The sun is slowly setting on Nintendo’s Wii making way for bigger and better things passing on the baton to its successor releasing later this year. However that hasn’t stopped a handful of gems showing up in what looks to be the console’s true final year. Games like The Last Story, Pandora’s Tower, hell even Mario Party 9 was a return to form for the plumber’s mini game series. That momentum doesn’t appear to have stopped with Tecmo Koei’s remake of horror classic Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly delivering what may likely be the scariest game I’ve played on the console or for that matter any console.
Turn down the lights, crank up the volume and prepare yourself. This game will leave an impact on you.
The game’s story focuses on the less than pleasant journey of twin sisters Mio and Mayu, who when visiting a spot in the woods where they used to play as children accidentally come across a strange village, home to the tortured souls its long dead residents. With an antique device named the Camera Obscura in hand, the girls attempt to find their way home using the camera to take pictures of ghosts and exorcise their spirits along the way.
Playing through Project Zero 2 was like a breath of fresh air. As of late so many horror franchises have opted to take the more action oriented route throwing in plenty of gunfights and introducing co-operative features that sadly stop any form of tension or fear from being created. It’s great if you want a Resident Evil complete with plenty of bullets and set-pieces, but for those looking for something to truly make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, the choices were becoming very slim. Project Zero 2 delivers the scares in spades, and I’m not just talking points that make you jump. This game features so many moments that will make you feel so uneasy and begin to sweat at the fear of seeing another tortured soul drift along in the distance or even worse right behind you. The fact that the only weapon at your disposal is merely a camera also heightens the tension; I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot safer playing a game with a gun in hand than a Kodak.
The game mostly takes place from a third person viewpoint as you explore your eerie environment. You can perform only the simplest of tasks such as walking, running and picking up items. When you do come across items, doors or other areas of interest, you’ll be given the chance to slowly inspect in what almost feels like game of chicken as you command Mio to grab or open something. Thanks to the perfect placement of the camera during these moments a ghostly hand that grabs you or a dark figure that appears on the other end of a door are things you’ll never see coming.
When using the previously mentioned Camera Obscura you’ll enter a first person view, as if looking through the device itself. Here you’ll need to aim at the ghouls that appear and suck the life out of them by taking pictures with special ghost sensitive film. These films come in many forms much like weapons in a normal game with the more powerful ammo being rarer to find. You’re rewarded points based on the accuracy of your shots as well as how much damage you inflict to the ghost itself. These can then be used to upgrade your camera’s capacity, range and so on. Special filters can also be attached that provide brief perks such as the ability to see hidden ghosts easier or stop them in their tracks entirely.
As a mechanic it’s extremely effective at keeping you on edge with spirits disappearing from view only to appear right in front of the lens soon after. When it works, it works well. When you have a panic stricken moment however, you begin fumbling with the controls and this is where the game’s biggest fault lies.
Sadly the handling feels awkward in its execution thanks to the unnecessary inclusion of motion controls. While actually moving Mio is done mainly with the analogue and buttons, looking around is handled via tilting the Wii remote both in third person and when using the Camera Obscura. This can feel too slow to respond at times, becoming especially troublesome when facing several dangerous ghosts at once. Weird gestures such as shaking the remote to turn 180 degrees and open doors also seem like things that would have been better suited to a simple button press. Plus shaking the remote to shake off a hugging ghost, haven’t we gotten past this kind of feature? In the end Mio ends up feeling like a tank rather than a young girl with controls that can take some time to get used to due to their confusing nature.
A new Haunted House mode has been added for this Wii edition that features a sequence of on-rails missions with the basic premise being to walk slowly from point to point without keeling over in fear. The game attempts to measure your jumps and shakes through the Wii remote and nunchuck’s motion sensors but sadly fails when it even reads the slightest move from say a cough. The campaign will last a good ten hours or more on your first playthrough but with multiple endings and a few hidden extras you’ll likely want to revisit again.
The game has seen a decent boost graphically from its PlayStation 2 original and despite being on a console that struggles in terms of power, everything from the the twins and ghosts to the village itself look great. Sure there are blurry textures here and there when up close, but overall it’s an impressive looking game. The sound too excels with some truly creepy sound effects from distant chattering and scratchy radio transmissions to the wailing from the spirits heightening your heart rate at every turn. The timing is also spot on when it comes to tense and climatic moments delivering that loud noise just when something jumps out at you or a the sound of the wind blowing through the window of an empty room. The British voice acting does a decent enough job although it can appear odd coming from the clearly Japanese protagonists and setting of the game. Its a shame there is no option to switch to Japanese voice acting.
Project Zero 2 Wii Edition is a fantastic remake of a genuinely terrifying game that’s sadly only let down by its need to shoehorn motion controls into the mix. Tame the handling however and you’ll find a truly memorable experience scarier than any Wii game before it that will more than cater to those craving a traditional horror title. Never has a game on the Wii made me so nervous loading up its disc.