I’m pretty proud of my PlayStation 2 game collection. I’ve still got a long way to go in terms of the games I want to buy, but it’s solid. One game that I’ve always kicked myself over not buying however is Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (also known as Fatal Frame 2), which makes the fact that I have the first and third game in the series look weird. (Well, maybe that’s just me.) As a result, I was very happy to hear that the game was being ported over to the Nintendo Wii, now titled as Project Zero 2: Wii Edition, complete with a new control scheme to better suit Wii controls, various improvements and the addition of a Haunted House game.
The game is centered on Mio and Mayu, twin sisters who stumble across an old deserted village, only to find out it is haunted to the brim with angry spirits and that they are unable to leave. To complicate matters, Mayu runs off, leaving Mio to chase after her. The village is haunted for a damn good reason and it’s all connected to a strange and horrible ritual involving twin girls. Although this sounds cliché, the lore behind this is very well fleshed-out, in not only gameplay encounters and cutscenes but also through the notes and items you find throughout the game. It also serves to drive the genuinely terrifying atmosphere of the game, in combination with the graphics and the amazing audio effects. Supposedly the voice acting has been given an overhaul and while the English accents are occasionally snicker-inducing, they do a good job of keeping the player immersed in Project Zero 2’s haunting world.
Mio’s haunted village adventure isn’t all about running and hiding; with the help of a special camera called the Camera Obscura, she can banish ghosts by taking pictures of them. It’s trickier than it sounds as there are a range of hostile spirits who are, for the most part, no pushovers. A lot of them seem to be quite fond of appearing and reappearing in different parts of the room (especially behind you!), although some have unique abilities, such as men with their eyes sewn shut that flail wildly at you, or a drowned woman who swoops in at you. Project Zero 2 does also make you do the occasional battle against groups of ghosts, which can be annoying to deal with in small spaces. There are also little factors that add a bit more complexity, such as what kind of camera film you are using (which affects damage), to how long you keep your camera focused on a ghost before deciding to take a picture. This is represented by a ‘charge’ meter around your lens, but wait too long and the ghost could disappear, which means you’ll have to charge your meter up again. This is especially tricky against the more agile ghosts. Hostile or not, ghosts captured on film earn you points that are used to upgrade your camera, which in turn affects damage output, the size of your viewfinder and how quickly your charge meter can fill up. The camera has another function in which taking pictures of certain areas will give you hints on how to proceed, although these moments are spread quite thinly throughout the game.
For the most part, the control scheme is decent, although I did have a few problems with the motion controls. Wii remote movements on the Y-axis seem to have a bit of lag attached to them and I found the game sometimes wouldn’t register my waggles to either turn Mio around or shake a ghost off. The other additions made to the main game are much better however, such as the updated camera system, although the camera angles still change depending on your location in the area. This leads to impressive visual compositions of many scenes, most specifically when you find an item. Project Zero 2 also adds something that was previously in the Japan-only release of the fourth game in the series: ghost hands. Put simply, rather than the item going straight into your inventory, you have to hold down the A button which will make Mio slowly extend her hand towards it. Occasionally, a ghostly hand will try and grab you; react too slowly and it will, damaging you slightly. Both of these are great little details that increase the tension and scare factor of Project Zero much, much more, and are a brilliant addition to a horror game in their own right.
The other major addition to the package is a Haunted House game, which works very much like Ju-On: The Grudge. You start off with three houses to choose from (more are unlocked after successfully completing these) and each have their own objectives that need to be fulfilled, such as collecting dolls, taking pictures of a certain ghost or simply not getting scared. The way the game measures how frightened you are boils down to “unnecessary movements of the Wii remote” which in this case, means everything. Do you need to waggle to turn around? The game will take that to mean you’re super terrified and adjust the on-screen meter accordingly. What is cool about this is that the game will automatically save a snapshot of the moment where you were most frightened, but due to the terrible implementation of this idea, all my shots are of… empty rooms. Nice work. To its credit, the game does randomly throw out ghosts at you so you never quite know what may happen, with the Haunted House mistress Kureha upping the ante if she thinks she’s not scaring you enough. Another player can join in on the fun too, causing ghosts to randomly appear or spooky noises to come from your Wii remote. Ultimately however, the Haunted House mode does nothing to channel the same level of terror as the core game.
Project Zero 2: Wii Edition is the quintessential video game re-release. Regardless of whether you’ve played the original version of the game or not, the various tweaks, updates and additions are enough to warrant a purchase. Not even the shoddy Haunted House mode can do much to dampen my enjoyment of the main game, which I’m going to say is one of the scariest games I’ve played full stop. This is a must-buy if you care at all about the horror genre.