Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There was a hole here. It's gone now.

A week or so back, I finally finished Silent Hill 2 on my Xbox. This means that all that's left for me is to play the original, and Silent Hill 3, and I'll have completed the series. Of course there's always Silent Hill Origins.

(Hahaha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahaha. HAHAHA. Right.)

What I noticed about Silent Hill 2, mostly, is that it's fucking awesome, and I have trouble imagining any game since will be able to emulate its fucking awesomeness. I will say however, that I don't have anything against Silent Hill 4, as seems to be the popular thing to do. I don't know if it's true that it was originally intended as an unrelated horror game, and the Silent Hill name was pasted in to add sales. Even if that's true, I've got to argue, to everyone who bitches about it, "Has anyone made a real survival horror game since, cheap name switch or not?" The answer is probably yes, because I don't have the integrity to actually do any research, but there certainly haven't been any good ones in the last couple years anyway. Furthermore, I'm skeptical of that theory in general, because of how much of The Room's plot was explained in Silent Hill 2, several years before.

I will also point out that Silent Hill 2 suffers from many fewer translation and dialogue issues than Silent Hill Homecoming did. This is somewhat disconcerting, since Homecoming was made in America, which one would think would eliminate translation problems. Do the people of Double Helix know how to write dialogue? Here's a hint, people who interrupt people tend to talk over them. If they wait their turn to speak, it's not an interruption. I imagine some conversation at Double Helix went something like this:

Fred Douchebag: I think it would add a level of excitement to our game if it were possible for players to fall asleep in between our characters' lines.

Johnny Fuckhead (who writes the dialogue): I think that sounds like a terrible idea.

(Fred doesn't hear him, because Johnny was unable to speak until Fred had left the room, for fear of interrupting him.
Johnny goes on to write dialogue, complete with poor timing, that leads gamers everywhere to believe that the protagonist and, in fact, everyone else in the game is either mentally retarded, or a poorly programmed android.)

Add to this the fact that Homecoming decided to lift most of the Silent Hill movie, rather than come up with new ideas, and you have a game that, while fun and occasionally creepy, will stay with you about as long as the typical bad dream. (An hour or so, maybe.)
I won't complain much about that last problem though, since most of the ideas they did come up with didn't make an ounce of sense. Most of the new monsters look like something better suited to Doom than Silent Hill, and every one of them displays a level of sexuality that is somewhat uncalled for in a story about trying to rescue the protagonist's little brother.

It seems that most people connect the Silent Hill franchise with overt sexuality. The problem is, with the exception of the new, crappy ones, there were always justifications. Granted it would require playing the game to understand them. Actually, just reading about the game would do. Hell, I'll even explain them here:

Silent Hill:
Really nothing that sexual about it.

Silent Hill 2:
James is lonely, crazy, and looking for his dead wife. Most of the creatures in the town are based on her.

Silent Hill 3:
Heather is a lost little girl who's scared, alone, and vulnerable to rape. Wouldn't you be afraid of a big monster with penises for arms?

Silent Hill 4:
Walter is fucking insane, but then there isn't anything overtly sexual about this one either, so it hardly matters.

Silent Hill Origins:
Who gives a fuck?

Silent Hill Homecoming:
Alex apparently finds his kid brother very attractive.

See how it falls apart at the end there?

However, none of this has much to do with my point. Yes, I have a point. Two of them actually, though both rather ill conceived while I was driving home from the dentist's, still rather tired from waking up at the crack of nine thirty. Nonetheless, I'll start to wander toward those points now.

While I thank the Silent Hill movie for being the final factor that led me to my first real experience with the games, looking back, it had a lot of failings. Part of the problem is the fact that they tried to combine Silent Hill 1 and 2 into one story. Part of it is the same thing that always seems to happen when Americans remake a Japanese horror franchise. The movie was just a vessel for the monsters, and the plot and characters were subordinate. Unfortunately, in their excitement to bring the horror of the Silent Hill monsters to a new audience, the movie makers missed the thing that make those creatures frightening: the psychological impact. By taking them out of context, the lose their power.

There were a few creatures that worked well, but many others that didn't. The sexuality of the nurses, for instance, is completely out of place. There was no overactive libido to explain their appearance. Supposedly, they represented Alessa's anger toward the people who worked at the hospital, but if she was so resentful of their burn-free bodies, wouldn't she have punished them by making their appearance more grotesque?

Of course the greatest offender is the beloved Pyramid Head. In Silent Hill 2, it was based on the uniform of the Valtiel sect, and in particular one executioner James saw in a painting. He used this appearance so that he could punish himself for his crimes, while simultaneously maintaining his delusional ignorance of any wrongdoing. The Pyramid Head reflects James' guilt and frustration, shown through its violence toward the other monsters, its repeated murder of Maria, and the fact that it is invincible until James comes to accept his guilt. By contrast, the Pyramid Head in the movie was created as an apparently arbitrary punisher, attacking members of the cult and innocent interlopers without distinction or apparent motive.

Without dragging this out too much longer, my point is that the film makers could have done better by converting Silent Hill 2 into film, and not bothered changing anything. The plot was already better than what they came up with for the film, the characters are better developed, the monsters would have been in their proper place (they would have even had an excuse for the scantily clad nurses) and it would even have been a hell of a lot scarier. Furthermore, it's not the long of a game to begin with, and it could easily be shortened even more for film. The backtracking and travel could be cut out, the park area could perhaps have been folded into the preceding apartment, and the prison/labyrinth area could have been significantly shortened. The movie would have been made for them, which means, in words of their language, less time between conception and money. Also don't give me this bullshit about having to change the Pyramid Head because the original helmet wasn't wearable. It's called CGI, geniuses. I somehow doubt they set children on fire for the Gray Children scene either. The point of the mask was that it was heavy, awkward and painful. Once again, an innocent change made less innocent by the fact that it utterly missed the point.

The other point is about Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. It's directed at Sony:

Dear Sony,
Do you know why people don't buy your PS3? It's because it's a glorified bluray player with no good games, except those that can be had for less on the 360. (Okay, so there's inFamous. You want a fucking trophy?) Do you know why there are no good games? It's because when you're offered one (Silent Hill: SM) you release it on the PS2 instead of the PS3. Do you see Microsoft releasing Xbox games? Remind me which console is the preference of hardcore gamers the world over?
Don't even think about saying the graphics aren't up to the PS3's standards. What the fuck have you done with graphics anyway? The only game I've seen surpass the 360's capabilities was Killzone 2, an underwhelming, stock shooter whose graphics weren't even noticeable after the opening cutscene, since everything was gray and red anyway, and since I was trying too hard not to get killed to pay much attention to the light shining off my enemies' helmets. Come to think about it, I don't think the Helghast armor was reflective anyway.
Now there's a new Silent Hill game, that even looks half way decent, and my choices are to buy a PSP, glorified PDA that it is, buy a Wii, which suffice it to say is not at all my cup of tea, or pay too much money for a console that, while good, is a generation old. While we're on this topic, do you know why the PS2 still costs so much? It's because no one fucking wants the PS3.
I know that, being Sony, it won't break you if your console isn't the hit it should be, but if you're going to be in the market, at least pay some fucking attention.
I apologize what my be an excess of inappropriate language on my part. It's just that I find incompetence irritating.
Humbly yours,

Sunday, July 5, 2009

And Just When You Thought He Was Gone...

There's a message buried in that title. It only becomes evident if you look at what I just wrote on anyButton too. The message is that I erroneously believe that a title ending in an ellipsis is an appropriate substitute for humor. This is because I'm tired, and nothing has happened that would make a particularly funny title ("On the Merits of Wasting a Month and a Half Doing Nothing." Actually, that one's a little better.)

So you ask, "What the Hell do you want 20cc? Are you just trying to waste my time or do you have something meaningful to say?"

A brilliant question, my friend. The answer is of course, "A little of both."

I do actually have news, for instance:

anyButton is actually getting a real website. I won't post the official URL until it's really working, but honestly I think I may have posted it a long time ago on aB anyway, so it hardly matters. We also have a Twitter now, for whatever reason, and have been bouncing around ideas for new formats. Maybe something, you know, actually funny.

In other news:

I'm currently listening to CUBErt. That is, the song by System of a Down, in case it's also like some obscure band of which I haven't heard.

In other news:

Posting very short tidbits separated by double returns is a great way to artificially bulk up your blog post.

Good stuff, right?

Oh and by the way:

He's coming to get you.

If any of you were wondering, that dude is Henrik Klingenberg,
the Finnish keyboardist best known as a member of the
power/(arguably)progressive metal band Sonata Arctica.
If any of you haven't heard of them, I happily invite you to
find something heavy to hit yourself with right now.