Silent Hill: A Love Story
The original Silent Hill is now available for download from the PlayStation Network Store. At a US price of merely $5.99, there’s really no reason not to purchase it again. Being able to play this great classic on a portable handlheld system is quite handy and entertaining.
Though the original game is showing its age a bit, it’s still fun to replay and remember how badly this game scared you. Using a flashlight to explore a dark, nightmarish world was a big innovation at the time this came out. Having a hard time seeing in the dark was part of the fun…and also the main ingredient of fear. The player has a radio which emits a static ringing sound whenever enemies are nearby. So when you enter a new area and the radio starts going off but you can’t see anything, your fear reflex kicks in automatically. The tension mounts as the game environments become more nightmarish and surrealistic the further you delve.
The original Silent Hill came out in the end-days of the original PlayStation system, so it passed under the radar for many players. The sequels on the PlayStation 2 were heralded as having some of the best and most disturbing graphics on that system as well. But even in the sequels, the developers felt the need to pull things back a bit graphics-wise by covering the screen with a layer of static, which the player could only remove after completing the game. Thus, the idea of not being able to see clearly as a fear factor was still very much on the developers’ minds.
I dove in to Silent Hill immediately. For me, it was better than the widely popular Resident Evil series. Back then, Resident Evil games were played on static 2D backgrounds that switched as you moved from one area to the next. So while Resident Evil graphics were supposedly “better,” Silent Hill’s environment was more immersive. Here was an entire town to explore, with streets, houses, buildings, schools, hospitals, tunnels and quite possibly Hell itself. And the story was very open-ended, which left a lot to the imagination. Many decried what they surmised as the plot’s gaping holes, so I wrote a plot summary that tried to show how the various scenes and clues found tied together to let you know what was happening. The summary was highly popular and you can still read a version of it here, though subsequent games in the series such as Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill Origins have explained the story much better than I.
Anyone who’s played more recent games in the series without enjoying the hard-to-find original should definitely take advantage of this opportunity. The original game is set to receive a remake on the Nintendo Wii, but significant changes to the story and game mechanics may give you a very different impression of how the series started. Checking out the original as well as other sequels in the series before the Wii will probably afford a better appreciation.
Also available on PSN is the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Though lauded for its long load times, this is no longer a factor with fast loading on the PSP and PS3 systems. Kain is a Zelda-style adventure game where the anti-hero Kain sets out for revenge, to kill those responsible for murdering him and making him a vampire. Kain utilizes a variety of vampire abilities and spells, such as blood-sucking, changing forms, and warping. This original tale of a time-traveling vampire is a great precursor to the Soul Reaver and Legacy of Kain series, which was unfortunately sidelined when Crystal Dynamics dropped the property in order to start making Tomb Raider games. Still, when played for its own merits, the original Blood Omen is a fun game.