Broken Silence: Man the canon!

What is canonical when it comes to the Silent Hill series? Each game has their very own set of endings. Fans have come to agreements and disputes over which are official. When discussing canon, Silent Hill 2, 4, Origins, and Homecoming are discussed. Silent Hill 1’s Good ending is the canon one despite Good + being a more perfect and happy ending in which Cybil lives. Silent Hill 3 is a direct sequel, so canon discussion is much more limited when it comes to these two titles.

The problem at hand is not about those game’s endings. It is about the issues that arise when a new Silent Hill game is created and people refuse to call it canon for various reasons. The point of this installment of Broken Silence is to argue that canon is story based, not gameplay. But before that, let’s continue moving forward with each new Silent Hill game and their individual canon issues.

Silent Hill: Origins was the first to get this scrutiny from fans. The game squeezed itself into the timeline of the series and set on giving a backstory to Silent Hill 1 by going deeper into the origins of Alessa Gillespie and The Order. Many have argued that Origins failed to explain everything properly. This was perhaps due to the game’s rushed and choppy development. The game released in 2007 so its issues are set in stone and we can determine the flaws to canon.

Silent Hill: Homecoming, the black sheep of the family, didn’t have to refer to the past outside of referencing The Order, but it still caused issues of its own. Homecoming had a few errors regarding the layout of the town. Sure, you could say that these alterations to the map were due to Alex’s own delusions, but Homecoming won’t get a pass that easy. Outside of the game’s technical flaws it was also broken in terms being faithful to the lore of the series. Here’s looking at you Pyramid Head. Get out of that game!

Homecoming’s Overlook Penitentiary caused issues with the layout of Central Silent Hill. It was randomly placed along side Simmons Street. Silent Hill: Downpour thankfully aims to fix this mistake by having us revisit the prison. As noted in my analysis, it appears that Murphy will visit Overlook Penitentiary but at its new and correct location in the town. If so, I’m happy to see the developers be more conscious about their actions and fix old mistakes. The Silent Hill series is all about the tiny details, so while small, this fix would mean a lot to us fans.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories exists in its own timeline. It is not canon or a part of the same universe so it does not need to follow any rules. One thing worth mentioning though is the fan attempt to decipher the canon ending in that title. This can not be done with Shattered Memories, because the whole point of the game is that it’s catered to the player. Your ending is the ending. While visiting Konami for our exclusive preview, we discussed this a bit and I thought it would be worth mentioning.

Now to move onto the main point: Silent Hill: Book of Memories was announced pre-E3 and finally revealed at E3. Developed by WayForward, the game will be taking a drastic change in gameplay and become an isometric multiplayer brawler; Yes, this sounds shocking.I myself will be holding judgment on the quality of the game until after I play it, but I am in the same crowd as those who were shocked to see the series have a title with such a sudden gameplay change. This wouldn’t be the first time, though. Silent Hill: The Arcade, and the several mobile games—the mobile games having limited small releases—were a departure from the third person survival horror that we were used to; Silent Hill: The Arcade was basically House of The Dead in Silent Hill.

What annoys me about the criticism for Book of Memories is the idea that it can not be canon. What does a gameplay change have to do with a canon story within the official timeline of the series? If one were to read a novel that was a sequel or prequel to a movie, does it no longer mean that it’s canon because it’s a different medium? Why can’t the story of Book of Memories become part of the lore of the series? The accusation baffles me.

Now, this doesn’t lead me to a stance in which I’m defending the game’s gameplay. For all I know, I might dislike it. If the story is meant to be canon, it is isn’t it? No amount of distaste or disagreement with the gameplay will change that. My only hope is that the story is good. If it’s going to place itself within the series as an official part of the timeline, then it has to be rich with lore and of good quality. I thought Origins did a decent job of that, and Homecoming didn’t really cause too much of a rift due to its self contained story a la Silent Hill 2. Book of Memories will be taking the new characters through the memories of the town, and possibly revisit locations throughout the series. This means that not only is it adding to the canon, but also going into the past. Book of Memories has to have a good story to do this type of thing without seeming tacked on for the sake of supporting the gameplay features.

I completely understand the purpose of this game. Book of Memories is being developed with the platform in mind. The Playstation Vita is a powerful portable console that allows for people to play together while on the go; multiplayer is becoming a standard in gaming as well. It makes sense to see this feature tested on a smaller entry in the series—something I prefer over having one of the “main” entries in the series trying it first.

Silent Hill: Origins was originally developed as a PSP only title, but its formula didn’t seem meant for a portable console. Playing a traditional Silent Hill game while traveling or surrounded by people doesn’t work too well. Origins was better played at home, and not in a busy environment outside.

My acceptance of this gameplay style for Book of Memories does not mean that I want the main line of games to go in this direction as well. I really enjoyed the gameplay of Downpour from my demo, and it would be rash to assume that the series as a whole will be changing into something like Book of Memories.

Being an optimistic fan, I want Book of Memories to be good even if it’s not traditional. What matters most to me is the story. When I pick this game up, I can be satisfied if the story is faithful to the series’ tropes. I will be even more satisfied if the gameplay—while different—is still fun and engaging. What really matters for me about the Silent Hill series is the story, aesthetics, and symbolism. If those things are achieved, I will be a happy fan.

               
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COMMENTS

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    Awesome first to comment … I hope.

    Anyway, CJ you are really hitting the right notes here. Silent Hill = Mind twisting plots and story.

    I still play the old titles and what is cool about is surely not the game-play, If I want that, I’d look for other titles but the story is integral and very Important.

    I have a question for and hope you got the time to answer it.

    In regards to Origins, Homecoming, and Shattered Memories, what title did surprise you plot and story wise?

    To me and that’s just my opinion, Shattered Memories was superior in that term because it managed to make me go like, What?! that can’t be. The predictability was a problem with Origins and Homecoming because developers gave to much of the plot and didn’t have this mystery element to them.

    As for Downpour and Book of Memories, as long as the story are still hidden and unpredictable, I think SH fans should be happy.

    Thanks for the great piece again.

  • Smiley

    The good+ ending can be canon. Cybil didn’t need to be in SH3, and when it comes to Homecoming… Well it’s Homecoming. Cybil’s fate was the least of that game’s problems. Not to mention that her fate was left up for the viewer to determine as quoted in the past.

    Game play really has nothing to do with canon as games like Resident Evil show. And neither does having new people brought on board as we’ve learned from Silent Hill.

    If the game strives to be canon then it very well must do its homework to know what is set in stone, but even then chances are you’ll make retcons or problems along the way. Kojima has been with the MGS series since the beginning and he still creates plot holes and retcons. Not just for games, but movies as well. X-men: First Class was regarded as one of the better reviewed X-men films, but even then it ust about retcons everything established in the previous X-men films. Doesn’t help that it deviates from the comic books in more ways than one. And even then it’s still successful and praised because the story and characters were engaging.

    I suppose deep down any long lasting franchise is bound to mess up the timeline along the way. It doesn’t help when you’re trying to make prequels or games that fit in between sequels. How about remakes and re-imaginings? Multiple scenarios and a variety of endings? It just makes more of a mess in the scheme of things. Canon be damned.

    The best thing a series like Silent Hill can do is throw away canon altogether and branch off on its own territory. Barely anyone from the original Team Silent is involved with the games anymore, so the new team should be working to make their own series instead of reflecting off the past with nods to the earlier games. Turn Silent Hill into something else entirely. That’s what I’m hoping from Downpour. No Pyramid Head. No Order. Just a new experience that takes the town in a fresh direction.

  • Homecoming–despite all that mess–states that Cybil never came back. Wheeler says so. Also, the Book of Lost Memories states that the Good ending is the right one. Not Good +.

    It would be odd for Harry to know when to use the Aglaophotis without understanding its purpose yet. That along with everything else pretty much proves that the Good + ending is not the canon ending, just a much nicer, happier one that can only be discovered by accident in the first playthrough, or by learning of the use of Aglaophotis after playing the game through once. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise.

    As for which game surprised me the most. I guess Shattered Memories, but an hour or two before the end, I had already figured out the twist. I was also disappointed that none of the endings were supernatural. Harry was always a figment, never manifested by the town.

  • Smiley

    Going off Homecoming is shady. Again, made by a different team that already had it’s fare share of problems with the canon and understanding of the series. And also the town itself. They would have been better off making their own separate game with no ties to the previous canon.

    If we break down what Wheeler says in Homecoming he never specifies that she died. “No one knows” was his remark. One can easily argue that she went into hiding considering after the events of the game and the cult Harry did the same thing.

    Book of Lost Memories is debated as well because when it comes to Konami products unless directly quoted from a staff member chances are there will be some mix ups or different interpretations. From that itself book Owaku states that what happens to Cybil afterwards is left to the player’s imaginations. Why leave it to one’s imagination if she was dead? Another example is that the Japanese SH novelization follows the good+ ending. The play novel itself reasons that Harry using aglaophotis on Cybil (how he learns is how we discover in game) and because of that he discovers its use and gives it to Heather in SH3.

    Even if you think they’re biased I’d still recommend checking out TwinPerfectChannel’s link for the information. Usually if they’re ever wrong in their sources they’ll make it a point to address why that is or correct it. Thus far I haven’t seen anything to disprove Good+ ending as non-canon. Generally survival horror games reward you for all your efforts made to achieve that ending. Where as failure on your end places you in the bad endings.

  • Smiley
  • Chewy

    The Good+ ending is too perfect to be the real ending, I mean for it to occour, Harry must grab a pouch of red liquid (in a world full of BLOOD and rust), then somehow work out that by throwing it at Cybil he can cure her. It’s like expecting James to grab a cup of chocolate soup from his favourite toilet in SH2 and using it to turn Maria into Mary.

  • Owaku was a programmer for SH1, nothing to do with the story like he was for 2.

    Going by your logic that Konami products can be wrong, Play Novel can be as well. Not even wrong, but just done differently. The whole point of the Book of Lost Memories was to give facts from the creators on key things in the series. They clearly state that Good is the real canon ending.

    You don’t need the Play Novel to notice that the only way Harry would learn of the Aglaophotis purpose was to finish the game. It’s something that becomes apparent to possibly try on Cybil once the game has been completed and you saw what Kaufman did with it.

  • Smiley

    That comparison does not relate. Furthermore it’s not too perfect either. It takes thinking to accomplish in a series that’s known for its guessing, puzzle work and consequences. Something the recent set of games can take into account.

  • Smiley

    You undermine Owaku’s knowledge in the same book that contradicts where you got your information from without stating who precisely claims that in the book. You can say the play novel is wrong (or not as you continue) but you have yet to prove the good+ ending is non canon.

    All you can take from the BoLM is that either ending works. Which is what I go by. You believe Cybil is dead afterwards. That’s fine. You didn’t do enough to save her. But if you did and she survives then the series continues just as well. And in the Silent Hill series most of the endings for each game work. Trying to place a canon only complicates things further.

  • Chewy

    Thinking for the player maybe, but “What would Harry do?” would he seriously just get a little plastic bag to scoop up a puddle of red liquid in a world that is drenched in red liquid? Cybil died, I doubt it ran through Harry’s mind to even consider using that random pouch of red liquid that he found a few hours back on Cybil – When a possessed policewoman begins shooting you, I’m thinking the natural reaction would be
    A. Run
    B. Shoot

    Z. Use random bag of red liquid

  • Agree to disagree, but it seems like common sense for Harry to not even consider using some random red stuff he found on Cybil without no indication on its purpose.

    The player only learns of its role after finishing the game. Good + seems like a bonus for us, the player, and not something plausible for Harry. Not to mention that if Harry uses it on Cybil, how would he give it to Heather once he leaves Nowhere? He must have kept it for Silent Hill 3’s abortion to even be possible. Unless he stashed the bag back into his pocket like a weirdo.

    And like it or not, Homecoming is canon. It’s part of the main series. As many flaws as it has, it just is. This is why I deviated (and noted) in my article, that it won’t be about the endings. It’s a subject still up to debate.

    The main purpose was to bring to light the accusations on BOM not being canon simply because of its gameplay change.

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    @Chewy: that’s very very very logical my friend. I mean in such situations who would’ve known that such action would to the salivation and survival of Cybil.

    Besides, thinking about the canon purpose of each of SH titles’ endings is a science by its own LOL.

    Team Silent and their “oh its up to the players’ imaginations” approach is certainly something very complex.

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    Think that the developers of Downpour and Book of Memories should continue their quest for ALL! in accordance with the ALLOGISTICS set by Team Silent … Well, maybe not set by them just trying to be very cryptic XD. My bad.

  • Xoc

    @Smiley: Lost Memories also said Good ending was canonical. You can’t call a game non-canonical just because YOU don’t like it. You are not the authority of Silent Hill, Konami is. They own the rights. If they say its canon, its canon. Despite the fact you wish it was not.

  • Smiley

    It’s not that I don’t like it. Either ending works as canon. No one has disprove it. The same source you’re going by has an actual developer quote to contradict it. So far no one has stated who in the book itself claims the ending is canon or not.

    Whether it “makes sense” to the gamer or not is up for debate. Just because a gamer doesn’t figure out the purpose of MO discs does that mean leaving Jill or Chris for dead is canon in Resident Evil? You kind of have to use your thinking and puzzle work to save lives in games of these caliber. You can’t really expect Harry to shoot and beat a woman to death without striving to save her life?

    And whether people except Homecoming as canon or not I leave to the gamers. Because whether it’s in the hands of a new team (silent hill) or the creator making retcons (MGS) either way a long running series is always going face these timeline problems. But again as I pointed out Homecoming never states that Cybil died. Wheeler even mentions no one knows her whereabouts. Going off arguments that Harry and his daughter went into hiding from the cult the same can very well apply to Cybil as a precaution.

    Say I’m wrong, but CJ is right in that we might as well agree to disagree.

  • Smiley

    As far as BoM is concerned we know game play change does not influence canon. That’s obvious. A canon order of events is not determined by game play, and it never has. Look to Resident Evil for examples on this as far as video game canon is concerned. No matter how messy their timeline is you will see fans and purists pull from the resident evil games that were old school survival horror. Then the third person over-the-shoulder shooters. You have rail shooters. Light gun games. Even “canon” events made in the form of CGI movies.

  • Harry Mason

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1n-dqvFZ84
    ^This presents some fairly good ideas, but I don’t think it truly shows that the Good+ ending is canon, and I haven’t seen an argument yet that truly proves the Good ending is, either.

    We could argue about what was logical for Harry to do and what we think SHOULD be the right ending, but at the end of the day, there really isn’t a fullproof way to determine which ending is canon.

    I think that it’s at least possible for EITHER ending to take place so why not just say that EITHER could be canon? There are great arguments on both sides. So much so, in fact, that I don’t think we could ever reach an agreement by trying to prove our side from just the games themselves.

    I mean, both endings lead to the same place in Silent Hill 3, so they both COULD have happened. I think trying to figure out which was the more logical to have happened is just grasping at straws once you know it’s plausible for either ending to have occurred. Since it really hasn’t been officially announced which one is the real one, we could just decide that there really isn’t enough information to pick one ending as the true one and just leave the argument there.

    Then, you could just say “Both endings could be canon, but I personally like the idea that the (insert your preference here) ending is what really happened.” That way, there’s no more arguing and everyone’s happy.

  • Xoc

    @Smiley, she disappeared in Silent Hill which is what happened to her in 1. She was absorbed in Alessa’s nightmare. We know what happened to her because of Harry. Cybil didn’t make it, Good ending is canon. End of story. You can try to justify what you want to believe all day long but it has a huge lack of evidence, whereas Good has a lot of supporting evidence.

    I am still not sure why people use the “subjective” thing in Silent Hill series as an argument since not everything in Silent Hill is subjective. Yes, it actually has absolutes.

  • Smiley

    Technically Cybil and Harry disappeared in Silent Hill. But that doesn’t mean Cybil remained there either. Again, it’s argued she could have gone into hiding just like Harry did. It’s plausible enough if the cult was looking for any leads on Cheryl.

    But why is it end of story? Owaku leaves it open in the BoLM. This scenario writer and programmer has a lot more credibility. Akira Yamaoka even once claimed if anyone has it truly figured out it would be him. I’m not doubting that the good ending can be canon, but who in Team Silent said that? Was it just the author in the book or was there someone high up in the ranks to make that statement?

    Either way I’m with Mason. Both can be canon. Just look at the game for the clear cut answer. Cybil isn’t in SH3 but never stated to have died. So she could have… Or she could have survived.

  • Xoc

    Since this is a broken record on your side of the argument I’ll spell it out for you using the same source you’re using:

    “In the “Good+” ending of Silent Hill, Harry and Cybil escape the town
    together. Although one could interpret this in such a way as to envision
    a connection between the two of them, —>Cybil doesn’t appear in Silent
    Hill 3…”<—

    Being a cop meant she would probably be very outspoken against the cult, like Douglas was after 3.

    If that doesn't add insult to injury:
    "
    Good

    The orthodox ending, which is connected to the third game<—-"

    When Owaku says what happened to Cybil is left up to the players' imaginations it doesn't mean she left Silent Hill alive and everything was happy.

    Using occam's razor and giving the evidence, plus implications made by Lost Memories, Cybil didn't make it out alive. This is also confirmed by Homecoming, or at least her disappearance is.

    If she had made it out alive, her duty as a cop, doesn't allow for her to "disappear" and quit the force, leave and then nobody find her. Think, man, think. She's a cop. Most cops are not going to go through a crazy cult and then disappear willy nilly. She's gonna write a report and go to the media. Harry, btw, also worked with law enforcement after he left with Heather. If he had not his case in Portland would not have been ruled self defense. SO its not like people didn't know about it. Its the fact that Heather was to be hid with Harry. The cult never blames Cybil for anything or even cares about her, from the gist of the 1st game they may not even know who the hell she is.

  • Smiley

    It doesn’t add insult to injury. You haven’t proven she died. You’re making the same guesses, but no actual hard evidence to show she died.

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    @Xoc and Smiley: anything could’ve happened to Cybil. But think about it story wise. If you been to a town and went through what Harry and Cybil had, Would you be wanting to share the experience with anyone? I don’t think Harry would wanna nor do Cybil.

    But I have to agree with Smiley, Cybil could have died or survived. Its not written in stone and its left for us to imagine.

    Here is a thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Silent Hill game that features Cybil as the main character? I’m excluding Shattered Memories from the whole thing. Just a Silent Hill title which focuses on her story after the first title.

    That would end the epic Cybil canon argument here, Don’t you agree?

  • Smiley

    Honestly? Errr. Sorry, but I’m more inclined to distance myself from the previous games. Not that I don’t like Cybil or your idea. She probably would be great in her own game. Even one that takes place within the time frame that Harry was in. But after each installment made thus far I’d rather see new characters and new ways to expand Silent Hill. I liked Shattered Memories, but that’s about it for me. I can’t really see any new team breaking grounds if they keep tying themselves to the past games in their own way.

  • Smiley

    Hey CJ I was just listening to Jeremy’s interview with you and Whitney and I’d just like to say that I whole-heartily agree with Jeremy’s take on “canon” and how to view the narrative of the Silent Hill games in that regard.

    I’d suggest gamers to give the podcast a listen.

    http://she.townofsilenthill.com/silent-hill-experienced-podcast-18-interview-with-jeremy-blaustein/

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    @Smiley: Oh well, guess its just wishful thinking on my part XD

  • Smiley

    Well you never know. If enough fans are vocal about what kind of Silent Hill game they want then maybe they’ll get it. It does sound like Tomm and Devin want to take the fan’s opinions into account.

  • Ahmad S. Al-Hamily

    @Smiley: I dunno if you’re aware of the http://www.fanfiction.net website. There are some righteous SH fanfic that could serve as plot for a bizzlion SH supposed titles. There was one serving as a sequel for SH4 and I think there was an incomplete storyline featuring Cybil. Guess Tomm and Devin oughta check that out.

    • Li

      Actually, they shouldn’t, since that would get the pants sued off them. But hey, since you’re being sarcastic…

  • Smiley

    Thanks. I’ll give them a read through.

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