I remember clutching the PlayStation 2 controller in my hand, sitting anxiously in front of my boxy television. I was probably too young to immerse myself into the eerie and grotesque atmosphere of Silent Hill, but I didn’t care. When Silent Hill 3 was released in 2003, I had previously only watched my brother wander through its predecessor, Silent Hill, through the cracks between my fingers. Never had I personally experienced the horror for myself. But hey, Silent Hill 3’s protagonist was a female lead, and I really liked her brown boots, so I gave it a go. Trapped within a world of mutated creatures, deranged characters without eyebrows, and a dark twisted secret, Silent Hill 3 illustrates disturbing images that are still fresh in my mind fifteen years later.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Silent Hill 3, published by Konami, commences with the nightmare of seventeen-year-old Heather wandering inside an amusement park, the environment painted with blood and unnerving elements. Equipped with merely an obligatory act of bravery, she sprints past distorted foes possessing a lust for her demise. Eventually, she comes across an abandoned rollercoaster. She naturally staggers up the stairs and through the rusted gates, leading her onto the bare tracks of the amusement ride. In her final moments, the whistling of the rollercoaster car’s metal grinding against the steel tracks race toward her, and a bright light envelops the screen. Thus, Heather returns back to her consciousness in a burger joint, looking to find her way home to her father. Nightmares suck, man.
Recently revisiting the sinister setting of Silent Hill 3 recaptured the plethora of uneasy images that were too vivid to suppress. The demented and sadistic worlds are what made the series memorable, though, after all. During its official release on May 23rd, 2003, players weren’t familiar with Silent Hill 3’s relation to the first game in the series. Though the game isn’t particularly lengthy, the truth behind Heather’s relation to Silent Hill comes to light pretty early on.
Turns out the teenage protagonist is actually the adopted daughter of Harry Mason. She also happens to be the reincarnation of Alessa, a young girl from Harry’s own frightful exploit seventeen years earlier. Taking into consideration how intriguingly sadistic the Silent Hill universe is, it’s not a huge surprise that Alessa carried God inside of her body as a result of a ritual administered over twenty-four years prior to the events in Silent Hill 3. Because of Heather’s peculiar relation to Alessa, she now has the luxury of unknowingly lugging God around inside of her own body. Who’da thunk?
A good chunk of Silent Hill games begin with the protagonist embarking into the deserted town. However, Heather is an exception and doesn’t step foot in Silent Hill until later. Thus, when Heather encounters her first monster in the mysteriously abandoned shopping mall, she’s a little shocked. Nevertheless, she seemingly adjusts to her transforming environment quite well. She questions her surroundings, but reacts in a fearless manner and carries on with her day. Many horror game characters appear to react to supernatural happenings this way. With Heather, her connection to Silent Hill at least kind of explains her nonchalant behavior.
The unique characters Heather intermingles with only add more mystery to her story. Douglas, a detective conspicuously stalking Heather, actually turns out to be a decent fella and helps our girl out. After solving a few puzzles and getting the lay of the land, Heather encounters the demented eyebrow-less Claudia. Her apparent obsession with Heather raises some immediate concern. She claims that Heather is essential in achieving paradise on Earth. Heather, understandably concerned about this lunatic’s mental state, evades her nonsense and ventures onward through the shopping mall. I can’t say I blame her. Claudia’s religious preaching always rubbed me the wrong way. Incessantly afterward, she harasses Heather in hopes of nurturing the hatred deep within her to bring about the birth of God. Eventually, she gets annoyed with Heather’s disbelief in her sacred ways and murders her father, Harry. That ought to do the trick.
After Heather’s first interaction with Claudia, she hops onto an elevator. As a series staple, a radio falls from the ceiling, alarming Heather with its eerie crackle when an enemy is in proximity. Soon after, a flashlight is acquired as well. Stepping off of the elevator, Heather experiences the Otherworld for the first time. Troubling images batter her vision, including a bobblehead creature that many have perceived as “God’s attendant" or "Valtiel." Luckily, this mutant doesn’t attack Heather, but rather observes her in her journey to ensure the birth of God. Pretty whack, right?
The Otherworld has always been a recurring element embedded into the Silent Hill games. In a nutshell, the protagonist becomes submerged into a grisly orchestration of reality. The protagonist often faces unique components originating from their unconscious minds, varied mental states, and intimate beliefs and perceptions when emerged into the Otherworld. Many of these delusions manifest from the hellish atmosphere native to Silent Hill. Silent Hill 3 is no different. To be honest, I personally find Silent Hill 3 to be one of the more disturbing additions to the franchise.
One scene in particular still gives me the heebie-jeebies to this day. When Heather roams the amusement park’s Otherworld after traveling to Silent Hill, she takes it upon herself to step onto a carousel. Why not at this point, right? Naturally, the horses anchored into the ride are evidently alive. Heather’s only logical option is to hack-and-slash or shoot ‘em up as cheery music echoes over the horses’ agonizing cries. Um, okay, just another day, I guess. Moments later, an evil replica of Heather—aka Alessa’s “other mind” that separated from Heather seventeen years ago—confronts her as the merry-go-round continues to rotate aimlessly. The player must then defeat the satanic Alessa. Imagine standing face to face with a diabolical version of yourself? No, thank you.
Of course, there are many other disturbing elements embracing Silent Hill 3. The general nuts and bolts augment the haunting experience, both positively and negatively. To be honest, Silent Hill 3’s gameplay is a bag of marbles. The camera angles are awkward and often have to be manually adjusted when Heather enters a new area, which is kind of a pain in the butt. The customization of both game and puzzle difficulties, however, delivers the opportunity to personalize the player experience. Skipping through Silent Hill without a care in the world may be your cup of tea. Likewise, upping the puzzle difficulty to stir in brain teaser every now and again sounds pretty awesome, too. Pick your poison.
Also, can I just take a moment to express my gratitude toward the ever-so-helpful maps? The Silent Hill games never cease to benefit from incorporating simple diagrams illustrating the protagonist’s environment. It’s not that it’s necessarily difficult to find your way around. The frustration derives from the high percentage of doors that are tainted with broken locks. Why are so many defective? Why even integrate an eccentric amount of doors into a scene when only two of them actually open? Their meaning has always been such a headscratcher. Not to mention how often they threw me into a tizzy, especially when attempting to escape a rabid dog with its head split open. Not exactly the kind of predicament you want to find yourself in.
The Silent Hill games have always provided players with unlockable features. Multiple endings are popular across the series, especially the comical UFO scene. Silent Hill 3 follows suit but also implements an assortment of bizarre content for Heather to parade around with. For example, players can unlock an abundance of costumes for Heather. This is done by 1) completing the game at least once, and 2) inputting specific codes into a typewriter available on the start screen for player convenience. Most outfits consist of a casual tank top and blue jeans. The dorky Princess Heart costume, however, easily takes the cake.
The Princess Heart outfit is actually pretty comical. A super cheesy cutscene encompassed with a Sailor Moon vibe transpires of Heather transforming into Princess Heart. To stir a little more crazy fun into Silent Hill 3, Heather can unlock the ability to fire homicidal beams from her eyeballs. Such awesomeness is achieved after defeating a grand total of 333 enemies. As expected, rounding up that many dead enemies require multiple playthroughs. It turns out looks can kill. When fashioning the Princess Heart outfit, Heather’s killer eyeballs receive the Sexy Beam upgrade. Naturally, hearts flutter around the source of the projectile rays, adding a cutesy effect to her horrific circumstances. It doesn’t hurt to lighten the mood.
By beating the game using mostly melee weapons, the Beam Saber unlocks. This nifty little weapon is my personal favorite, basically replicating a lightsaber (hello, Star Wars). Unfortunately, the Beam Saber doesn’t possess the ability to slice straight through foes in a lightsaber fashion, but still delivers high-end damage. Progressing through Silent Hill with this bad boy as Heather’s sidekick automatically tallies on a couple of points to her badassery.
Even fifteen years later, Silent Hill 3 continues to make me question my sanity, Konami’s sanity, and most of all, Claudia’s sanity. That woman will forever haunt me with her eyebrowless pale skin. Though Silent Hill 3 doesn’t pack much innovation compared to previous games of the series, the disturbing atmosphere constantly keeps players on their toes. With a little crazy humor added to the mix, the environments are less daunting. However, they stay fresh in the mind for quite some time. If you haven’t recently, pick up that PlayStation 2 controller, draw the curtains, and toss that Silent Hill 3 disc into your console because even fifteen years later, it’s still a game worth playing through. You know, despite the nightmares.