Konami’s survival horror classic turns 15 today.
Ah, Silent Hill. No matter how many ghosts I bust, zombie heads I smash like overly-ripe melons, and haunted manors I explore in pursuit of the finest virtual scares, Konami’s iconic fog-shrouded town will always feel like home to me. It’s hard to believe that 15 years ago today, January 31st 1999, Playstation owners first got the chance to explore the white blanketed streets of the game’s eponymous town and it’s tetanus shot-inducing alternate reality as Harry Mason in search of his missing daughter.
15 years ago today was the first time I got to experience the sensation of finding a dog’s severed head beneath a bloodied basketball hoop. Before that day, I never knew the feeling of being accosted by an angry horde of skinned babies toting butcher knives in a dark alley. Before Keiichiro Toyama’s unsettling direction lead me into that idyllic nightmare neighborhood, I was only accustomed to the simple jump scares offered by Infograme’s Alone in the Dark and Capcom’s zombified spiritual successor Resident Evil. With its uncanny knack for throwing a blood-curdling curve ball at unsuspecting players with clever uses of light and shadow, audio trickery (remember that eerie giggle that turned into a growl in the empty lavatories of Silent Hill Elementary), and the nerve-racking crackle of your enemy-detecting radio, Silent Hill changed my perception of just how deep a game could burrow into your subconscious and manifest itself into your nightmares.
While the series hasn’t always maintained it’s gloriously gory luster over its nine game span, with a few undeniable bombs like the unnecessary Vita-exclusive dungeon crawler Book of Memories and the ill-conceived Wii experiment Shattered Memories, series stalwarts have fallen in love with this dark, ominous town and still consider the franchise to be their horror title of choice, myself included.
Happy Birthday, Silent Hill. While you haven’t always been scary for all the right reasons, you’ll always be my horrifying home away from home.
Do you have any Silent Hill memories you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.