Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl are on their way to a family vacation in the resort town of Silent Hill when a mysterious figure walks into the road. Startled by the dark figure suddenly silhouetted in his headlights Harry panics, jerking the steering wheel, and sends his jeep careening through a guardrail and off the road. Harry wakes to find his jeep has come to rest just inside the town of Silent Hill and Cheryl is missing from the passenger seat. Worried for his daughter’s safety, Harry heads into the town to find her; instead he finds a deep rooted evil that pervades the misty town of Silent Hill and somehow ties to his daughter’s disturbing past.
Conceived by game designer, Keiichiro Toyama, Silent Hill was released in 1999 for the Sony Playstation as a third-person adventure game. Told from Harry’s perspective, it starts with his arrival to Silent Hill and follows him as he searches for his missing daughter.
Despite the initial thoughts by gamers and critics alike that Konami’s Silent Hill was just another Resident Evil clone it was obvious after its release that Silent Hill embodied a very different kind of horror. While Capcom’s Resident Evil relied heavily on action and visual scares that usually startled the player, Silent Hill relied more on an unnerving atmosphere built up with subtle visuals and nerve racking sounds to fill the player with a constant dread. The game’s music composed by Akira Yamaoka in particular had a big hand in helping Silent Hill stand from the crowd. The game’s use of real-time 3D environments, the fog, grain and darkness used to hide the Playstation’s limitations not only gave Silent Hill its signature look but also enhanced the town’s look of dilapidation and decay.
Even though Silent Hill’s sound and visuals were well received many felt the game’s voice acting and clunky controls brought down the mood of the overall game experience. Unfortunately all the game’s dialogue was recorded line by line which resulted in awkward pauses during character conversations. This not only made the character’s speech come across as rather halting but the lack of natural flow in their speech made many serious scenes come off as rather comical and spoiled the creepy atmosphere built up by the visuals and ambient music.
Years after its initial release Silent Hill is not only still wildly popular but still often recognized as a leading horror title. It has made several “best of lists” these past couple years placing 14th in IGN’s “best PlayStation games of all time” list in 2000, named 15th “best” in a 2005 article by GameSpy and earned the top spot in Gametrailers.com video feature in 2006 for the top ten scariest games of all time. With the title’s enduring popularity it’s no wonder Konami decided to revisit the original plot for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Hopefully this re-imagining will also stand the test of time.