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My Bestsellers Clerk
 Post subject: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 06 Nov 2011
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There's a large number of fans who praise the series' Japanese atmosphere and influence. But just how much "Japanese" is really there in the first place?

The general belief on horror subtypes runs like this:

Traditional Japanese (otherwise "Asian" or "eastern") horror deals with religion and evil aspects of the supernatural. Ghosts, rituals, and hauntings are at the core of the most well-known Japanese horror movies. The resolution to conflicts are almost always religious in nature.

"Western" horror leans more on the human side of things: psychopaths, killers, insanity, etc. Though the supernatural is present, more often shaded in Christianized mythos, rather than in Buddhist and Asian lore, it's a little less so than there are guys in masks slicing up horny teenagers.

Of course, both hemispheres borrow and share the many elements from each other. I don't mean to categorize or generalize the East and West too much. But Silent Hill is obviously swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, if you know what I mean.

In terms of business, Konami was aiming at the Western market with SILENT HILL (1999). Team Silent was aiming for a Western horror game: influence from American films and books like Jacob's Ladder, Blue Velvet, even Carrie are greater than influence from Asian works.

The first game's Order mythos even stands on western ground. The Order is heavily inspired by cheesy satanist cults. The amount of blood, guts, and monsters screams "West!" rather than "East!", and the names of western gods like Samael and Metatron shout the same same. Silent Hill 2 then takes a more psychological route, which is very "American" in the likes of David Lynch. Silent Hill 3 also holds the western feel, and delivers much more western tropes. The only Silent Hill I can faithfully declare as mostly Japanese is The Room, and even then it's in the minority.

I'm astonished at the amount of fans screaming how Silent Hill should become Japanese "again". But it wasn't in the first place. Sure, it was made by Japanese people in a Japanese city, but was the content ever mostly Japanese or culturally Asian? Nope. Not one bit.

There's a trend of romanticizing and placing the early Silent Hill games on shiny pedastals. It's ridiculous. The extent to where fans will exaggerate and mold their own statements to glorify games 1-3 (or 1-4) has pushed me. I'm at the point where I think the Silent Hill fans deserve a Silent Hill game about themselves.

What's equally annoying are the wishes for the obviously superior Japanese to develop the next game. Look at games like Resident Evil 4, developed by a Japanese team. Is the game very "Japanese"? No, though the developers were. Japanese teams can make a game as American as any American team, and vice versa. (There are many Japanese horror games that actually suck dog penis, by the way. Not all are amazing.)

Ethnicity doesn't matter, and the implied (though unintended) racism isn't cool at all. What you're wishing for is a Japaenese-influenced team that will make a Japanese-influenced game based on Japanese culture, not the literal presence of Japanese people who do have the potential to make another screwy "American" game.

Any developer, with a little research, can create a "Japanese" game. If you're really looking for ten hours of complete Japaneeezzzineessss, pick up Fatal Frame and rub it on your scrotum. Just look how Japanese the Fatal Frame series is, and it's almost nothing like Silent Hill in terms of content and atmosphere.

I'm done. Your thoughts? Just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?


Last edited by teosoleil on 16 Aug 2013, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 19 Jul 2007
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"It's made in Japan: Therefore, its 'Japanese-ness' is integral to why it's so good," is a common mistake made throughout the gamersphere, both among fans and developers (the majority of the latter, surprise-surprise, are Japanese, themselves). You can see it in the Silent Hill fanbase and you can see it in the way Nintendo has been handling the Legend of Zelda by making it progressively more reflective of anime (and, as if hand-in-hand, alienating players in the West).

However, as you've noted, the first three Silent Hill games were very Western in their influences and aesthetic. Likewise, the first three Zelda games, for those who don't remember, were also very Western in influences and aesthetic. Throw Mario and Metroid and Final Fantasy in there. Compare early Final Fantasy to early (or all) Dragon Quest in terms of Western influence and note which one actually succeeded garnering a large audience in the West. If you wished, you could probably sift through Metal Gear sales data and find that the more straightforward war story titles (to wit, MGS1 and 3 vs. 2 and 4) sell the most and have the most impact.

However, at the same time, the Western-developed Silent Hill games just don't have the same impact. It's not just Silent Hill: You can see it in other properties that started in Japan and moved overseas, like Devil May Cry. While the fans may be actively shunning the Western-developed games, they have no control over those games' inability to turn out significant numbers of new fans, which the first two undoubtedly did, resulting in the Silent Hill fanbase becoming highly insular and (for lack of a better word) inbred.

To echo a point I made in another thread, it wasn't that the first three games were "so Japanese." Let me support that by turning attention to what was unarguably the most Japanese of the series: The Room. Unlike the others, The Room drew its influence from Japanese ghost stories, most notably the Coin Locker Baby story, which have the distinction of only being popular in Japan. The Room's performance reflects this, as it resulted in the series being shipped over the ocean from that point on ("creative exhaustion" be damned: Put a paycheck in front of an employee and s/he will work). Hell, it couldn't even find its way onto the HD Collection or PS2 Archives: It was obviously considered not worth the extra cost, in either scenario.

The Japanese takeover of the games industry in the late 80's occurred for the same reasons that Japanese car manufacturers took over the market: For the same dollar, they made a better product. Get inside a Toyota and tell me that there's anything particularly "Japanese" about it. Steering column's on the left-hand side, right? The available paintjob options don't include itassha designs, right?

That's really what it comes down to. Those first three Silent Hill games were better not because they were Japanese, but because they had better craftsmanship, because more work went into them than their Western counterparts. If there's anything particularly Japanese about them, like those Toyotas (and the Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Metal Gear, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy games that made their names and became gold standards for their genres), it's that something in Japanese culture emphasizes high quality.

Or, to put it another way, Toyama and the gang would've done enough research to not put a metro in Silent Hill. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 08 Aug 2011
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They have a different view on horror. More physiological. Western is just jump scares. Silent hill 4 I think is actually Japanese horror.


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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 05 Jul 2013
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peronmls wrote:
They have a different view on horror. More physiological. Western is just jump scares. Silent hill 4 I think is actually Japanese horror.


Silent Hill 1-4 was Writen and Developed by Team Silent. all others were made by other Teams.

and they are very much Japanese Horror!

but also was made to have some appeal to a western audience.


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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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peronmls wrote:
They have a different view on horror. More [sic] physiological. Western is just jump scares.

Somewhere out there, there's a David Lynch movie marathon.

It's crying, right now. It's crying for the love you're denying it.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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I never felt like silent hill was more typical japanese horror(silent hill 4 was the closest with the ghost). I hadn't really seen anything quite as abstract and disturbing in a video game, it has it's own style. I think what makes it different is that it's a japanese take on american horror, supposedly. I mean certain games i can what culture they take influence from(it's easy for me to tell fatal frame and siren blood curse are japanese games and dead space and condemned are american games). But silent hill just felt different to me.

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They have a different view on horror. More physiological. Western is just jump scares. Silent hill 4 I think is actually Japanese horror.


Nah, Fatal Frame is more typical japanese horror than silent hill. And you're confusing most mainstream american horror with all american horror.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 05 Aug 2010
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Team Silent, or if you really want, the Japanese, although trying to create Western based titles, clearly shift forwarded their own influnence into the overall atmosphere and game experience. It's not necessarily the culture or ethnicity, rather a way of thinking and a different approach that as much as it's trying to deviate itself towards the American horror, actually carries over tons of stuff.

I think it's a huge score just for the fact that they tried to mix East and West into the whole meal, as it turned out to be delicious.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?

Missing since: 26 Apr 2009
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I never bought into the idea that one's nationality really has anything to do with the type of product they make. I'm sure there are plenty of Japanese people who like trashy cheap jump scare horror, just as there are plenty of Americans that prefer more subtle psychological horror. Sure, there are certain styles and tropes that pop up way more in certain cultures, that's only natural, but I don't really believe there is a "Japanese horror" and an "American horror", it's more just about the individual people who are making the product in question.

Now, while I do tend to prefer the Japanese horror movies over the American horror movies (the Japanese versions of The Ring and Dark Water are far superior to the American remakes imo), anybody who actually says Silent Hill is only good because of Japanese-ness is an idiot. Especially considering the vast majority of Silent Hill's influences are Western.

tl;dr: Watch Jacob's Ladder and then talk to me about Silent Hill only working because THE JAPANESE.


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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 09 Aug 2007
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I think the series tends to be more effective when in the hands of a team which isn't purely American. For all Origins faults, I always personally thought it managed to capture the atmosphere of the 'Japanese' games well, as did Downpour. That's not to say that Homecoming didn't have it's creepy moments, just on a whole it wasn't successful with it's atmosphere.

What I'm saying is that perhaps there is something to the idea that an 'outsiders' opinion of what 'American' horror is does lend to that Silent Hill atmosphere that is somewhat unique. Demon's Souls is the only other game that I can think of where I got that vibe, though I never quite put my finger on why - perhaps again, that 'outsider' take on what elements a western RPG might contain.

Horror movies made in England (and other parts of Europe) tend to be fairly understated in their approach. America has some very good psychological based horror movies, just as England has some great gore fests, but there is always something very distinct about movies from both countries even if they're the same kind of genre.

So, long rambling story short, while I certainly don't think it has anything to do with the games being distinctly 'Japanese', I do think that a none American developer attempting to make a distinctly American horror does somewhat lend to the surreal atmosphere you get from the games. Maybe that's just me though!

And I have to say, I think Japanese horror is more guilty of jump scares than American! I think it was movies like Ringu and The Grudge that started the jump scare boom we seem to have had in recent years! Personally I'm quite enjoying this return to more subdued 70s/80s style horror we seem to be getting at the moment, but now I'm just rambling :X

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?

Missing since: 26 Apr 2009
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The Japanese version of The Ring has like maybe one jump scare. I just rewatched it two days ago so yeah. Compared to most of the horror movies I see coming out these days where there is a jump scare every five minutes. I can't say anything regarding the Japanese version of The Grudge since I've never seen it (nor have I seen the American remake, although I have seen the American remake of The Ring and didn't like it much).

That being said, I'm sure there are plenty of Japanese movies with jump scares. I really don't think jump scares or psychological horror are cultural at all. Certainly there are cultural things that do play a part in a movie's identity, though, so maybe there is something to the "outsider's take on American horror" thing. Although I think Homecoming is the only game that didn't have some sort of non-American involvement, I don't think that game's shortcomings really has anything to do with it being American, but rather the direction they wanted to go in with that game.


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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 19 Jul 2007
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NanayaShiki wrote:
Although I think Homecoming is the only game that didn't have some sort of non-American involvement, I don't think that game's shortcomings really has anything to do with it being American, but rather the direction they wanted to go in with that game.

Righty-o. I think it's best to consider Homecoming as "Silent Hill: The Movie: The Game," in terms of its aesthetics and direction. Gans's movie had many qualities, but "subtlety" and "understatement" weren't among them.

And for those who want to play the nationality game, Homecoming, which is an American distillation of a Frenchman's reinterpretation of a Japanese take on niche American psychological horror... I'm not the least bit envious of that kind of busywork.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 09 Aug 2007
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NanayaShiki wrote:
The Japanese version of The Ring has like maybe one jump scare. I just rewatched it two days ago so yeah. Compared to most of the horror movies I see coming out these days where there is a jump scare every five minutes.


It's been a while since I watched it, but I remember the phone ringing making me jump several times :( - I was on the train of thought about the American remake trend, so they were the first two movies that sprang to mind. Besides, I was trying to make a point that once you get past the differences in subject matter they really aren't so different in the way they try and scare us.

Kenji wrote:
NanayaShiki wrote:
Although I think Homecoming is the only game that didn't have some sort of non-American involvement, I don't think that game's shortcomings really has anything to do with it being American, but rather the direction they wanted to go in with that game.

Righty-o. I think it's best to consider Homecoming as "Silent Hill: The Movie: The Game," in terms of its aesthetics and direction. Gans's movie had many qualities, but "subtlety" and "understatement" weren't among them.

And for those who want to play the nationality game, Homecoming, which is an American distillation of a Frenchman's reinterpretation of a Japanese take on niche American psychological horror... I'm not the least bit envious of that kind of busywork.


Don't get me wrong, I wasn't chalking simply being made by Americans as the cause of Homecomings flaws! My point was that I felt that the unique take of someone trying to emulate an aesthetic, while growing up in an environment that is somewhat alien to what you are trying to achieve would probably aid towards creating a more surreal atmosphere - whether it be by making mistakes or ideas simply getting lost in translation.

Not the be all, end all, but one of the ingredients that mix so well to create the horror in the games. I'm sure an American team would be perfectly capable of creating a great psychological experience if they had the right people involved though, I just wouldn't be surprised if it didn't feel quite the same as when another country was involved.

However, it is 4am and I could be completely talking out of my arse...

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?

Missing since: 26 Apr 2009
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I'd just like to say that while Shattered Memories and Downpour had a UK and Czech studio working on them respectively, a lot of the major team members were American, especially for Downpour. I love both of those games (I like them both more than SH1 and SH4, for example), and while Book of Memories is a spin-off and I don't really count it I also thought it was a lot of fun and worth playing, so I don't think this whole thing holds true to me at all.

Nothing wrong with you feeling that way, of course.


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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 19 Jul 2007
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fudgestix wrote:
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't chalking simply being made by Americans as the cause of Homecomings flaws! My point was that I felt that the unique take of someone trying to emulate an aesthetic, while growing up in an environment that is somewhat alien to what you are trying to achieve would probably aid towards creating a more surreal atmosphere - whether it be by making mistakes or ideas simply getting lost in translation.

Oh, I wasn't really getting on anyone, there. You, least of all. Rather, I suppose what I said could be interpreted as a reminder that several factors were at play.

Personally, I'm not at all resentful about that first Silent Hill movie. Hell, I got two dates with two ladies, on two consecutive days, out of it. :wink: How can I dislike the only movie that let me pull off such a Casanovan move without even realizing it? However, it is what it is and that the game that was made on its coattails is also arguably the simplest in terms of themes and the directness of its aesthetic is something I think ought to be considered.

Even what I choose to emphasize was the reasoning behind the first two games' success relative to the rest is a distillation of a variety of possibilities and a preference that their rise wasn't based on something so transient as a late-PlayStation fad (I dislike ascribing trends to things like that because, among other reasons, they're inexplicable beyond the handwave of "fad").

As everyone here has probably noticed, I heavily favor explanations I can understand, take apart, and reassemble. Subtlety isn't a roadblock, hence my attempt to distinguish between "Japanese culture" and "Japanese craftsmanship." Craftsmanship, after all, can be quantified and measured against other standards of quality; culture cannot, and indeed didn't even exist as a concept until relatively recently.

So, as an invitation to those who truly believe that something unique about Japanese culture played the most significant role in the success and impact of those first Silent Hill games: How? In quantifiable, measurable, describable terms using no handwaving, in what way did Japanese cultural influence play such an integral role?

I'll note ahead of time that I don't consider the denial of psychological horror in the West, where it (in the form expressed in Silent Hill) arguably originated, to be adequate.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 12 Oct 2009
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I think it's also really easy for people to fall into the trap of "Japanese is better because it feels fresher", which is only because we're not used to it as the majority of the people who say that don't live in Japan.

It's entirely possible something about cultural differences filtering through influenced Silent Hill to be as good as it was, but I think it's more apt to say it's simply a good game rather than any definitive cultural differences, and it's frustrating to see people think a change in nationality would save the series.

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There's a trend of romanticizing and placing the early Silent Hill games on shiny pedastals. It's ridiculous. The extent to where fans will exaggerate and mold their own statements to glorify games 1-3 (or 1-4) has pushed me. I'm at the point where I think the Silent Hill fans deserve a Silent Hill game about themselves.


What gets me about this is that as a result, people don't actually give the newer games a chance to shine. Hell, they restrict them--because of how obsessed people are with the old games, Silent Hill as a series is stuck in a certain formula. Diverge too much and people get angry, but it also means you can't be inventive. You can't change the kinds of horror (even if you stuck with a psychological theme); you can't change the plot-style; you can't change gameplay. It's not a series like Final Fantasy where it's constantly reinvented, because the fanbase is just so angry.

I find that it turns me off of the series in general, really. While places like here and Silent Hill Community tend to have pretty thoughtful discussions and generally-civil conversations and dissenters, the fanbase at large that I've seen (through Tumblr, through Gamefaqs, Facebook, Youtube, pretty much anywhere other than dedicated SH forums) tends to get mad when anything's different (Shattered Memories), when it doesn't meet expectations (Revelations), or... well, really, when anything's not TwinPerfect.

It's a little indicative of the way nerd culture works in general, I find. Make one tiny change and suddenly people are spouting death threats. What is it about pastimes like this that make people think its okay to insult/belittle/literally threaten people?

I wish the fanbase as a whole could calm down so we could see some more invention in the series.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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Missing since: 09 Aug 2007
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Honestly, I don't think the vile fanbase is something unique to Silent Hill. I know I see Doctor Who fans crying for Steven Moffat's head on my facebook newsfeed. Just dare to look in any tumblr tag. This forum is the only public place where I actually enjoy discussing something I'm a fan of.

There is way too much of a sense of privileged that some fan seem to vocalize these days. Those that aren't happy with a move cry for blood, and drown out the opinions of those who actually don't mind change. I honestly do not envy anyone who works on anything with these fan bases. You're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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The difference that I've experienced with the crew that dislikes Moffat is that he's legitimately doing things that are problematic. While the quality of his writing is totally up-in-the-air for those who watch the show, his women fall into particular tropes and all wind up sounding eerily similar, to say nothing of other problems. Most of what I've seen against Moffat is what people have had problems with when taken in a wider societal complex.

Silent Hill, on the other hand, is filled with "YOU THINK THE GAMES TAKE PLACE ON MULTIPLE PLANES HOW DARE YOU YOU'RE FUCKING WRONG GO DIE" or "YOU CHANGED THE INVENTORY SYSTEM GO KILL YOURSELF."

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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There are a lot of decisions Moffat has made that I'm not keen on, and I honestly couldn't watch the show through the whole Amy Pond/Riversong saga, but I still don't think that gives fans the right to say they want to slice off his head for the fact! Doctor Who has always been hit and miss over the years, but it's one thing to have valid critisism and discuss the issue like adults, and it's another thing to basically have a paddy about it. In that respect I really don't see a difference between the fandoms - and pretty much any other fandom I've glanced into has felt very much the same.

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 Post subject: Re: So, just how "Japanese" is Silent Hill, anyway?
     
         
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It doesn't have anything to do with the japanese apart from the japanese developers. It tries to re-create the concept of many western media. Deal with it.

The ONLY game with japanese horror elements is Silent Hill 4: The Room. The previous black sheep of the series. Ironic, isn't it?

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What gets me about this is that as a result, people don't actually give the newer games a chance to shine. Hell, they restrict them--because of how obsessed people are with the old games, Silent Hill as a series is stuck in a certain formula. Diverge too much and people get angry, but it also means you can't be inventive. You can't change the kinds of horror (even if you stuck with a psychological theme); you can't change the plot-style; you can't change gameplay. It's not a series like Final Fantasy where it's constantly reinvented, because the fanbase is just so angry.


I disagree to an extent. Sure there are plenty of hateful fans in the silent hill fanbase and plenty of close minded weaboos. But, i honestly feel like the main reason a lot of people aren't happy with the series is a decline in quality. Simply put, the newer games in general aren't considered as good as the older games. You can look at metacritic scores and compare them. Sure critic scores don't mean everything,i know. But when the scores on average are overall lower, it's something to take into consideration.

I think it's kind of a copout to imply that the newer games are hated merely because people don't give em' a chance, or are stuck team silent or whatever. Quality speaks for itself. Back in the day when silent hill 4 came out, i was apprehensive because i bought into the rumors that someone else made the game because it was different than the previous ones(still had the trademark horror) but i loved it. Shattered Memories i will give credit because despite severely lacking any creepy disturbing atmosphere, the gameplay and story were good.

Every game has a trademark style to it, that's what makes games unique. People getting mad over a change in formula is nothing new. I think the main thing is to keep the trademark things that silent hill is known for(abstract disturbing atmosphere, intriguing story, psychological aspects). You can change some aspects to the game and make them adapt for a newer generation, but the style of horror should remain the same. It's what makes silent hill unique, and if people wanted a different style of horror they'd play something else.

It also doesn't help that konami just keeps throwing the series around to different developers without giving one group enough time to get comfortable and understand the series, but that's another story. . .

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