[SPOILER WARNING: I WILL DISCUSS THE END OF THE GAME AND THE TWIST. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
I've never been a Silent Hill fan, more over I've never been a survival horror fan. The genre to me has always been mired by the worst control scheme's ever conceived with insufferable combat, irritating puzzles, and bullshit stories that usually involve cultists, demons, and bad voice acting. Moreover I am not the type of person to derive a thrill from being scared. so I've always stuck clear of the genre. I bought and played Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for two specific reasons. Firstly I was trying very hard in 2009 to expand my horizons in gameing and play games are outside of my comfort zone. Part of this included First person shooters (such as Modern Warfare 2 and it's terrible single player campaign), another was Sims 3, and I even tried my hand at Forza (which was a colossal failure as I suck at any racer more complex then Mario Kart). Secondly I had been following the development of Shattered memories for a while as it sounded like RE4 Wii edition with a flashlight and an interesting story.
So for my birthday in early December I used a gift card to pick up the game at my nearest best buy and began playing through it. As I made my way through the disturbing and eerily familiar town of silent hill the thing that struck me was just how grounded in reality most of the atmosphere was. Except for specific and predictable sequences of sheer terror, gone were the screeching monsters, in their place was stories of people and the human tragedy that we see every day in our local newspapers. Stories of teens going to a party, date rapes, murders, vendetta's, and I have no idea how many other things I missed that made the town feel real and even the faceless voices on the cell phone feel understandable and sympathetic. The first example I can think of was in an electronics shop I entered early in the game. On the shops Voice Mail Box is an agitated man, furious over the accidental deletion of the only copy of his and his wife's wedding tape. His lust for recompense is at once understandable while also chilling. Everywhere you go as Harry Mason the tragedies seem to follow.
Harry Mason himself attracted my compassion immediatley. A loving father who stops at nothing to find his beloved daughter, even when everything seems to be going against him is another wonderfully tragic allegory for events of my own personal life. For every step Harry takes forward, something or someone is always there to push him two steps back. In the face of unspeakable odds he perserveres o
ut of love or his child. I know there are many people out there who are the products of broken homes, much like the Cheryl character in this game, for me I have been lucky enough to have parents that are still together through thick and thin, and my father and I share a close, if often unspoken, bond. The bond between loving parent and child is clearly visible in Harry throughout the whole game. You can see it in his facial expressions, hear it in his voice, every second without knowing if his daughter is safe is like a knife in the man's heart, every setback another twist of the blade.
As the plot thickens and things begin to make less and less sense things begin to reach the breaking point, we hit the twist that struck a very painful and personal chord for me, Cybil reveals to the player that Harry Mason died in a car crash 18 years before the game begins, and that all the therapy sessions were actually with players controlling Cheryl as she struggles to cope with the loss. As the ending plays out and Harry's manifestation enters the room the following line of dialogue played (this was how my playthrough ended at least). cheryl looks up to her father and says one final goodbye, her voice pained and cracked with grief "You've been with me for so long." to which Harry smiles lovingly and replies "I always will be." Cheryl looks as though she is barely able to restrain her grief as Harry slowly turns to ice.
As "Acceptance" played over the credits I set my wiimote down and wept into my hands, my own grief overflowing. Two years ago I nearly lost my own father in a car accident, he and my mother drove me and a friend of mine to a museum for an assignment, afterwords they treated us to dinner. It was a cold and rainy April night but the food was good and the company was the best. My dad got up first to go pull the car around for my mother and I, as she had a broken foot and I was recovering from Shoulder surgery, my arm had been out of the sling for only a few days. I walked out the door just in time to see my dad get hit by a car, his body rolling over the hood and into the air before he hit the pavement. Luckily a policeman was right down the block, and a bus driver who witnessed the accident pulled his bus into the intersection to block traffic. I held my Dad's neck still with one hand and used my other to slow the bleeding from a deep laceration in his forehead. Dad was Paralyzed from the neck down for three days before he slowly recovered movement and sensation. It's taken years of therapy but he is now able to walk again and do most of the things he could before, but some scars never heal.
The accident traumatized me deeply, I still suffer from nightmares and become highly uncomfortable in city traffic. For a long time I fell into myself, creating thick walls around my emotions and my heart, it was just the only way I could deal with the pain. Playing Shattered memories pierced that wall and helped me experience an emotional catharsis I thought I was unable to feel. I beat the game a few days before Christmas, and even though I no longer have my faith, I realized that I do still have my father, and we still have a loving family relationship. After I finished Shattered Memories I gave my father a hug, and at christmas made a point to let everyone in my family know how much they all mean to me, after all, we never know when our time has come.
I hope everyone with a Wii plays this game, and for fans of Silent Hill like Jim Sterling or Colette Benett who were extreamly skeptical or dismissive of this game when it was announced as a wii game I hope they play it on a Wii, it truely is a masterpiece and for me personally, was the most emotionally moving game I've played in years. Even in writing this blog, I find my eyes teary and the traces of that catharsis still strong in my chest, while painful the experience is still uplifting and in the end...fulfilling.
Good luck my friends. read