Sunday, August 8, 2010

Silent Hill Sunday #1: Next Stop, the Nightmare Town

You wake up sweating and disoriented. Sitting up, your gaze darts wildly about the surrounding area. Then, your heart beat lessens, the terror leaves you, and you let out a sigh of relief. There you are, in your own bed. The only remnants of your nightmare are the now-cold puddle of sweat you’re sitting in, foggy memories of an unpleasant being, and a vague feeling of unease. By the time you’re in the bathroom, brushing your teeth, your mind is already on something else. For you, the nightmare is over.

Now try to imagine a world where the nightmare is never over; a world of constant fear, where you’re already awake, and dying is the only release. Yet, even death may not bring the relief you seek, for what awaits you afterwards may be even worse. This is the curse of Silent Hill.

Since the original title on the PlayStation was unleashed on the unsuspecting gaming public, the Silent Hill series has been terrifying players around the world for more than a decade. After the first two critically acclaimed games and a respectable third entry into the series, Konami’s outings into the nightmare town became increasingly stale and formulaic, despite new gameplay elements introduced to each successive title. While Silent Hill games once required an overdose of tranquilizers and a good therapist to complete, entries like Silent Hill Origins, the sixth game in the main series, inspired as much terror a typical Syfy channel flick on a Saturday afternoon.

However, the recent Silent Hill: Shattered Memories on the Wii shook up the series’ gameplay by removing combat entirely and adding motion controls. Many players think this was the kick in the pants the series needed to revive an ailing franchise. The eighth Silent Hill game is due out in 2011, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Regardless of the quality of the gameplay in later entries, the soundtrack for each of the seven games in the series is varied and creepy, incorporating the tag team of Japanese composer Akira Yamoaka and, from the third game on, American singer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. Yamoaka reportedly will not be producing the music for the next Silent Hill game; taking over the reigns will be Daniel Licht, the music composer for Showtime’s Dexter.

In celebration of a series that took survival horror to such terrifying highs and drab lows, allow me to introduce Silent Hill Sundays here at Wordsmith VG. At least two Sundays a month, I’ll write about a different aspect of the Silent Hill series, from reviews to theories to little-known SH tidbits.

Coming up next: “Have you seen a little girl? Short, black hair. She just turned seven.”

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