Interview with Akihiro Imamura (PSM)

Date published: 2001.06
Source: PSM (June 2001, p. 18), Letter From Silent Heaven

Konami's Silent Hill 2 was arguably the best game shown at the recent Tokyo Game Show. We sat down with the game's Director for all the gory details.

PSM: We originally spoke with you and your Silent Hill 2 team for our December issue last year. For our new readers, could you briefly describe the game's premise?

Imamura: The scenario for this version is completely new. James, the main character, visits Silent Hill seeking the truth regarding a letter he receives from his late wife who died three years ago. The game begins when he gets out of his car at a cemetery after going through a forest near an observatory.

PSM: How far along is the game at this point, and can you say when it will be available in Japan and the U.S.?

Imamura: The development is proceeding quite smoothly. Although we had a bit of a technical issue at the recent Tokyo Game Show, the final version will definitely be improved. We are targeting to release this title in the fall for U.S., Europe and Japan.

PSM: How is the game flow structured? Are there any major differences from the first Silent Hill?

Imamura: There is not very much difference in terms of the game flow. Similar in style to the original Silent Hill for PSone, the main character proceeds through the game by overcoming weird monsters and solving riddles and puzzles.

PSM: Will there be more than one playable character this time?

Imamura: No.

PSM: What types of new areas can we expect to explore in Silent Hill? Will any major areas from the first game make an appearance?

Imamura: Players can expect to see more natural environments, such as a forest and a lake. There will be new areas that were not found in the original Silent Hill; however, we are designing these environments in a way that you feel some connection between the two games.

PSM: You had mentioned before that you might add a harder difficulty mode for those that finish the game, but that it would be unique somehow. Can you tell us any more?

Imamura: We are planning to have a feature which makes you want to play the game again even after clearing it for the first time. At this point in time, we cannot reveal details. However, I can tell you that it makes the game exciting.

PSM: Konami recently issued a press release announcing the use of new sound technology in Silent Hill 2. Can you tell us how this new technology will be used in the game, and what it will mean for game players?

Imamura: What we are using is "S-FORCE", which is supplied from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. By using this new technology, you can feel as if the sound is coming from behind you or even on top of you. One example of how we are utilizing this technology is in sounds from objects behind you, such as enemy footsteps. You will feed as if you are actually in the game.

PSM: What are some other new techniques you're using to make the game experience even more frightening than before?

Imamura: Graphics and sound; that is really about all there is to it.

PSM: Will the game's controls work similar to Mario 64, or will they be more like Resident Evil?

Imamura: You can choose from both styles of control in the game.

PSM: Can you describe one of the game's scariest new scenes for us?

Imamura: I cannot tell you that since you will not be scared anymore after knowing it! There are some scenes where you will be scared even though you knew what was going to happen beforehand. I am positive that you will experience really scary scenes in this version.

PSM: How have your impressions of the PlayStation 2 changed after spending so much time working with the hardware?

Imamura: Our impression of the difficulty in drawing out the performance is the same from the early stages of development. However, we've reached the point where this project has become possible to create. This is why we are achieving the graphic results in Silent Hill 2.

PSM: How much of the story will be told through pre-rendered movies, and how many scenes will use the game's actual in-game graphics?

Imamura: Pre-rendered movie scenes: Approx. 10 minutes. PlayStation 2 real time graphics: Approx. 30 minutes.

PSM: Are there any particular special effects or other visual "tricks" that you're planning to use in Silent Hill 2 that are only possible on the PlayStation 2?

Imamura: The newest effect used in the game is fog and shadow. Thanks to the technology of the PlayStation 2, we could achieve this form of graphical expression.

PSM: Has the power of the PS2 enabled you to be much more ambitious with your game design, or is it a little over-whelming in terms of the resources needed to make the game now?

Imamura: Since the game screen has become very realistic, the game design got more powerful as a result. In fact, we really needed this in making SH2. We are sure that we made the game design match the graphic performance capability of PS2.

PSM: Over the last few months, we've seen the image quality of PS2 games get much better (as in Z.O.E. and the MGS2 and Devil May Cry demos). Since Silent Hill 2 wasn't an early launch game, have you had time to produce the game at a higher level, and include things like anti-aliasing?

Imamura: We increased the resolution of vertical direction and put noise over the game screen. We are trying not to make the edges of jaggy polygons stand out. Also, we are trying not to make jaggy textures stand out anywhere in the game.

PSM: Can you hint at any cool secrets?

Imamura: You might be able to learn a few new things by watching the Tokyo Game Show version carefully.

PSM: Are you guys serious horror movie fans? If so, what are some of your favorites?

Imamura: It is not that I like horror movies especially, but movies are the best references when making games. Various movies give us inspiration.

PSM: Finally, when we met with your team before, they said that there was a legend surrounding their office, that it was haunted. Has anyone had any spooky occurrences recently?

Imamura: Since there are so many legends, we decided to move. We are moving out to a new building in the next few months. :-)