A few weeks ago, I wrote a 15th anniversary retrospective piece about Silent Hill 2, Konami’s 2001 sequel that has since been hailed as one of the greatest video game sequels of all time. As I wrote, Silent Hill 2 offered me, “…a story that was so nuanced, so brilliantly thought out, that it would forever change my view of how games were approached.”
In late 2001 (for Xbox) and late 2002 (for PS2), a special “extended” edition of the game came out that featured some simple revisions and updates. However, the big draw for these editions was the extra chapter “Born From a Wish”, which followed Maria and her journey up to meeting James Sunderland. Relatively short – it could be beaten in well under an hour – the addition was a chance for players to learn more about the character who seemingly teases and tempts James through her almost doppelgänger appearance of his deceased wife, Mary.
Today, I want to revisit that extra chapter. I want to dive back into Silent Hill and focus on Maria and the journey she underwent.
The game opens with Maria sitting in a chair in front of a mirror. In a bit, we find out that she’s in one of the rooms above the “Heaven’s Night” strip club in the middle of Silent Hill. She is aware of the dangers lurking outside in the fog and she is trying to come to terms with her situation. Does she want to fight and live? Does she want to give up and die? She claims that she doesn’t have any, “…reason to go on living” and yet she’s afraid of dying, of pain. All she wants is to, “…find somebody” as she doesn’t like being alone.
Right away, the game taps into a primal instinct amongst people. No one wants to be alone in scary and tough situations. We all want someone to be by our side, to give us comfort and support. That’s why characters in Night of the Living Dead and “The Walking Dead” are so conflicted when they come upon survivors. It’s not just a situation of, “Can they be trusted?” They also, even if it’s not explicitly shown, are facing this dilemma of safety in loneliness but comfort in company. “Born From a Wish” immediately lays out Maria’s mindset and her conundrum, which are entirely human in the midst of her supernatural, almost alien surroundings.
What sets apart Maria’s journey from James’ is that James doesn’t necessarily feel alone when he goes into Silent Hill. Before he even enters the town, he’s met Angela in the cemetery, so we know that there is someone else outside of this isolation. But Maria is thrust into the middle of the fog, her opening monologue expressly stating, “When I woke up, I was all alone.” James has people in his life, even if they met fleetingly. Maria, meanwhile, has no one. Her reason to push on isn’t because of a desperate need for closure, like James, or to quell the demons inside, like Angela, it is simply because she chooses to.
Within a few minutes of gameplay, Maria meets Ernest Baldwin at the Baldwin Estate, where the majority of this chapter takes place. A man behind a door that he refuses to open, they speak briefly, with Maria commenting on the insanity of the town while Ernest offers the alternate theory that it is they who are insane. This theory is compounded when later on in the Baldwin Estate, Maria stumbles across a teddy bear that she thinks would be a great gift for Laura, the little girl in the main story. However, Maria has never interacted with Laura as it was Mary who saw her frequently. Either Maria is insane or, as many believe, she is a creation of James’ guilt and suppressed desires manifesting into reality upon his arrival into town.
Maria finds out that Ernest is the father of Amy, a 7-year-old girl who tragically died. Left in an perpetual state of mourning, Ernest refuses to be seen, asking for Maria’s help through a locked door. Only after she helps him and more confusing and cryptic clues are shared between the two does the door unlock, allowing Maria to open it and find…nothing. Aside from a small table in the center of the room, there is nothing and no one.
Saddened by the tale she helped conclude, Maria wanders the streets in a haze. She comes to the wall where James and Laura have their first real encounter and holds her revolver to her head. The sadness and despair on her face is all too apparent as her finger rests against the trigger. Slowly, she lowers the gun and suddenly tosses it over the wall. She will not take her own life. Rather, she will find James or let the town take her, whichever comes first. “Born From a Wish” ends with Maria walking into the mist, slowly fading away and blurring into the city. We then hear James and Maria’s first encounter where she identifies herself after his confusion. Unfortunately, we know the rest.
What makes “Born From a Wish” so meaningful is, as mentioned above, the difference in the impetus from James to Maria. James has a mission, a goal that he must achieve in order to find some measure of peace. Maria has none of that. Even her own stand-alone story ends with a feeling of “what’s it all for?” It is only when she joins with James that there is a connection and a need for them to be together, even if just for the comfort of being close to someone for a few minutes.
As much as Silent Hill takes away, it can also give back. I believe that the town and Mary felt both rage and sadness at James and the actions he took at Brookhaven Hospital. For all the violence thrown at James, Mary ultimately gave him someone that he wanted. Even in death, she sent her love.