This Is The End(ing) 02.13.12: The Darker Side of Silent Hill
Posted by Gavin Napier on 02.13.2012
411's Gavin Napier and Adam Cheek conclude their look at the endings of Silent Hill with an examination of the darker endings, plus a look at the ending of the classic Sega game Altered Beast!
Welcome to the second installment of This Is The End(ing). If you weren't here with us (us being Gavin Napier and Adam Cheek) last week, shame on you. You missed an unparallelled breakdown and analysis of two of the endings of the original Silent Hill. Am I giving us too much credit? Possibly. Probably. See for yourself, though, and go hereto look it over, then come back and join us for This Is The End(ing) 1-2: Silent Hill Boogalo!
Admittedly, we didn't think out certain complications that would come with the column when we had to tackle the same game in multiple weeks. Have no fear, though, we didn't get to be 30 year old slackers without developing some sort of ingenuity for solving problems that have no bearing on the real world whatsoever. There's plenty of ground to cover with the original Silent Hill, but before we go any further, we'll refresh you on the ground rules.
Being that this is a column about game endings, it inherently contains spoilers. If you don't want to know about the ending to a particular game, I'd strongly suggest you avoid this column while we're discussing it. For the next few weeks, odds are really good that we're going to be tackling older games, so the risk should be low. In the near future, however, we're going to be looking at games like the Uncharted series, or relatively recent games with a plethora of endings like Heavy Rain. If you read the column, then bitch about things being spoiled for you, then we sincerely hope that you lose your feet in a lawnmower accident. Now, on with the show.
We made mention last week of the fact that Silent Hill, for those of you who may happen to be unfamiliar with the series, is kind of weird. Weird enough that the cover art of the game, as well as the instruction manual, featured several pictures of disembodied heads in varying states of visual distortion. As with most games, though, Silent Hill had slightly different cover art for different platforms and in different countries. Here's the computer version of the game:
And here's the European platform version of the cover art:
This game was also the basis for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories , released in late 2009 for the Wii first, then the Playstation 2 and then the Playstation Portable. The game kept many of the same elements, as well as the main plot line of Harry Mason searching for his lost daughter. The game is officially referred to as a "reimagining" of the original Silent Hill, 10 years after its release. However, there were some differences along the way as well as some unique features. No spoilers for Shattered Memories this time around, but you can rest assured that we'll get to it before too long.
It also inspired a one of the better video game to movie adaptations, which used the creative title of "Silent Hill". While not entirely faithful to the original game, the movie did an excellent job of recreating the atmosphere of Silent Hill on the big screen. The protagonist is a mother instead of a father, but Cybill is faithfully represented, as are the themes of religious fanaticism, the supernatural, psychological trauma, and Pyramidhead. Ok, so Pyramidhead is from Silent Hill 2, but his addition makes anything more awesome.
It's time now, though, to tackle the final 3 endings of that original Silent Hill, so in case you've missed it for the second week in a row:
We're barreling into the second installment of Silent Hill endings, and I'm looking forward to this batch more than the "good" endings we saw last week. I feel like these endings are more true to the series and offer a better sample of the game's personality. To complete the trilogy of disembodied, fuzzy head cover art, here's the American PSX version of the cover art to serve as a logical and semi-necessary intro to the review:
If you weren't old enough or brave enough to play the original Silent Hill when it released in 1999, you have our sympathies. You missed out on a truly great gaming experience. Silent Hill is a great horror game because it's scary in a way that American games and media typically don't do scary. It's legitimately unnerving instead of relying on cheap scares and thrills. Gavin: Don't get me wrong, I jumped out of my skin like everybody else when the first dog bursts through the window on the original Resident Evil, but that's exactly what I'm talking about. There's little atmosphere there, and it's more of a "quiet scene, loud noise" type of startle that is typical of what we see in American movies and games. Silent Hill creates a world that is a psychological burden on the player, and allows them to immerse themselves in the world of Harry. The problem is, games have moved so far graphically and with audio that much of that aura has been lost. The original PSX games don't have the charm of an 8 or 16 bit game and look exceptionally crude compared to today's efforts, no matter how awesome we thought they were back then. The fog tends to be frustrating instead of mood enhancing, and the game feels like a chore, even to a couple of guys that loved it. The game did provide a lot of inspiration for a lot of games both inside and out of the psychological and horror genres, though, and has earned it's place as one of the great games of all time.
The Plot (and trivia!)
As I touched on last week, you play as Harry Mason, a man with an adopted daughter named Cheryl. As you approach Silent Hill, you wreck your vehicle and lose consciousness. When you awake, Cheryl is missing and your task as a father and a decent human being is to try and find her. Along the way, you meet Cybill Bennet, a police officer who attempts to help you find your daughter. Other inhabitants of Silent Hill include Dahlia, Dr. Michael Kaufmann, and Lisa Garland. Depending on your interactions with these characters, you'll get one of a set of 5 endings.
Now, some fun facts about the inhabitants of Silent Hill: The father, Harry Mason, was originally named Humbert Mason, after the protagonist in "Lolita", but the name Harry was the nickname of the person who gave him that name. Parts of his appearance, his mannerisms, and two weapons - the shotgun and chainsaw - were modeled after cult hero Ash, from the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness series. Cybill Bennet's name is an allusion to a real life murderous police woman.
The Grey Children are strictly American. They were replaced by the Mumblers, because they were deemed to be too, well, child like for overseas audiences.
The noise that Split Head makes is the same as the boiler that you trigger, because Alessa imagined the boiler as the Split Head from her fairy tales. Dahlia is named after famed horror director Dario Argento's ex wife. Dr. Michael Kaufmann is named after Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Hertz, two Troma Studios producers.
The nurse, Lisa Garland, is partially named after Judy Garland. You know, the lady that played Dorothy. Quite the tribute.
The streets in Silent Hill are mostly named after authors, with relevant works represented in the game. They are: Finney St.: Jack Finney, From Time To Time
Matheson St.: Richard Matheson, Where There's A Will
Bloch St.: Robert Bloch, Psycho
Bradbury St.: Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles
Midwich St.: taken from the town in Village of the Damned
Levin St.: Ira Levin, Rosemary's Baby
Bachman Rd.: Richard Bachman, pen name of Stephen King
Ellroy St.: James Ellroy, LA Confidential
Sagan St.: Carl Sagan, Cosmos/Contact
Koonts St.: Dean R. Koontz, The Face of Fear
Crichton St.: Michael Crichton, author of intelligent thrillers like Jurassic Park
Wilson St.: Colin Wilson, The Encyclopedia of Murder/The Occult
Simmons St.: Dan Simmons, Song of Kali/Hyperion
Sandford St.: John Sandford, Sudden Prey
Craig St.: Kit Craig, Gone
Aside from the generic tributes to Bachman and Crichton, all of those works apply to Silent Hill's world. Impressive attention to detail.
As we said last week, Silent Hill features 5 endings, one of which is a joke. As would become the standard for Silent Hill (and other survival horror and an increasing number of games in general), there were "good" endings, "bad" endings, and bizarre endings. The "good" ending from last week is the official "canon" ending from Silent Hill 1, as it ties directly into the sequel of Silent Hill 3. We maintain that this week's endings are more fun and true to the games, though. We'll start this week's party with a the "bad" ending.
Last week, we explained that the "good" ending you received depended on whether or not you saved Cybill, Dr. Kaufmann, or both. If you manage (or choose) to save neither, then you get the "bad" ending. In this ending, the boss battle is against the Incubator, not the Incubus. You'll be fighting the person responsible for birthing Samael instead of Samael him/herself. After defeating the Incubator, we see Cheryl thank Harry for freeing her, and then she disappears. The credits roll and that's seemingly it....until we get a last glimpse of Harry in his car with the horn still blaring. The interpretation, we're pretty sure, is that the events of Silent Hill played out for Harry in a "life flashing before your eyes" moment before he died in the car crash. The other option is that Harry's spirit was the one roaming through Silent Hill all along and the entire game is played in the spirit realm. Cheery, huh? Here's the "bad+" ending:
Again, you'll be battling the Incubator. After you get past that, we get the same scene where Cheryl thanks Harry and then disappears, then Harry goes all fetal position in the middle of Silent Hill while fire rains down around him. The difference is that Cybill has survived (a result of saving her and killing Dr. Kaufmann) and goes to Harry. She picks him up and slaps him around a little in a totally non sexy way with her brick-like PS1 era hands, and tells him to "Go." We don't get anything past that, but the assumption is that Cybill is trapped in Silent Hill, Harry moves on, and Cheryl is still gone. Moderately less depressing than the regular "bad" ending. There's one more ending though....
So you know who was behind Silent Hill this whole time? Huh? Do you?
Aliens, that's who.
You can't get this ending on your first playthrough. You have to pick up the Channeler's Stone, and use it at the following locations: Alternate School roof, Alternate Alchemilla gates, the motel, in the boat before the lighthouse, and in the lighthouse. At that point, you get the ending that's posted above. Aliens come down and Harry asks them if they've seen his daughter. They respond by blasting him and loading him onto the ship for some probing. Ridiculous music plays as the credits roll.
This ending isn't as out of character as it seems. See, Silent Hill is an homage to everything horror...or at least what they could shoehorn in. From using elements of thrillers and horror stories to sculpt the story, to incorporating elements of the afterlife; from basing the police officer in the game on a real life homicidal maniac to loosely basing the protagonist on Ash from Evil Dead...sci fi was the only thing missing. So as a bonus to gamers that played through the thing more than once, they offered this. Does it fit the story? No. Is it considered "canon"? Not really. Is it fun? We thought so.
That wraps up Silent Hill. Up next...more Silent Hill? Something a little more recent? Something older? Tune in next week and leave some requests in the comment section for what you'd like to see.
Before we leave, we'll add another honoree to the "Another Castle Hall of Shame" Gavin says: I know the name changed from last week, but this one sounds better. Deal.
Altered Beast was a really fun game, both in the arcade and on the Sega Genesis. Part of the fun was the challenge. It wasn't an easy game, but it was beatable. Facing multiple variations of the same boss over and over is reminiscent of Adventure Island, but it doesn't take away from the game at all. From the moment you hear "RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE" and turn into a were-tiger, you're in an early 90's world of video game goodness. Until you beat the game.
The hell? So let's get this straight...the Were-Tiger gets the girl, the Dragon battles harpies, the Bear fights golden ants, and the Were-Tiger fights a guy that just looked like a rhino but is now clearly a unicorn. I thought they were all the same guy? And now a family photo of the evil wizards? I thought there was only one of those, too. And why wouldn't Were-Tiger guy turn back into a human before marrying the damsel in distress? Is that considered bestiali...wait, it was all a MOVIE? I was playing through a MOVIE?
Boo. Still better than the PS2 version, though.
Congratulations, you've survived This Is The End(ing) 1-2. We'll return next week for more best and worst of endings.