Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly PlayStation 2
Developed by Tecmo
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
In the survival horror genre Project Zero was up there with the best of them. Armed with nothing more than a camera you had to handle some pretty nasty ghosts. We reviewed the Xbox version of the game last year and it was definitely not a game to play with the light turned off. Readers from the US will know the game as Fatal Frame and what we have here is the sequel, Project Zero II (or Fatal Frame 2 if you're in the US) and once again it's another bone-chilling experience. Will the game be better for deaf gamers this time around though? Project Zero didn't have subtitles and this put a dampener on what was a very good game.
The game 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 ghosts. 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 the some of the villages' former inhabitants. Most importantly of all though it can capture the evil ghosts 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 ghosts. 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 ghosts out much less stressful.
In terms of visuals Project Zero II is very similar to Project Zero in that the look of the game definitely adds to the creep factor. Most of the ghosts look impressive although there are a few that don't look the best. The game has the traditional, almost grainy, appearance to it that we see so often with this type of game. The flashback sequences, which are monochrome in appearance, have been impressively done too and definitely add to the disturbing nature of the game. One thing you won't have to worry about with Project Zero II is camera angles. The camera control is out of your hands as the action is shown from fixed camera angles. You can press the circle to look through the Camera Obscura which gives you a first person view but for the most part you'll have to look at the game from a fixed perspective. This doesn't cause too much of a problem though and with a game of this nature it comes as a big relief not having to worry about constantly baby-sitting awkward camera angles. You might also be pleased to know that the game supports the 60Hz mode, so if your TV supports this you'll be able to view the game full screen rather than having to look at the borders on the default 50Hz mode.
For the most part Project Zero II 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. 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 is a very good sequel that fans of Project Zero will really enjoy. Best of all this time around the game is more deaf gamer friendly and you'll be able to enjoy the games cutscenes and flashbacks. There's still room for improvement in catering for deaf gamers but it's a lot better than in Project Zero. Initially the game only offers two difficulty modes that are both considerably easier than the original Project Zero but it's possible to unlock both hard and nightmare modes, which will give even the most seasoned Project Zero gamers a challenge and they also add longevity to a game that offers around a dozen hours worth of play the first time through. You'll also be pleased to know that there is an alternate ending to the game when played through on the harder difficulty setting. Tecmo have done a great job of including many secrets that will encourage further play throughs. If you're after a game that will have the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, then Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly is definitely the game for you.
Game Rating: 8.5/10
Thanks to the game being subtitled Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly is much more deaf gamer friendly than its prequel and it's a great addition to the survival horror genre.
The game could have done with captions to make deaf gamers fully aware of all the ghost sounds within the game.