Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Director's Cut Xbox
Developed by Tecmo
Release Date: 4th February 2005
Project Zero was an excellent survival horror title that was really only spoilt by it's lack of subtitles. Now, almost a year after PlayStation 2 gamers got their hands on the sequel, Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly arrives on the Xbox. It's often the case where a delay in bringing a game to another platform results in some new features being added to enhance the experience and that is exactly what's happened here. Let's take a look at Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Director's Cut and see what extras Xbox gamers have in store for them.
Crimson Butterfly begins with two twin sisters, Mio and Mayu sitting next to a stream in the mountain forest. Whilst Mio is talking to Mayu, Mayu is lured away by a crimson coloured butterfly. Mio turns to find her sister walking away and begins to follow her. Before long they have both reached a point of no return. Long ago there was a village, All God's Village, that held a ceremony, the Ritual of Crimson Sacrifice, that went horribly wrong. All but one, a woman, was massacred and as a result the village vanished almost without a trace. The only thing that remains of the village is the Twin Deity statues that used to mark the entrance to the village. However if you pass through this entrance you'll be taken back to the village, which is now permanently reliving that horrific night when almost all its inhabitants were slaughtered. This is exactly the position that Mio and Mayu now find themselves in and they'll have to search through the various buildings in the village in order to find a way out. For most of the game you'll control Mio but there are moments where you'll control Mayu.
Throughout the game Mio and Mayu will encounter, and have to deal with, some rather aggressive spirits. Initially you'll only have the easy and normal difficulty levels available with the hard and nightmare modes having to be unlocked. Both the easy and normal difficulty levels will cause no problems at all for players of Project Zero. If you have played Project Zero/Fatal Frame you'll know how the combat works in Project Zero II. You're armed with nothing but a camera. It's no ordinary camera though, it's Dr Aso's Camera Obscura that has special abilities. The camera can capture photographs of beings in the spiritual plane as well as revealing events of the past by capturing lingering thoughts left behind by some of the villages' former inhabitants. Most importantly of all though, it can capture the evil spirits by photographing them. The camera's strength is dependent on the film and the lens that's used. As you progress through the game you'll find more advanced film that will allow you to take care of the stronger spirits. You do have to be careful not to waste this film. This is especially so on the harder difficulty settings where films are even harder to obtain. Camera upgrades are purchased with spirit points (although you'll need spirit stones too before you can upgrade) that you'll obtain from suitable photographs. These upgrades have various strength levels and make taking the more aggressive spirits out much less stressful.
So let's take a look at the exclusive Xbox features then. Well most importantly of all the game can now be played entirely in first-person mode. When you begin a new game you'll have the chance of playing the game in it's original third-person mode or the new FPS mode. It's important to point out that you can't switch between the two once a game has begun. This may seem like a silly thing to say but the FPS mode makes the game a whole new experience. Movement is controlled by the left analogue stick with your view direction being controlled by the right analogue stick. Pushing up on the right analogue stick will move the camera down, and vice versa (once you've stopped pushing up or down though the view snaps back to normal which helps prevent things from getting awkward). Holding down the left trigger will make your character run. As you're playing in first person mode you get no sudden change of camera angles that you get in the third person mode (and games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill) and it feels a lot smoother and more natural. Of course your vision of your surrounding is unnaturally wide in third-person mode and you can see more at a glance than you can from a FPS mode. This doesn't prove to be a problem though. What I like is when you are near to an object that can be picked up you'll receive the text message 'Press A button' so even if you're not adjusting your view to look on the floor you shouldn't miss anything. In third-person mode the camera is automatically focused on a ghost that should cross your path. In FPS mode this is not always so but to accompany the sound effect that alerts gamers to the ghost's presence the screen also goes noticeably grainy so deaf gamers will be alerted to the nearby ghost. That said though playing in FPS mode is more of a challenge and for the first time through it's definitely easier to play in the original mode.
As well as the FPS mode there is also a Survival mode that's unlocked when you've completed the game once. Survival mode is much more difficult and you'll have swarms of ghosts coming toward you at once. Should you be touched by a ghost that's it, it's game over so you're going to have to be skilled to get through the game on this mode. Other additions include a new ending and an option to purchase new items with the points you earn from capturing the spirits. On the whole these new features make the Xbox version the best on offer and even those of you who've played through the PlayStation 2 version and enjoyed it might want to purchase the game for the additional challenge of the FPS mode and the daunting Survival mode.
Those expecting Crimson Butterfly to look dramatically better on the Xbox will be disappointed as while the whole thing looks sharper with cleaner textures it can't be said that it's a big improvement. Load times are much improved and task such as saving your game are a lot quicker thanks to the Xbox hard drive. What you will notice though, especially when you see the characters close up, is colour banding. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the case with the PlayStation 2 version and whilst it doesn't spoil anything it's a little disappointing to see. If you're not using your Xbox in PAL 60 mode you'll also notice a small amount of tearing (Tecmo really know how to make the Xbox reach 60 fps constantly and not running in PAL 60 mode also caused Ninja Gaiden to tear too) so it's best to put your console into 60Hz mode if you can.
For the most part Crimson butterfly on the Xbox, just like the PlayStation 2 version, is fine for deaf gamers; it's great to see that the cutscenes are subtitled and this really helps you follow the games' story. Throughout the game you'll find notebooks and other scraps of information that will help you piece the events of what happened to the village together. This information is all in text so again there are no problems. Occasionally you'll see flashbacks of events that happened in the village and speech during these flashbacks is subtitled. After you've successfully battled a ghost with the camera they'll leave a stone and this stone can be placed in the spirit radio and it will play back a short message. These messages are also subtitled. Good use of force feedback has also been made and it helps to add suspense to the game, which is important as a lot of the creepy atmosphere is created by the nerve jangling sound and deaf gamers will miss out on this aspect.
There are some elements that could have been better though and it's a shame that these haven't been made more deaf gamer friendly for the Xbox version. Speech from the ghosts outside of these flashbacks is not subtitled. Mayu will occasionally call you back or tell you to wait for her and this is not subtitled but the camera does focus on her so while you can't see what she's saying you'll know this is cue for you to return to her. Sound captions would have also been a nice touch but there aren't any. Sometimes there will be a spirit crying or moaning etc., on the other side of a door and this isn't visually depicted to inform deaf gamers of what's going on, which is a shame. The camera provides a good amount of feedback in that the capture circle will change colour depending on whether you're focusing on an enemy or a hint. There is also a filament that will glow blue when you're faced with a hidden or vanishing ghost or brown with attacking ghosts. All things considered it provides better feedback for deaf gamers than Project Zero did but there is still room for improvement.
Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly Director's Cut manages to improve upon Project Zero in just about ever way aside from the graphics. Thankfully this even includes it's provision for deaf gamers which is much better this time around. The Xbox exclusive features are certainly worthwhile and even if you've already purchased the PlayStation 2 version of the game there's enough here to warrant a purchase if you were a fan of the original game. The FPS mode alone makes the whole thing a different, and more challenging experience whilst the Survival mode really is a test of how good your skills are at this game. Definitely the best survival horror title we've seen on the Xbox to date.
Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10
If you're looking for a fear inducing game on the Xbox then Project Zero: Crimson Butterfly Director's Cut is the game you need. Tense, atmospheric and definitely frightening, Crimson Butterfly is one of those games that will make you afraid to turn the lights out at night.
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
Some spirit noises are not subtitled and the inclusion of captions would have been great but on the whole Tecmo have done a much better job with Project Zero II than they did with Project Zero in catering for deaf gamers.