RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Oct 17th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Pure Nostalgia, Silent Hill, SH, Akira Yamaoka

The last three years of the twentieth century was kind of a whirlwind time for me.  I had met (and proposed) to the woman I would marry; I went through a total of three jobs, only staying at the last one, and then only because of the weekly pay and benefits (factory rats, can I get a witness?); and finally, I went through a mad transition from Nintendo fanboy to (officially) unaffiliated, but mainly playing games on the Sony PlayStation.  But let's just hone in on the beginning of 1999, just for this article, and enjoy a little Pure Nostalgia.

Pure Nostalgia isn't about spoilers per se, but there are more than likely light spoilers within. Please be advised and read responsibly

Winter in southeast Michigan can get pretty cold.  Most of the time it is mild, but there are times when it feels like you are being made to pay for something that you did wrong.  Unless you like the cold, that it, and boy did I, and it was a good thing.  My room at The Landings (we had a sub-floor apartment) was cold all year round, which was very awesome.  I don't know if it was sub-par insulation (the rest of the apartment was fine), but for most of the year you could see your breath if my door was left closed for any amount of time, and two-player gaming was always done with an adequate amount of clothing layers.

At that particular moment, sometime within February of 1999, it was probably around fifty degrees Fahrenheit; enough to chill the bones, but not enough to cause any sort of lasting damage to your phalanges.  But then again it was also the afternoon, and because I was a true midnighter (10pm-8am at Target, six days a week), I was just waking up when I noticed the magazine.  See, my roommate's girlfriend had gotten into the habit of sliding my mail underneath the door of my room, and today was no different.  No idea why, as I didn't subscribe to anything, but it would be welcome anyway.  The Sci-Fi Channel cable channel was new in the area, but I was already sick of watching reruns of the War of the Worlds TV show (truthfully I was sick of it in the 90's), so I grabbed the magazine, the cover grabbed me, and that was the end of that.

Man, what a cover.  No wonder I couldn't put this one down.  I had been a fan of Stephen King's work since I was a wee lad of eight or nine, and the cover of Official PlayStation Magazine Issue 8 (Volume 2) really reminded me of the short story, The Mist.  The game kind of did as well, but I'm jumping ahead of myself.  Let's continue.

I don't know how many times I poured over the four pages of Silent Hill content in that OPM issue , but it was a lot.  Looking back now, it was comically similar to when I got Nintendo Power issue number 26 in '91 and spent months drooling over pics of SNES games.  But this time I was an adult.  Granted, an adult with a certain number of financial duties that generally prohibited even a middling amount of spending, but I had time until the game came out, right?  Months, I assumed, before the Silent Hill hit the shelf.  I hope that someone else (besides Captain Obvious) has seen the little flaw in my reasoning.

I have no idea why I was so blind, but considering how much I worked along with the amount of time I spent with my fiance, I guess it was no wonder.  Plus, I was monumentally stupid back, so it's no wonder I didn't realize I was reading a review, and (according to Wikipedia) the game had been released in January, the month prior to me reading that issue of OPM!  Man alive, that is painful to think about now.  Granted, I still am a fairly silly fellow, but certainly not to the degree I was back in early '99.  I'm surprised I didn't even try to call a game store to verify.

I don't remember exactly when I realized the game was out, but I do clearly remember playing it obsessively.  Of course, it helped I was a midnighter, so typically I had less distractions to deal with, outside of maybe a trip to McDonalds, Taco Smell, or maybe the local Meijer or Wally World.  My fiance, unless pulling an all-night study session (she was a college student at the time) would be asleep, and my future in-laws probably wouldn't appreciate me ringing their house at 2 a.m, so it was me and the television (and my roommate's computer).

Y'all remember this, right?  While I think in the modern age it shouldn't be played on a screen larger than 23" CRT (or a small-ish LCD that respects 4:3 aspect ratio), I think it still manages to hold up despite the bad control scheme; tank controls just weren't appropriate for this game, though I like that some of the later games still retain then, for sake of nostalgia (and Crabby) if anything else.  Well, they aren't terrible, but considering the amount of non-fixed camera angles this game has (read: very little) and wider open environments than the competition, I never saw the benefit of using a character-relative control scheme.  It actually made me feel like I was driving Harry around the terrible little town of Silent Hill, not leading him.

Outside of that little complaint, the game is still rock solid, as long as you don't have an aversion to PSX-age graphics.  I managed to pull myself away from my Dragon Quest Builder obsession for a moment to fire up Silent Hill first on my 39" CRT, then quickly over to my 12" PVM (yikes, what a difference).  The atmosphere still rings of slow horror and despair, and certain parts still give me the creeps.  Much as I would have back in early '99, as I played I found myself shivering, but this time it wasn't due to the substandard heating.  And I am happy to report that I still jumped in the school when that locker suddenly popped open (stupid cat!), and again near the end when you finally exit the sewer level (and I encountered those weird ape creatures that always surprise me when they come bounding out of the darkness).

I think my one regret this month was not playing Silent Hill through multiple times like I did back in the day, sometimes as many as three or four times in a row.  While not my personal favorite in the series for unlockable content (that would be Silent Hill 3), the first game is a close second, and I think mostly because of nostalgia.  The endings were fun, but were only secondary in my eyes (though still fun, or at least the "UFO" ending was).  Once you get the hang of it, Silent Hill can be completed in just a couple of hours, which allows you to find and use the hidden weapons.  Funny, but this is the first time I've actually looked up the requirements for some of the weapons.  I think I assumed (like most did), that the requirements for unlocking the hidden weapons were finishing the game a certain number of times.  Well, except for the hyper blaster.  I knew how to get that one (read that one up on GameFAQs, and easily one of the top ten FAQs I've read on that site).  I'm pretty sure I thought you had to finish the game four or five times to get the katana (hard to use, but it does sooo much damage), but it turns out you just had to finish it, well once (with a Good ending).  Then a ton of fun ensued as I cut (or blasted) my way through waves of enemies and bosses!  Well, none of that happened for this play session, but I did notice that the game rumbles the controller when your health is low (I didn't have a Dual Shock back then).  That was pretty cool.

Well, I think it is time to hang it up for this article and get back to DQB.  It was a lot of fun getting back into the world of the first Silent Hill again.  This game definitely doesn't get enough love, considering not only what could be perceived as "sub-par" graphics (which maybe true, but I like to think of them as nostalgic), but also because it's big brother is the venerated Silent Hill 2.  A shame really.  Maybe if Konami wasn't in shambles we could get a nice HD remake in the vein of Final Fantasy X HD or Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac's Age, instead of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (which is a fine game on its own, but in my opinion not up to par with the original).

Silent Hill can be bought digitally on the PSN store for less than $10 USD (or course regions will vary on price availability).  It is playable on both PSP and PS3, though if you plug your Vita into your PS3 you can probably transfer it over that way (turns out a lot of PSP non-Vita listed titles are like this).  The physical copy price is all over the place.  The original "black label" copy can be had complete for anywhere from $40 to $80 USD (regardless of condition) while the "Greatest Hits" version is nearly the same amount.  Loose is not much better, with prices generally between $30 and $40 USD (!), though if you look around you might be able to get it for $25 USD loose.  One thing to keep in mind, at least if you want it a particular variant, is the original "Black Label", the disc has a ghostly image of the protagonist's daughter, Cheryl, on the disc.  I mention this because there is more than one auction that clearly shows the "Black Label" packaging with a "GH" disc.  Considering that the prices are nearly identical and there really isn't much of a discount for just the disc, I figured one might like to know.

Thanks for reading!

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Thanks for sharing your memories of this game. When I played this, I quit almost immediately because the radio freaked me out too much. I honestly don't think I'll ever make it far in the game. I had to record some footage from it recently and I am also not a fan of the tank controls. They quickly make the game almost unplayable for me, even if I can get over the creep factor.

The PSN cover sure makes it look like more of an action game than it is.
You guys are crazy, tank controls are the best!!!

I also disagree greatly with your thoughts on Shattered Memories. It's possibly my favorite game in the series. It's right up there with Resident Evil Remake for me as one of the best reimaginings of any franchise (the Wii version also makes better use of the Wii remote than 99% of other Wii games). I have many times recommended people to play Shattered Memories as an introduction to the franchise.

Love these old nostalgia articles man. Keep em up!

Nice! I was in middle school when Silent Hill was released, and although I was always fascinated by survival horror games, I was kind of too much of a wuss to play them back then, so I never got very far.

Sorry for the incoming rant, but I will never get over people's aversion to tank controls. I know they're initially unintuitive, but once you get the hang of it, it really makes playing any game with fixed and/or cinematic camera angles much easier. Even though Silent Hill doesn't have fixed camera angles a la Resident Evil, it still doesn't allow total control over the camera, and there are still plenty of sudden and jerky camera transitions that will screw up your movement if using a camera-relative control scheme. Having just finished Silent Hill 4 and Origins (which removed tank controls entirely), I spent a lot of time fighting against the camera and having my character veer off in wrong directions whenever the perspective changed. Also, didn't the first Silent Hill give you an option between control schemes, or was that just 2 and 3?

Ranting aside, I've actually been pulling a Silent Hill marathon this Halloween season (expect my SH themed article later this month!) which of course was kicked off with the PSX original. It's probably been 10 years since I last played it, so it's been great revisiting this classic. Thanks for the nostalgia trip!
I have no experience with the Silent Hill series at all, but I really enjoyed reading your recollection. It reminded me of how excited I was to finally get my hands on Syphon Filter, after playing the demo at a friend's house, and absolutely being blown away by the game. Hmm, I smell a possible future blog post...
@Pam: Yeah, that radio effect was weird.  This is my favorite of the series, being that I think it has more subtlety as to distance (the way it sometimes crackles for example).  Very creepy.  Yeah, and that cover.  It does make Harry appear to be more of an Alan Wake character instead of someone who huffs and puffs after a short running distance. Thanks for commenting!

@Crabmaster2000: Haha, I knew the Tank Brigade™ was eventually going to come out! Well, my only real beef with Shattered Memories was I think the whole "chase sequences" felt tacked on.  I do like it, just not in the same way I like the other Silent Hill games (I guess I'm not really a stealth fan).  But that UFO ending has to be the best in the series!  Thanks for commenting, Crab.

@Disposed Hero: Lol, I don't hate tank controls at all (after all, they are pretty much what we use in FPS games), but I just feel it didn't fit the game is all.  Personally, I like to have a choice.  Like the fun house sequence in SH3, when I play I briefly turn it back to tank controls, as the sudden camera perspective switch nearly kills me (even when I am ready for it).  It is kind of a bummer that they removed it from future games, but I blame it on the newer devs.  And Konami.  And that Silent Hill marathon sounds awesome!  I don't know if I have the stamina to get all the way through part 4 like I did back in the day, but it would be fun to at least play them back to back again (that is how I first discovered the link between SH2 and SH4).  Thanks for commenting!

@MetalFRO:  Thanks for reading, FRO.  I look forward to the future blog post.  I too really enjoyed the Syphon Filter demo (must have played it a hundred times).  I really loved the way Gabriel Logan leans through his turns when he runs (like a race car).
@bombatomba: Ah, ok. Thanks for clarifying. My comment was more of a knee-jerk rambling old man reaction than anything else. I can see how one might prefer the different control scheme due to the non-fixed camera angles, but I definitely had a rougher time using it in 0 and 4.

Playing through all the games in order has been really cool. I've been picking up on a lot of subtle connections between the games that I probably would have missed otherwise. I'm currently playing Homecoming which has a really bad reputation among SH fans, but I actually really like it.

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