Haven’t done an ‘Explained’ article in a while, but I recently got the itch. For the uninitiated, these articles are basically plot summaries that also break down the symbolism and long-term effects of plot points. I’ll also throw my two-cents in now and then for good measure. The whole thing is framed like a dialogue between me and you. This breaks up the monotony of walls of text and also delves into some things right when questions about them may arise. We’re doing Silent Hill: Shattered Memories this week because I feel as though it is horribly misunderstood. Hopefully, this write up will get you to appreciate the little things it does just a little bit more.
What’s the deal with Shattered Memories? Why the random name?
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is the seventh installment in the Silent Hill series, and was originally advertised as a “re-imagining” of the original Silent Hill. It first came out for the Wii, but was eventually ported to the PlayStation 2 and PSP. The game was developed by Climax Studios, which was the same team that developed Silent Hill: 0rigins. The subtitle ‘Shattered Memories’ quite literally refers to the shattering of memories. Your protagonist spends the game piecing together things that happened for their therapist.
Why would they remake or reboot the original Silent Hill? It was amazing!
I agree. The original Silent Hill was amazing. But this isn’t a remake or a reboot. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a “re-imagining.” Konami and Climax tried to play the big twist of this game too close to the chest and from a PR perspective it shot them in the foot. We’ll get more into that later.
Alright… well, I’m guessing you play as Harry Mason again.
Well, it is a game that is based on Silent Hill so that would make sense. You start Shattered Memories off in a psychiatrist’s office with a doctor pouring himself a glass of whiskey. This is actually the first change step away from the original Silent Hill. This man is actually Dr. Michael Kaufmann – a major antagonist of the original game in a completely different role. During the course of the game, you’ll flip on several occasions between Harry Mason’s perspective in Silent Hill after his car crash to the psychiatrist’s office where Dr. K issues a lot of cryptic advice on why you see things the way you do.
The car crash does happen though. Harry lost control of his car on the icy roads and crashed into a snowy embankment. When he wakes up, he realizes that his daughter Cheryl is missing and sets out to find her.
Does the same stuff happen in the game?
Somewhat. After heading into the town, he arrives at one of two classic Silent Hill locations: Diner 52 or Goold Ol’ Days bar, where he meets Officer Cybil Bennett or a bar maid. Surmising that he is suffering from amnesia, he realizes that he lives at 1206 Levin Street with Cheryl. This too is an important location from the original Silent Hill. Fearing she may be in danger after a few static phone calls, he rushes home when the streets become consumed with ice.
Consumed with ice?
Yeah. The developers were going for a cold feeling of isolation in this game, so they stuck with the blue ice motif. It works, kind of, but we never really get a great look at the otherworld in this game because combat has been replaced with running from deformed creatures. Ultimately, it makes more sense to run from everything than to stay and struggle. I like that they tried something new, but blue is more of a calming color and I’ve been more freaked out by the grotesque blood and rust otherworlds of the SH 3 and the original game.
What are you chased by?
They’re called ‘Raw Shocks,’ and their name is a pun on the Rorschach test, which is a psychological test that uses inkblots and a person’s perception. In the Rorschach test, what a person sees in the inkblots is based on a person’s unique perception. Likewise, the Raw Shocks will look different based on your personality profile.
So, when he escapes the monsters the ice just goes away?
Yup. He successfully reaches what he believes at the time to be his house on Levin Street. You’re asked at this point by Dr. K to color a picture of your home. An interesting mechanic, as the Levin Street house will indeed look like your picture. Sadly, it’s not. Harry meets Mike and Lucy Stewart at the house and starts to argue with them after they tell him she isn’t there. When Harry claims that they’re in his home, Lucy comments that the couple have lived there for 14 years. Mike then shuts the door and Officer Cybil arrives. She examines his license, which bears the Levin Street address, and decides to take him to the police station.
Is Cybil Bennet just like she was in the original?
No. Her appearance and attitude is solely defined by your psychological profile. In this game she also isn’t from Brahms; she works as an officer for the town of Silent Hill. There are three different looks she may take on: friendly, brown-haired Cybil who looks way too much like Detective Benson from Law & Order: SVU, aggressive bitch in a police outfit Cybil, and over-sexualized blonde Cybil. I guess the sexed up one looks the most like the original. Regardless, her role in this game is to help Harry discover the truth of what is happening.
Does she figure out the address thing?
She’s kind of cut off. The snow interrupts their drive and Cybil leaves Harry. He chooses to wander into the forest. He eventually follows a path leading him to Midwich High School’s football field. Cybil calls him and tells him to wait for her at the school’s gym, as it is used as a shelter during snow storms. While at the school Harry meets a girl called Michelle Valdez. She claims to have known his daughter Cheryl and shows a picture, but in it Cheryl is an adult and Harry rejects that it could be her daughter.
There wasn’t a Michelle Valdez in the original Silent Hill.
I know. She’s the only major character in this game who doesn’t have a Silent Hill counterpart (though a part of me feels like her sexiest model was inspired by Cynthia Valasquez). In this game she works and lives in The Balkan as a singer and bartender. Michelle was at the school waiting for people to attend the high school reunion. She was the only person that showed up, and, like Cybil, exists mostly to challenge what Harry knows in this game.
What happens next?
Harry follows Michelle to The Balkan, which is a popular young adult night club (not a church, though it is a representation of sin in this game). While there, harry finds a young woman identifying herself as Dahlia. This confuses him. She’s surprised at his confusion and tells him that she came to pick up the SUV parked outside to take Harry to Simmons St. where he would meet up with Cheryl.
Dahlia is a young woman that wants to help Harry?
The Dahlia of this game is also different. She, like Cybil and Michelle, also has three different appearances based on your psych profile. One Dahlia is overly seductive, another is a punk, and the third is a stoner. They’re all made to look like villains for some reason (like the original Dahlia), but none of these are what the real Dahlia of Shattered Memories looked like (again, more on that later). I will say though that each bears a vague resemblance to Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3.
So Harry stupidly gets in the car with Dahlia?
It’s not as bad as you might assume. Again, in this game Dahlia is different. The two make small talk and are relatively civil. All is not great though. Upon reaching the bridge on their way through the town, the ice otherworld takes over and Dahlia (and the bridge itself) freezes over. The SUV then plummets into the water below, trapping the two inside. Harry tries to escape while Dahlia remains completely motionless.
That’s one eventuality. You have the option of turning on the radio and escaping or drowning. If you escape, you’ll awaken in Alchemilla Hospital, having been saved by Cybil. He freaks out and describes what just happened to him, but she writes him off. Then another ice otherworld moment occurs mid-conversation (again, right when Cybil is questioning Harry’s beliefs). Afterwards he runs into Lisa Garland, who has been involved in a car accident. Harry decides to escort her to her apartment where she can get medicine to help with her headache (fun fact: her pills bottle says “Claudia” which is a throwback to PTV and White Claudia from the original Silent Hill). She falls asleep on her couch and Harry leaves. He heads towards Toluca Mall, but Lisa phones him and begins pleading for help.
Please tell me they don’t kill Lisa again.
Oh, yes they totally do. Depending on the player’s previous actions, Lisa will either be dead or dying when you return to her apartment. She actually bleeds out in pretty much the same way as in the original Silent Hill. Cybil will appear and order him to freeze. She says that she knows he isn’t “Harry Mason.” That’s when the ice otherworld makes another appearance.
Not Harry Mason?
Bear with me. Harry finds himself inside Toluca Mall. He eventually does make it to Simmons St. where he was supposed to meet Dahlia and finds an older version of the one he met before. She takes this moment to reveal that they are married and that Cheryl is at the lighthouse (which should be a huge callback to the original). The ice otherworld then reappears, freezing her again. Harry finds himself in an area similar to the Nowhere location of the original game and enters what appears to be Cheryl’s bedroom before falling asleep on the bed.
He’s married to Dahlia in this one?
Trust me, this is going somewhere. When he wakes up in Cheryl’s room, Michelle is beside him and offers a ride to the lighthouse. During the ride, an argument between Michelle and her boyfriend, John, breaks out and they both leave the car. Having to fend for himself again, Harry finds himself in the sewers (which, for the record, were my least favorite place in Silent Hill). He eventually reaches Annie’s Bar, where Michelle tells him that she dumped John (this is a bit of a red herring at the time, but I think their relationship is supposed to mirror Dahlia and Harry’s). Anyway, she tells him that he can reach the lighthouse by crossing Toluca Lake using a boat behind the amusement park.
Here we go. Now this is starting to sound like Silent Hill.
Well, it is Silent Hill so it should. Regardless, Harry passes through the park and finds a boat at the more. Inside, Dahlia (the young one this time) is there again and they agree to go to the lighthouse together. Along the way, Harry is seduced by Dahlia. Again, the ice otherworld strikes and Dahlia freezes. The lake cools over and Harry makes his way to the lighthouse on foot. The ice cracks and breaks, leaving him to swim over. Cybil is on the lighthouse’s shore and saves harry once again.
Why are these people all appearing out of nowhere?
It’s building to something. Harry snatches Cybil’s gun, saying he won’t let her stop him from finding Cheryl. She again states that she has no idea what is going on, but after looking up his file it clearly showed that Harry Mason died 18 years ago in a car crash. When she leaves, Harry enters the lighthouse, which is actually Dr. K’s psychiatric office.
That’s right. Harry Mason is dead and has been for 18 years. The reason why the ice otherworld froze over anything and anyone that lead to the truth was because of who was talking to Dr. K in his office. It wasn’t Harry Mason; it was his daughter Cheryl Heather Mason. Now 25 years old, Dr. K explains how Cheryl has been holding on to the memory of her beloved father. She hasn’t been able to grow or move on as an adult, because she’s fabricated this fantasy in which her father survives the car crash and is the hero of the story. She constructs a world in which Silent Hill is nightmarish and Dahlia, who is actually her mother, is a villain.
Why is Dahlia a villain?
It’s revealed in the end that Cheryl’s parents divorced right before the car accident that killed her father. She blamed her mother and resentfully portrayed her in her make-believe world as a terrible person. Dr. K even states, “She’s not the monster you make her out to be.”
So, did Harry really live at 1206 Levin Street?
Yup. Back when he was married to Dahlia, before his accident 18 years ago. The new residents [see above] have only been there 14 years.
What was Harry in this game if the real protagonist is Cheryl?
Harry is a mental manifestation that believed that he was real, similar in nature to Maria from Silent Hill 2. Both are based on real people and share those people’s memories, but the personalities and actions differ based on the requirements of their creators (Cheryl and James from Silent Hill 2). In this iteration, Harry was a professional writer (he states to Lisa that he wrote a novel called “Longing for the moon”). Who died in a car crash in Silent Hill…similar to what happened in the bad ending of the original Silent Hill.
Wait a minute. Are you saying that this is what would have happened if the Bad Ending of the original Silent Hill were canonical?
Yup. This is what happens to Harry’s daughter if he died in that car crash. It is essentially an alternate timeline to the series. Which is why I maintain that it isn’t a “re-imagining” or reboot.
How does it all end?
Pissed off at Cheryl’s reluctance to accept the fact that Harry is gone, Kaufmann throws his drink at the wall and yells at her. Suddenly, Harry enters the therapy room during the discussion and Cheryl looks over towards him. This is where the multiple endings kick in. Based on your psych profile, you can have a few different conversations with Harry.
The first conversation is Cheryl letting go of the painful memory of her father’s death. In it she says, “You’ve been with me for so long,” to which Harry replies, “I always will be.” He smiles and freezes. The Second is her not forgiving Harry for dying, and him telling her that she should forget him (he says this before shattering into pieces). Finally, the third is of her continuing to be delusional and refusing to let go of the image of her father as a hero. It’s similar in nature to Silent Hill 2’s Maria ending.
After this conversation a videotape scene plays (again, depending on your psyche profile) that provides a bit of context to the events before the game. In the ‘Love Lost’ videotape, Harry and Dahlia are next to the care as Cheryl and he are getting ready to leave. He tells her that the divorce wasn’t her fault. In ‘Drunk Dad,’ Harry arrives home drunk and begins to yell at Cheryl. In this context, Harry was a drunk and an addict that was possibly abusive to his family. In ‘Sleaze and Sirens,’ Harry lies on a bed with Lisa and Michelle while on the boat. They ask him if they can be in his next book and if it can be dedicated to them. He says that it was only fair to dedicate it to his wife and daughter, which implies that he was adulterous while still living. Finally, the ‘Wicked and Weak’ videotape shows Dahlia as an abusive wife towards Harry, who berates him for not having enough money and calls his novels shit. The interesting thing is that only one of these tapes might be true or all of them might be true.
There’s also a UFO ending on the second playthrough in which Cheryl believes that her father was abducted by aliens and that Silent Hill was built on a giant spaceship.
To close things out, I really hope you give this game a second playthrough if you breezed by it the first time. There are so many areas to explore, phone numbers to call (the Konami Customer Service Line is the best), and alternate events to watch. It is a totally unique psychological, survival horror and should be a favorite among fans.
Things I Don't Understand About Silent Hill Origins
Okay, so I really like Silent Hill Origins for the most part, because I like Travis! But the general fan consensus and several things about the game confuse me.
People blame Travis for the events of the later Silent Hill games happening because he saves Alessa from the burning house. But for this to be true, you have to assume that the events of Silent Hill 1 (at least) happen because of Alessa being a mean evil little girl. To be fair, Origins sure does nothing to keep this from being the conclusion you come to, but it’s just not true. Anyone who plays 1 has to be able to see that.
Throughout Silent Hill 1, Dahlia leads you to believe that Alessa is bad and is causing the spreading of the nightmare. One of the plot twists in the game is that Dahlia, who has been guiding you, is actually the bad one, and you’ve played into her hands by using the Flauros against Alessa. In doing so, you’ve helped Dahlia to capture Alessa, and she can now go forth with her plan to reunite Alessa’s two halves and birth God, bringing about the “Eternal Paradise”. Alessa’s been trying to avoid Dahlia and keep from having to birth God. Granted this is more likely to be because she doesn’t want to go through the pain of having to do it rather than any selfless desire to save the world or anyone else, but she doesn’t have any kind of awful vendetta. As you go through Nowhere in SH1, the final section before the boss, Alessa’s personality is pretty laid-out - the ghostly images show a crying, scared little girl who just wants her mother to love her and care for her. Alessa doesn’t even have a vendetta against Dahlia, much less a vendetta against an entire town she wants to sink into a nightmare world.
So why is Silent Hill Origins showing this evil cruel little girl twisting Silent Hill into a nightmare world of her own accord? This makes no sense. Alessa wanted Travis to leave her in the house so she would burn and die - like she says in Silent Hill 3, dying is better than the pain and torment she has to go through to carry and give birth to God. Alessa doesn’t seem to realize that she can’t or won’t die because the cult (Dahlia included) is somehow keeping her alive through some sort of ritualistic magic despite the intense burns. The only person Alessa wants to kill is herself. She honestly probably isn’t even capable of creating and maintaining the nightmare across Silent Hill on her own. She’s seven years old.
Travis taking Alessa out of the house probably wouldn’t have changed anything…? Dahlia didn’t like, expect Travis to come along and save Alessa. Alessa wouldn’t have died in the fire because of the magic keeping her alive. She was in the fire to suffer so the God inside her could grow (for evidence of this look at what Claudia says to Heather in SH3). Not to die. Dahlia needed Alessa alive for her plans, she wouldn’t have let her die. Travis pulling her out of the house just kept Alessa from suffering in the flames for as long as she would have if he hadn’t shown up.
There’s a lot more I don’t understand about this game (like why a projection of Alessa (which is another thing I don’t really get existing) would help someone build an item (the Flauros) which would ultimately lead to her power breaking/her downfall in SH1 - and she obviously knew it would do this because she’s scared of it the moment she sees it in 1), but I will just leave this here for now.
If anybody has any insight I would really appreciate it. Right now all I can assume is that Climax made what is basically a broken game.