. They are all individual in Silent Hill. "- Hiroyuki Owaku, Writer.

Things are changing fast

Western influence is visible even in the very structure of the game. In addition to his role as a programmer, Hiroyuki Owaku also contributed as a writer for the game's puzzles, while character designer and CGI creator Takayoshi Sato helped with additional elements of the game's story, including building it.


The archetype of American horror story always begins with the "ordinary world" and familiarity with it. After, we get to know the ordinary world of the characters who live in it, trying to create an emotional connection with us. Often, routine can concentrate on the little things. At one point, there is a shift that turns these things from familiar to supernatural. This shift can be the introduction of a new character, the discovery of something that prompts the character to take action. In Harry's case, this is a holiday arrival in the small resort town of Silent Hill.


The developers wanted the player to feel that the game world exists in reality. They used the city-building style popular in the Midwest as their basis, and put horror in the middle. Chicago was used as one of their western landmarks, and the team drew inspiration from cities or areas near lakes, as Silent Hill is a lakeside resort.

Later it became known that the city itself is located in Maine. It was the connection with the real world, with doors opening and closing in the same way, streets crossing and twisting in a natural way, that was critical to the game, because when players believe in the reality of the city, they also believe in its horror.

The shift occurs when a girl appears on the road in front of Harry and he gets into an accident trying to avoid it. When he wakes up, he realizes that his daughter Cheryl is missing. There is not a soul in the city, there is fog, and snow is falling from the sky, despite the fact that now is not the season. Things get worse when Harry enters the alley behind Finn Street: a siren howls, day turns to night, snow turns to rain, the game plunges into a world of darkness, decay and rust. This is the very transition. Locking, characters in the city. They can't just run away because whole roads are disappearing from the city. All this creates a distinct ominous mood.


Stephen King's "Mist", where monsters came from an incomprehensible and strange fog, had a direct impact on the game's plot. The book begins with the family going to the supermarket. There she and all the other people are covered with a strange fog. This story also tells of a father who rescues his family. And although the game has much more in common with the book, the developer took that as the starting point of the plot.


The game has a fairly simple concept: a father is looking for his daughter. Harry Mason himself is an ordinary person who is similar to the player. He may stumble while running, or he may want to catch his breath. In addition to him, there are six more characters in the game. We meet Cybil, a police officer from a nearby town, who helps Harry find his daughter. Dahlia is a mysterious woman who guides Harry to different parts of the city. As a result, she becomes one of the main antagonists of the game, along with the two-faced and self-serving Dr. Kaufmann. Nurse Lisa is a local resident who tells Harry about the history of the city. Cheryl and Alessa are two halves of the same soul, separated several years ago and yearning for a reunion.

Both of these characters serve as catalysts for the beginning of the story. So, it was Cheryl who wanted to go to the city, and Alessa appeared on the road, forcing Harry to crash the car. These two events drew these characters closer to the city. Through all of these heroes, Silent Hill explores the nature of loyalty, corruption, innocence and duplicity, some of them.

As with many stories like this, character development is below the surface, encouraging people to dig deeper. Despite the fact that the game has a fairly direct plot, much remains outside of it. The developers introduce you to the game and its history, but leave a lot to you. You enter the city knowing very little, and you leave it, albeit with new knowledge, but also with many questions that have to be interpreted in your own way, and here the player's imagination comes into play. The game has five different endings, each with its own set of consequences based on the player's actions. The specifics often remain vague and ambiguous on purpose, this has become a hallmark of the series [we believe that the author is talking about all the endings, except for the comic, with alien abduction - WorldOfTopics].


Despite the fact that the game filters Western themes and ideas through its cultural consciousness, it still retains distinct elements of Asian culture and its traditions. One of the main cultural differences between Asian and American horror is structure.

Western structure usually has a straightforward sequence: we discover something supernatural, we figure out what it is, and in the end we fight and win. In the east, the supernatural is more than us and cannot be defeated. In traditional Japanese stories of ghosts, tragedies, suffering and loss, everything has a future meaning. Ghosts are often born out of rage triggered by some traumatic event, such as murder or suicide. This injury marks or stains the place, creating a curse. Asian horror is abstract, using a minimum of elements that cause fear. It depends more on suggestion and expectation rather than blood and violence. The stories are more open-minded and there is usually less explanation of how and what works.


In the game, a lot is hidden about the city and the characters, and although Harry eventually leaves Silent Hill with the reincarnation of his daughter, the question of why Silent Hill is the way it is remains unsolved. And this is just one example of the weaving of Eastern horrors into the Western concept.

We will tell you the end of the Syletn Hill retrospective in the second part of the article. Just like last year, we dedicate October to horror games and will write more thematic materials under the Horror Month bar.

The Topic of Article: Silent Hill: 20 Years Retrospective. Part one. Cadelta Horror Month.
Author: Jake Pinkman