Wii

Australia

Project Zero 2: Wii Edition

by Andrew Brown - July 9, 2012, 2:27 am PDT
Total comments: 7

8.5

Is this spirit-snapping story a spooktacular success?

I'm tackling this review from two angles: from the perspective of someone who has played and loved previous versions of the game, and from that of someone completely new to the series. If you've never played Project Zero before, don't worry—I won't leave you guys in the ghost-infested dark.

Project Zero, known as Fatal Frame in the United States, is a classic haunted house survival horror series that began its ethereal afterlife on the PlayStation 2. Each game features different characters (usually cute, young girls) in different places (often abandoned, derelict buildings), but all focus on the mysterious abilities of the Camera Obscura, a device that allows its users to take photographs of ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. The first two games had updated Director's Cut versions on the Xbox, and the fourth was a Wii exclusive that never made it out of Japan. Each game plays something like an exploration expedition, and a first person camera simulator kind of akin to Face Raiders whenever you're attacked by something from beyond the grave.

Smile, you're on can-dead camera!

The latest entry into the series is an updated remake of the second game (also known as Crimson Butterfly). It tells the story of twin sisters Mio and Mayu, who wander into the lost, deserted, and very haunted Minakami Village. When the girls become separated, Mio must use the Camera and her wits to piece together the grisly story of the village while battling vengeful spirits and searching for her sister.

The visual differences from the PS2 version are immediately apparent. The Wii version looks gorgeous running in 16:9 widescreen, with updated character models and completely rebuilt scenery. There are a few low-res texture maps here and there, but the dilapidated old buildings are as spooky as ever to explore. There's also a kind of grainy old film filter over the camera in the Wii edition, adding to the grungy atmosphere of the village.

Check out Mio's nice... uh... posture.

Instead of a series of fixed camera angles from third-person, the game now has an over-the-shoulder first-person perspective that follows you around, a view much more immersive than the original version’s.

One particular element from the fourth game carries over very well in Project Zero 2: picking up every item has become a nerve-wracking game of chance. You slowly reach your hand out to retrieve the object, with a randomized chance of a ghostly arm appearing out of nowhere to grab at you. You also have the new option to warily peek through windows and other small gaps in the scenery in case a nasty ghastly is waiting to pounce just out of sight.

Along with the new perspective, the game features a different control scheme that takes some getting used to. Movement is straightforward, using the analog stick to run, back up, or turn. Holding the Z button on the Nunchuk makes you run, and a quick shake of either the Nunchuck or the Wii Remote does a quick 180-degree turn in the corresponding direction. It's when you're using the Camera Obscura that things get technical. Pressing B whips out the camera, and while looking through the lens, tilting the Wii Remote up or down aims high or low. You can lock onto any attacking spirits by aiming at them and holding Z, then twisting the remote like a screwdriver will slightly nudge left or right, allowing you to fine-tune your aim within the lock-on reticle. It's a confusing system of balancing which movement type best suits the situation, but it’s entirely manageable with a steady hand and some patience.

Careful you don't get your arm grabbed, Mio!

An unfortunate yet noteworthy point: The game suffers from occasional pauses when loading new rooms, and the Wii disc drive often revs up in a frenzy just before something of consequence happens. You could use this disc loading sound as a warning of an imminent attack, but it does dull some of the surprise when a ghost pops out at you.

I have mixed feelings about the localisation. Compared to the PS2 version, the translation is vastly improved. Spirit and location names, collectable diaries and texts throughout the village, script dialogue: it's all much more accurate and realistic than the often robotic-sounding translation of the original. The game has a new voice track as well, which in many cases has a better acting than the first English dub. Several key characters however, in particular Mayu and the ever-persistent antagonist Sae, sound flat and bored. My main beef, though, is the lack of an option to use the Japanese voices, which greatly hurts the overall presentation of the game. This is a Japanese horror story about two Japanese girls lost in a Japanese forest, coming across a haunted Japanese village built around a Japanese shrine—why does everyone sound English? The game even has subtitles in the cut scenes and the game's manual distinctly says, “experience the chilling fear of Japanese horror.” There's no reason they couldn't have at least given players the choice of which voiceover they prefer. Fortunately, the creepiness factor is still more than strong enough to enjoy the game, even if the accents take you out of the moment from time to time.

So Nintendo, what part of these girls looks British to you?

The Wii Edition also has a small but decent collection of new content beyond the cosmetic changes, including two new endings and some version-exclusive character costumes. A second player can help out with the photography in the main story mode, and if both players time their shots perfectly, a Synchro Shot bonus deals more damage and earns more points.

There's also the new Haunted House mode, a series of mini-game levels that have you creeping along an on-rails path through one of many random haunted locations. As you go, the game judges wayward Wii Remote jiggling as “scares” that count toward a fright meter. In any level, maxing out this meter instantly kills you, requiring a steely resolve to make it through alive. Sometimes a haunted house gives you a mission, such as photographing different ghosts or collecting items along the way. The multiplayer works well here too, giving your partner the opportunity to psych you out with a range of distracting pictures, sounds, and Wii Remote vibrations. The Haunted House mode is unforgiving at times, as it will often add scares at even the slightest of twitches. I could have sworn on several occasions it even punished me when I had the Wii Remote completely motionless.

Mio's outfit has been considerably cleavage-ified.

Despite some flaws, Project Zero 2: Wii Edition is still an incredibly fun and spooky experience. The game, arguably one of the scariest ever made, is hands down the best survival horror game on the Wii. Whether or not this is the definitive version of Crimson Butterfly depends on your personal preferences, but fans of the older games still have plenty of reason to polish their lenses once more. As Nintendo now co-owns this franchise, I can't wait to see what ghost-snapping adventures they cook up for the Wii U.

Summary

Pros
  • Enough new content for veterans to play over again
  • Looks even prettier than ever before
  • New perspective and item grabbing is much creepier than the original
  • One of the best ghost story games ever made
Cons
  • Controls take some patience to master
  • No Japanese voice option, bland English dub

Talkback

ejamerJuly 09, 2012

So the only real question is whether to import now or hold out in hope that Nintendo of America will announce the game for North America before the current European print run becomes scare and expensive.  Given how expensive Fatal Frame 4 imports are now, I'm not going to wait for long.

MaidenSlayerJuly 09, 2012

I was gonna get this until I saw there is no option for Japanese voices. I can't play a Japanese game with English voices. Doesn't work for me.

abeJuly 10, 2012

this is the reason you should buy the special version for the original Xbox insted(from the ign review):

I love the First-Person mode, because it not only solves control issues, but it works perfectly for Fatal Frame II. This is a horror game, one that needs you fully involved, to be completely wrapped up in game, so that it can then scare your boxers off. If there is a Fatal Frame III -- and I'm pretty certain there will be -- first-person should be the only option. You really get a great sense of perspective and because your field of vision is more limited, it's a lot easier to get surprised by the sudden appearance of a ghost

ejamerJuly 10, 2012

Quote from: abe

this is the reason you should buy the special version for the original Xbox insted(from the ign review):

I love the First-Person mode, because it not only solves control issues, but it works perfectly for Fatal Frame II. This is a horror game, one that needs you fully involved, to be completely wrapped up in game, so that it can then scare your boxers off. If there is a Fatal Frame III -- and I'm pretty certain there will be -- first-person should be the only option. You really get a great sense of perspective and because your field of vision is more limited, it's a lot easier to get surprised by the sudden appearance of a ghost

I have no doubt that the first-person view works well, and if it solves control issues that are present otherwise then that could be a big deal. But I'm not sure that I buy this argument.


Ultimately, getting caught up in the scary experience relies more on story than viewpoint. Take scary movies as an example: I don't need a first person view to make something scary - in fact, there aren't many examples that spring to mind where a first-person viewpoint is (a) an improvement, or (b) more than a limited gimmick*.


There have been a spate of first-person horror movies recently, yet I haven't seen one that I particularly enjoyed or care about enough to re-watch.  Maybe it's not fair to let that experience throw me off wanting to play a horror game from a first-person view - games and movies are significantly different, after all. I just can't shake the feeling that moving to first-person is a lazy way to try and avoid fixing what's really lacking though (controls in this case, often special effects budgets when talking about movies) and that improving the story is almost always a better solution to making players feel more engrossed by the experience.


*Not saying it's necessarily a bad gimmick. It can work extremely well in some cases... Halloween comes to mind. But generally that's not how I like to experience my horror.

I agree with ejamer here - first person probably would work well on the Wii version too, but then it's less about survival horror and more about being ready to shoot stuff. If you're constantly locked into the camera view then there's less opportunity to be creeped out by the atmosphere, you're always alert and aiming. Part of the fun of this series is finding and capturing every ghost on the checklist, and unless you've played through several times before you don't really know when some ghostie is going to pop up and dash across a room before disappearing forever. That constant chance of missing things until the next playthrough is diminished if you've always got your camera out and ready to go.

As for the voices, they're not terrible, some characters just sound kind of phoned in. The lack of emotion is a big setback compared to the Japanese ghosts who genuinely sound sorrowful, or the girls themselves who often sound frantic or scared in the original language. No option to choose language was enough of a nuisance for me to deduct a whole point off the score, as this genre is something that Wii has revived with great promise this generation and it's otherwise the best horror game you can play on this console. And no, I love the game but RE4 is not survival horror, it's barely even "horror".

My main other gripe is that the English version of this game had two unlockable costumes removed. The Japanese version has skimpy lingerie outfits for the two girls, and they're simply missing from the bonus list in the PAL release. My only guess is that Mio and Mayu are technically underage and the censors didn't like the idea of young girls running around in their underwear.

The disc may have simply lacked enough space to hold two complete vocal tracks. If your review would have been 9.5 otherwise, that's a pretty huge penalty -- luckily, I don't really care about such things. Sounds like a really good, if very late Wii release and something that deserves a wider release!

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

The disc may have simply lacked enough space to hold two complete vocal tracks.

Given what they were able to do pack dialog into games like Conker's Bad Fur Day and Resident Evil 2 on Nintendo 64 with 1% of the space, this would be an absurd excuse in this day and age.

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Project Zero: Crimson Butterfly Box Art

Genre
Developer
Players1
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Worldwide Releases

jpn: Project Zero: Crimson Butterfly
Release Jun 28, 2012
PublisherNintendo
eu: Project Zero 2: Wii Edition
Release Jun 29, 2012
PublisherTecmo Koei Games
aus: Project Zero 2: Wii Edition
Release Jun 28, 2012
PublisherNintendo
RatingMature (15+)
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