Enjoy the Silence

When I read that composer and producer Akira Yamaoka had left Konami I, like everyone else who loves the Silent Hill series was devastated. As time has passed however,  I have slowly started to accept the loss of Akira and I now even believe that his departure offers a host of new opportunities for the series.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Akira has produced some incredible work for the series. As a musician, I count him amongst my greatest influences, and I often listen to his music outside of the games. In a way, I think of him as Mr. Silent Hill, but when a good thing is over, it’s over.

So, here are my thoughts, hopes, wishes and fears for the future of my favourite series…

Firstly, what are we going to do about the trademark music and atmosphere? Well, I think that this will be the easiest aspect of Akira Yamaoka’s influence to replace. Outsource, outsource, outsource! But not to just anyone. I think that the job of writing and performing music for the series should be offered to The Axis Of Perdition. If you’re not familiar with them, then let me tell you a few of their song titles…Entangled In Mannequin Limbs, Heaving Salvation In The Paradise Of Rust, Reopening Wounds Of The Transition Hospital, The Elevator Beneath The Valve, Where The World Becomes Flesh…you get the idea!

The Axis Of Perdition are a combination of Extreme Metal and atmospheric music, inspired by Silent Hill, H.P. Lovecraft and others. Their latest album, Urfe was a strange combination of spoken word and their usual style, telling the story of a man called Urfe who finds himself in a hellish town called Locus Eyrie. One listen to the first disc of the double album should be enough to convince you, I’d say. I think The Axis Of Perdition would be honoured to turn their talents to working on Silent Hill, and I also think the Extreme Metal aspect would be an interesting new addition, as long as it was used sparingly. Lighter songs like You’re Not Here and Room Of Angel should still feature, and I’d love for Mary Elizabeth McGlynn to continue with her superb vocal contributions.

Well, that’s the music sorted, on with business! What are we going to do about the game play? I’ve enjoyed the more recent Silent Hill games (I’m only talking about the main series here, The Arcade Game is horrific and I haven’t managed to get the phone games), though I haven’t had chance to play Shattered Memories. My main criticism of the newer games however, is this new ‘BASH X BUTTON’ style addition. It wasn’t too bad in Origins or Homecoming, but I just hope that this doesn’t become over-used. Other than that, I loved the game play in Silent Hill Homecoming. The physics were a great inclusion, as was the combat system. The horror aspects of Silent Hill 2 and 3 would be incredible with these aspects of Homecoming.

Silent Hill 3 Mirror Scene

This is the point though really, the deep horror and psychological moments of the earlier Silent Hill games seem to have taken a backseat, and they really must return to the forefront. I love the more action-orientated feel to Homecoming, but that shouldn’t feature at the expense of the horror moments. Moments that make you jump, right out of the early Resident Evil games and corny teen horror films are no replacement!

Next, I think that Shattered Memories has shown that there is room to experiment with the series’ game play, though I hope the combat isn’t removed from all future games as it’s an aspect of the series I enjoy. I’d like to see a Silent Hill game with similar ideas to Heavy Rain (which I haven’t played either. Curse it’s Playstation-exclusivity!), mainly how if one character dies, the others continue and it merely becomes a new twist in the tale. A Silent Hill with two or more characters that you control at different points of the game would be excellent.

This brings me to my next, very short point. NO GODDAMN MULTIPLAYER. EVER. Thanks for reading this outburst!

With that, I think it’s time I stopped rambling and got on with the biggest part of the Silent Hill series, the plot. There are a few options for the makers of the next Silent Hill game, be it a rebuilt Team Silent, Climax or Double Helix (as much as I’d like to see Team Silent return, I kinda hope Double Helix get another go soon). I’ll outline what I think these options are. Firstly and most obviously, they have the option of just writing a new story, much in the same way that Silent Hill 2 had little to do with the first. The same settings, but whole new characters. The difficulty comes that with more games and stories, the more boundaries are drawn to prevent the stories overlapping and conflicting, which is why I personally think that there are still stories left open to expansion.

There are a few workable story arcs in the Silent Hill series already. Firstly, there’s the original story that began with the first Silent Hill and was followed up by Silent Hill 3, and then provided with a prologue in Silent Hill Origins, telling the story of Alessa Gillespie. Depending on which ending is canon, Heather/Cheryl could make a return to the town where she was born (unless something is revealed in any of the additional games I haven’t played!). This would provide an epic storyline, a chance for a final conclusion and also provides the opportunity to grab back some of the fans that have drifted from the series since Silent Hill 4: The Room. I don’t know if I’d want anyone but Team Silent to continue this storyline though.

Secondly, there is the story that began with Silent Hill Homecoming, introducing the town on the other side of Toluca Lake, Shepherd’s Glen. I think Shepherd’s Glen still has more tales to tell yet. This could be a continuation of the story in Homecoming, though personally I think it’s more likely that Shepherd’s Glen will be used in the future as an extension of Silent Hill. Just somewhere else familiar to send a character. Though Travis Grady from Origins’ cameo intrigues me, and I wonder if more will be revealed about this.

Thirdly, and probably most unpopular. The story of The Room could be expanded, in my opinion. Not necessarily from the point of view of Henry Townshend, or with Walter Sullivan as the story’s villain. I’m more thinking of a situation outside of Silent Hill (which could and probably would lead back to the old town) where a cultist nutter has unleashed hell and really ruined some poor chap’s day. I definitely don’t think a sequel to The Room is in order however, despite my personal feelings that it’s underrated and overly criticised.

Finally, and again, probably an unpopular choice. I’d like to see a story or two from the short-lived comic series adapted, or at least acknowledged in the main game series. I personally loved Paint It Black and Among The Damned and think that the latter especially would make a good game (adapted obviously to make it fit the game canon more). On the adaptations front, I’d like to see the film series and the game series remain apart. No references to the De Silvas, please! I liked the film somewhat, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that I don’t want the adapted story ruining our series!

As a last note on the storyline front, I’d also like to see the back of Pyramid Head for a while. The guy is awesome and all that, but he’s starting to become a mascot which is not what he was created for. Time to create a new boogyman to scare the wits out of us, and don’t make the same ‘Butcher’ mistake again! Give ol’ PH a holiday and bring him back when we least expect him!

So, I’ve talked (quite a bit more extensively than I wanted) about where I’d like to see the series go, and of my hopes. But I also have fears for this series. I fear overly fickle fans claiming every new Silent Hill is terrible because it’s not the second coming of Silent Hill 2, forcing the developers to make drastic changes to keep it fresh (see the Sonic series). I fear the current gaming trend forcing multiplayer and co-op elements which will water down the feeling of isolation. I fear the overuse of the same enemies, environments and situations. I fear the game I love the most becoming watered down, removing puzzles in favour of ‘BASH Y BUTTON’ type game play.

My main fear, however is of the series fading away like a footballer who just won’t retire, and I pray to any god listening that the developers will simply let it go when it’s time has come, rather than dragging out it’s demise. If you’ve got no more ideas, let the silence end.

Like I said at the very start, when a good thing is over, it’s over…but as the recent resurfacing of Splatterhouse has shown, when a good horror is ready to live again, it’ll live again to terrify once more!

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