Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Director’s Cut
Red butterflies. A cute Japanese twin, alone and scaredly looking around, only each other to hold on to. A forgotten village where ghosts and some evil lurk around, with a dark and terrible secret that makes your hairs stand up already only by thinking about it. As only protection a dusty, strange device with which you can save your life from the death that has been destined for you for years already…
Still didn’t run out of the room while screaming for your mommy ? Then switch off the lights, connect your Xbox to your surround system and turn the volume to the “deafness-guaranteed” mode, take the controller in your hand, close all doors and only play this game if you thought Doom 3 was laughable.
Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly (aka Fatal Frame 2 outside Europe) is all but laughing! As the teenage twin Mayu and Mio (you almost constantly play with the second) you accidentally (?) arrive in a forgotten village where darkness took hold already years ago to never leave again. If that isn’t enough, you soon realise you’re not alone: an entire population is staying in hiding and keeps a terrible secret on which you’ll find out more than you’d want. On top of that these spirits aren’t happy presences but are aiming at your young life. The only weapon at your disposal is the Camera Obscura, a paranormal photo camera with which you can disarm the ghosts and which makes them visible when looking through its lenze. The entire game turns around this device and the unravelling of the terrible history of the village.
Need I say that this mechanism will scare the hell out of you multiple times ? You mostly don’t see the ghosts and when you suddenly turn on the camera after hearing some shuffling they appear right in front of you ! On top of that, the device is more effective when they are close to you; the risc that they bring your life energy to zero is therefore a lot bigger. Of course you can do a bunch of combo’s with your flasher or take extra efficient pictures that will accellerate the downfall of your opponents. Also you can upgrade, adapt and change the device (and its films) with sensitivity, power and reloadspeed. On top of that there are 4 more extra’s (slow, stun, see, blast) that can be used to slow down the baddies. Thanks to the pictures you take of these assholes, but also of strange objects or good ghosts and beating the first, you get points that you can use to enhance your camera.
The combat-part is important but the reconaissance- and storyline parts are no less. Thanks to the multiple cut-scenes, found objects, pictures and pieces of diary, appearances, flashbacks and (incredibly scary) sound fragments, you’ll slowly get to hear the entire storyline. That alone is already worth playing the game to the end.
The guys from Tecmo have outdone themselves to create an atmosphere that reminds us of the original Japanese version of The Ring (Ringu) and The Grudge. The village has a lot of detail (especially indoor) with a very good color-poor pallet, very nice lighting effects and beautiful special effects, believeable leveldesign (except for the doors that only open after you’ve visited some other place) and scare-effects that do not have to worry about the competition of the best horror movies. The design of the ghosts is also on a level most other games can only dream of. Also the camera use is very well-done, with the option to choose between FPS-made (ideally to go into the story even more but with extra chance of not seeing the ghosts coming and jumping out of your chair when they do arrive) and the classic mode with movie-like camera placing, which for once doesn’t ruin the fun.
Not only the graphics are an example for the genre (I suddenly forget the option of widescreen), the sound isn’t any less. Screaming voices, begging that suddenly appear and will bring shivers over your back, sound fragments from your “spirit radio” which you would rather not hear right before going to bed, and a perfect usage of silence to bring tension to the top.
Just to say: qua atmosphere and finishing this game makes my Top3! Only good news, the simple gamer could think now, but as usual there are a couple of downpoints. The gameplay is hindered by the incredibly slow way of walking. Even when running, you’re about as fast as a slug on retirement, while it’s on its way to its mother in law… Eventhough this sometimes enhances the claustrophobic atmosphere, a little more speed would have certainly been a plus. Unfortunately, this comes on top of the fact that this survival-horror game goes by the classic ways where you often have to search, go back to previous locations, get stuck until you find the necessary key, etc. This can become quite frustrating at certain times when you’re stuck, especially when walking around goes so incredibly slow.
For the fans, I should add that this is a Director’s Cut from the PS2 version of a couple of years ago, with a new difficulty level (survival mode), the FPS gameplay option, enhanced graphics, new ending, and a lot of extra’s like bikini’s for the girls (yea, you’ve noticed that again, didn’t you perv! – ed.)
Who loves this genre should definitely get this game. With at front the fantastic creepy atmosphere, the exciting “camera as gun”-concept and the frightening storyline this is also a recommendation for people who normally don’t like games like Silent Hill. Some smaller problems (walking speed, linearity at times) can bring down the fun for the less patient gamers amongst us, but whoever feels like playing a horror game with lots of atmosphere will certainly have fun with this title. Don’t forget to turn off the lights !