Hideo Kojima could cement a triple-A Silent Hill
20th Oct 2012 | 18:00
Silent Hill, let's face it, is in a mess. Once one of the most pioneering and narratively powerful series around - not to mention the most genuinely unsettling horror franchise in gaming - its decline has been a long, sad and winding tale of persistent neglect and eroded status.
Since disbanding original in-house developer Team Silent, Konami has passed the series around from new home to new home like some weird troubled orphan, never allowing it to find the right familial fit or long-term stability needed to really flourish. Thus, Silent Hill now resembles the kind of orphan whose adoptive parents have a habit of mysteriously disappearing just before their house burns down. And that's a tragedy.
But there is now hope for a happy ending. The perfect guardian for Silent Hill might - just might - be knocking on the door, in the form of benevolent old Uncle Hideo Kojima. Konami's most famous stalwart star, he now seems interested in helping Silent Hill.
He's potentially its most suitable, understanding benefactor yet, and what's more, he brings an extended family of friends who could be an unbelievably positive influence.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, the facts. According to his Twitter feed, it seems Koj recently watched the first (really rather decent) Silent Hill film in preparation for its incoming sequel. And it seems he was mighty impressed with the series' potential (aesthetically and atmospherically at least) in conjunction with his shiny new next-gen Fox Engine technology. Tweeteth Koj:
"Silent Hill movie that I borrowed from Murashu as the next sequel is coming out. It would be a scary game if we make Silent Hill game on FOX engine."
"Silent Hill is in closed room setting and doesn't require full action so that we can focus on the graphic quality. Enemy doesn't have to be a lot or move fast. It only requires scariness by graphics and presentation. As being a creator making action game in open world, such game is very enviously attractive. Wish someone could create this on FOX engine"
Simple thinking out-loud? Coded hint that he's working on something? I don't know, but either way this is a damnably interesting idea. Because when you extrapolate the (very real) possibilities around this one, the idea of a Kojima-managed Silent Hill project becomes one of those too-perfect-to-happen ideas that have a habit of actually happening when you least expect it. Allow me to break this down.
If the experimental excesses and granite-heavy pathos of the Metal Gear Solid series have taught us anything about Kojima, it's that he likes swirling, surreal, existential narratives grounded by affecting characterisation. He also loves screwing around with planes of narrative reality and royally messing with the player both inside and outside of the game. Philosophically, all of this is pure Silent Hill. At its best.
And while he doesn't have extensive horror experience himself, Kojima is friends with people who do. Namely Grasshopper Manufacture.
Moreso than that, he's already on development-buddy terms with them. He's already working with the studio on a radio-play prequel to his own early game, Snatcher, and has another, fully game-shaped Grasshopper collaboration currently in development.
So why are Grasshopper so important? Simple: whatever the failings of this year's Lollipop Chainsaw, studio head Goichi 'Suda51' Suda seriously knows how to do surreally-disturbing artistic horror, having directed the sublimely Lynchian brainsmash Killer7 back in 2005. And in 2010, he hired Akira Yamaoka. Akira Yamaoka is the most important person in Silent Hill history, having produced the series during its glory days and composed every soundtrack right up to 2009's Silent Hill: Homecoming. If our orphan has a long-lost biological father, it's Akira Yamaoka.
Given Kojima's success as a producer for external teams (see Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow for evidence of that - developer Mercury Steam's previous game was the rather wretched Clive Barker's Jericho), the idea of a Kojima-produced Silent Hill developed by Yamaoka and Suda51 is pretty much the perfect vision of a reboot for the series. Kojima's status and reputation could cement real triple-A quality for the Silent Hill franchise for the first time in years, while the Yamaoka/Suda51 dream team handle the creative heavy lifting.
If Kojima's desire for a Fox Engine Silent Hill game also means that he's eager to bring Silent Hill back to Japanese development after so long in the international wilderness, there's only one sensible way to do that. After so many years of disappointment, this could make us forget about the entire last decade of (entirely the wrong kind of) Silent Hill pain overnight. Persuasive post cards to H. Kojima, Konami Street, Japan, forthwith, if you'd be so kind.