One of the greatest strengths of the early Silent Hill games - developed by internal Konami studio Team Silent - is their exceptional character design. The characters presented in these games are among the best in all of gaming history at illiciting emotional responses from the players - both positive and negative.
It all starts at the top, as the protagonists of all three games stand tall and proud as paragons of game character design. This blog will contain major plot spoilers for Silent Hill 1-3. Read at your own risk!
Having relatable and likable characters is essential to the success of just about any horror story (whether in the form of a book, movie, game, or any other medium). It's hard to feel afraid for a character that you just don't care for.
Harry Mason of Silent Hill is a great example of a relatable "Joe Everyman" protagonist. Harry is a simple writer trying to take his daughter on a vacation. He wrecks his car and wakes up to find his daughter is missing in a seemingly deserted and haunted town that is closed off from the outside world. Harry isn't a superhero or elite special forces operative. He's just a guy. He could be anybody. This makes him instantly relatable to an audience. [More]
Much ado has already been made about the re-recorded dialogue that is to be used in the Silent Hill HD Collection. Critics like myself have already been accused of being “haters” and “unwilling to accept change”. Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), Konami has given “haters” like me plenty of reason to hate the Silent Hill HD Collection.
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I have extra copies of the original games. If you want to play them (and you know me personally), you can borrow them!
With the Silent Hill HD Collection being lambasted by fans and critics (my review now available here!), I thought I’d take a moment to discuss exactly why I feel it was so important for the original voice acting of the games (Silent Hill 2 specifically) to be retained. And it isn't just a matter of personal preference based on my familiarity with the original actors; although, that is definitely a contributing factor.
Critics tend to make a simple equivocation fallacy when describing the voice acting of Silent Hill as "awkward" and then calling it "bad". But "awkward" does not necessarily mean "bad". In fact, the awkward voice acting of Silent Hill 2 is actually a benefit to the game's narrative and mood. This is something that should be apparent to anybody who is actually paying attention to what's happening in the game.
Let us first take a step back and look at the design principles that went into Silent Hill 2.
James begins to doubt his own mental stability
Silent Hill 2 is a particular kind of horror game. It differs from other horror games at the time - such as Resident Evil and even its own predecessor Silent Hill - in that it is a very emotional brand of horror. The horror doesn't come so much from being "afraid", but rather, from being depressed, confused, and unsure of what is going on around you. Silent Hill 2 is a very dark and gloomy game, and definitely deserves its "M for Mature" rating with its story and themes alone. Team Silent accomplishes this by immersing the player in decrepit environments and introducing elements of surrealism to the game's reality. They then supplement this by slowing breaking down the foundational pillars of what the main character thinks is real, and then forcing the character and the player to wonder whether their own senses can be trusted. [More]
The depiction of the town of Silent Hill in its titular game has lead to a lot of confusion and over-analysis from many casual and some hard-core Silent Hill fans. The stories of the first few games are told in very indirect manners, with the player often being shown the story through the acquisition of clues and context, rather than being directly told what is going on by an objective character or outside narration.
One of the most common misconceptions about the games is the idea that the “Otherworld” in Silent Hill is some kind of “parallel dimension” that exists in conjunction with, but separate from, the “real world”. Alternatively, some fans claim that the games utilize some kind of “parallel perception” mechanism, in which everything that happens in the games that is even remotely supernatural is all just happening inside the character’s mind, such that separate characters can be in the same place at the same time, but see things differently. These interpretations have lead to many misunderstandings about other elements of the town and events, such as Alessa having hostile motivations, the residents of Silent Hill being turned into monsters, or that the people who visit the town can never truly leave.
These ideas are all fallacious, and they are derived from fundamental misunderstanding due to how the game presents information, or by a reliance on out-of-game information that presents a false picture of what is happening in the games.
What’s worse, these misguided ideas have found their way into “official” Silent Hill material, including the motion picture and all of the post-Konami-developed games in the series. [More]
Konami recently released a preview of the new voice work for the upcoming Silent Hill HD Collection. Due to legal issues with at least one of the original game's voice actors (specifically, Konami refuses to pay James Sunderland voice actor Guy Cihi royalties for their re-releases of the game on other platforms), Konami had to find new people to perform the voice work for the games. So now they've got two sets of people that they will need to play royalties to, and in the meantime, us fans get this:
Nerd Rage Time! [More]