Fatal Frame II Crimson Butterfly Directors Cut Review.doc ReviewCain Dornan
Fear. Its what every survival horror title attempts to consign into the hearts of gamers, with very few managing to successfully do so. The famed Resident Evil and Silent Hill series have been kings of the genre, regarded as some of the scariest video games available. Although these games did induce the odd jump or two, neither actually implanted a constant fear into the bodies of their players whilst they experienced the horrors of either title. No game has ever managed to create the frights that are experienced in Hollywood blockbusters, until now.
Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly The Directors Cut, also known as Fatal Frame, is easily the scariest video game I have ever experienced, there is simply no doubt about it. Considering that I am a fan of the survival horror genre and have experienced almost every title currently available in the genre, this is quite a feat. Tecmo, the creators of the famed Dead or Alive series and the graphical marvel Ninja Gaiden, have developed their second title in the unique take on the survival horror genre. There is no zombie-filled, shotgun-wielding action evident here. Instead, a unique camera imbued with the special ability of capturing beings that are not usually viewable to the naked eye is used as a deadly weapon. Although this may sound like a rather pathetic idea, experiencing the game proves that this is more than a simple unique idea. It offers a completely new take on the genre, one that successfully fulfils what it is meant to do.
Set some thirty years prior to the original Project Zero, Project Zero II follows the story of teenage Japanese twin sisters Mio and Mayu. The game begins with a graphically impressive cinematic showing the twin sisters chatting about their past by a small creek. During their conversation, Mayu becomes fascinated with a crimson butterfly and begins following the butterfly deep into the forest, as if hypnotized. Mio soon decides to follow, however soon becomes lost and disorientated within the dark forest. Both sisters soon meet up atop a hill overlooking the eerie and mysterious Lost Village; a village that experienced a massacre and became engulfed in a world of gloom, trapping all those who become lost within the forest. Being the curious girls that they are, Mayu and Mio decide to venture into the village in an attempt to find someone who can help them escape from the forest. The problem is finding someone who is actually alive.
Project Zero IIs storyline is nothing short of amazing, providing a gripping, addictive storyline that offers plenty of twists and turns, keeping the game thoroughly enjoyable. The story constantly changes as you progress through the game, slowly revealing new details and often twisting these to form a totally unexpected result, which further adds to the excitement whilst playing the game.
As mentioned previously, no guns, knives or other conventional weapons are used. Instead, a unique, powerful camera, known as the Camera Obscura, is used as your only weapon against the supernatural beings. Capable of taking pictures of ghosts, the camera captures the wandering spirit in the pictures that you take. As with any normal camera, the Camera Obscura requires film in order to work. Unlike the original Project Zero, once you gain the camera early in the game it comes stock with an unlimited roll of film that is relatively weak against harmful spirits, therefore, requiring you to gather and use more powerful film in order to defeat the tougher ghosts effectively. Several different types of film can be found throughout the game, with the more powerful film coming in limited quantities. A range of camera upgrades are also on offer, which perform a range of camera-enhancing mechanics. Power-up lenses, for example, allows you to add additional abilities to the camera, such as slowing down the movement of spirits, giving you more time to capture the quick spirits, a wider view frame, that makes it much easier to take a successful picture of a ghost and a blast effect that inflicts slightly more damage and pushes the hostile ghost backwards.
You can also upgrade the actual camera itself. By collecting spirit orbs, you are able to invest a set amount of points, which are gained by taking successful pictures of ghosts, which improves the Range (size of the capture circle), Accumulation (allows you to carry more spirit power, allowing you to use the power-up lenses), and sensitivity (increases the amount of damage dealt to a ghost).
The camera is used to inflict damage on dangerous spirits, capture un-harmful ghosts, reveal hidden ghosts (who can often create a picture of a different location, providing a clue as to where you should venture to next) and to even rid a door of spirits who prevent you from opening it. Although this may sound to be a rather boring and bland way to battle the ghosts, Tecmo has created the fighting mechanics in such an interesting, exciting way that often works better than a gun. The Shutter Chance, which is basically an effective moment to take a portrait of the harmful spirits, inflicts considerably more damage upon the spirit than what a basic photograph does. The catch is, however, that the spirit needs to be uncomfortably close to you in order to gain the Shutter Chance. This becomes a true test of nerves, determining how close you will allow one of the frightening spirits to get to you prior to taking a photo. A further step up from the Shutter Chance is the Fatal Frame, which inflicts a considerable amount of damage upon the spirit, however this requires you to allow the spirit to almost be on top of you in order to gain the ability. In many ways, this can become far more thrilling than pumping lead into a spirit using a shotgun.
A problem with the harmful spirits, however, is that some spirits can quickly become far too easy to predict. Some spirits, especially a number of the ones that you encounter towards the start of the game, slowly move towards you in a straight line, allowing you to easily shoot repetitive photographs of the ghost. There are a number of other varieties of ghost, however, that disappear and reappear in random locations in the room, which becomes a thrilling experience. Unfortunately, these ghosts only appear occasionally, with the slower types appearing most often.
Thankfully, Project Zero II is focused more on the frightening aspects, rather than action. As a result, you will encounter more harmless spirits, which only appear for a brief amount of time, more often than what you will encounter then dangerous spirits. These spirits appear in a huge variety of places and perform a range of activities: from slowly walking down a hallway, through to grabbing a character whilst walking past. These spirits are the types that you fear most whilst venturing through the abandoned village, as they appear in some of the most surprising ways, look believable and come complete with top-grade voice acting that even a Hollywood blockbuster horror film would be jealous of.
One of the additions that have made its way into the Directors Cut version of Project Zero II is the FPS mode. The FPS mode allows you to play the full story mode via a first person view (through the characters eyes), rather than the original third person view. Whilst playing in the FPS mode the controls have been changed appropriately to fit the view. The controls work well, however the right analogue stick that is used to look around is a tad too sensitive, often swinging your view around much quicker and jerkier than what you would expect. However, it is relatively easy to become accustomed to it. The FPS mode has both its pros and cons; on the pro side, the camera sticks to the view through the characters eyes, rather than shifting around in various positions in the room, which can occasionally become disorientating. The con is that your vision is limited, as you are unable to see behind or to the side of your character, making you more susceptible to attacks from spirits. The FPS mode is available immediately, allowing you to choose which view you prefer to use whilst playing through the game straight off the bat.
To increase replay ability, developer Tecmo has included a number of unlockables upon completion of the game. A number of objects are capable of being purchased using the points that you have earned throughout the game. These objects include clothes and accessories, which you are able to wear whilst playing through the game. Two additional modes are also on offer upon completion: Mission Mode and Survival Mode. Mission Mode contains a number of different challenges that tests your skills and nerves. Survival Mode allows you to explore the abandoned village while constant streams of ghosts attack you, requiring you to stay alive for as long as possible.
Tecmo is renowned for producing visually impressive games, and Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Directors Cut is no exception. Human characters, namely Mayu and Mio, offer amazingly real detail, complete with flowing hair, believable eyes and perfect facial animation. The in-game cinematics demonstrate how much detail has been put into the characters, with the only complaint being the occasional colouring problems, which consist of different shades of facial colours being evident during a relatively small number of cutscenes. Despite this diminutive problem, the human characters look great.
Even more impressive than the human character detail is the main feature of the game: the supernatural beings. Each ghost offers completely original features, ranging from scared, battered faces complete with bloodstained and torn clothes, to a calmer, peaceful ghost who shows no sign of abuse. Ghosts come in a range of different styles, with some looking perfectly normal and healthy (apart from their bodies being transparent) whilst others are mutilated. The ghosts are truly terrifying, and are often more believable than many A-grade movies. No two ghosts are ever identical, further improving the frightening experience.
The environment detail is simply superb. Upon walking into the first room of a house when you begin the game, the camera pans slowly around the room, showcasing the amazing graphical detail that the games environments have on offer. Dark, gloomy and eerie rooms and hallways fill the game, with each offering different detail to another. In addition to outstanding lighting effects, your surroundings are truly believable and add to the eerie atmosphere of the game.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the high quality voice acting is comparable to some of todays leading horror films. The ghosts have distorted, freaky voices that often make you jump upon hearing them. Both Mayu and Mio also offer some solid voice acting, however they are not quite as impressive as what the ghosts offer. Nevertheless, the voice acting, overall, is of an extremely high standard.
One unique feature that is further proof of the impressive voice acting work is the Spirit Stone Radio. This device allows you to gather spirit stones and listen to the original owners thoughts. The radio plays a crucial part to the overall story of the game, and thankfully, has been performed in such an impressive manner that it is enjoyable listening to the freaky thoughts of the distorted ghosts voices.
Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Directors Cut is a truly terrifying survival horror title that successfully achieves what the developers planned for it to do: to fill the player with fear! The storyline is engrossing, the graphics are superb and the sound acting is of the highest quality. In comparison, Resident Evil and Silent Hill just simply dont feel frightening when compared to Project Zero II. Although they offer the odd fright or two, they to fill you with constant fear, the type of fear that makes you worry for as to what lies around the next corner. The simple fact is that no video game in history has been able to successfully fill their player with continuous fear, until now. Turn the lights off, the sound up, and play the game the way it is meant to be played.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.