Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy-
November 21st, 2004
The famous line from the motion picture Sixth Sense "I see dead people" is the perfect catch phrase for Fatal Frame II. Originally released on the Ps2 Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly has been "re-directed" for the Microsoft Xbox.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is a survival horror game with an emphasis on atmosphere more then the Resident Evil style of violence and horror. Fatal Frame II's plot could be cross referenced with many Japanese Horror movies where the horror is more psychological then straight gore. In Fatal Frame II you play as two young twins, Mio and Mayu Amakura who get involved in a adventure surrounding an old haunted village. The village's has some real strange vibes to it and during your adventure you will discover some unnerving lore surrounding the hidden village. Fatal Frame II usually leaves you guessing after each encounter piecing together information dealing with sacrifices and tortured roaming spirits. Why they don't turn and run is the real mystery to me because I would be out of there in a second. It's no place you would want to go trick or treating in. Obviously, Mio and Mayu aren't your average girls and meander through the games eerie atmosphere exorcising ghosts and handling traumatic experiences like they are slides of a Disney movie. Although a little strange, the added touch of two innocent young girls as the main characters ups the feeling of fragility and terror. Despite all the freaky moments, Fatal Frame II story has a charming quality along with the overall scary theme.
Another factor which adds to the creepiness is the one weapon of choice, the Camera Obscura. Yip that's it! The Camera Obscura has carried over from the first Fatal Frame which means you won't be blasting shotguns to rip apart the evil beings, you'll be snapping photos. On paper using a camera really doesn't sound too involving, but when your in the moment holding looking through the lens it's a whole different ballgame. The Camera Obscura has the ability to see what can not be seen by human eyes and to exorcise the souls of the departed. The camera moments are the most intense part of the game where your emotions will get out of control. The camera is a great tool to use in a "ghost" story, and Fatal Frame has perfected its picture.
The control scheme of the game is easy to get into and you'll be mainly controlling the characters in 3rd person mode with set environments similar to the Silent Hill, Resident Evil games. It would have been cool to see the game in full 3d in 3rd person mode where you could rotate the camera angles, but Tecmo uses the camera is as a tool of suspense which at times has some interesting when you can't see what's around the corner. You will also experience some first person aspects when using the camera in "combat" mode. The Xbox Directors Cut also gives the new option of playing the game totally in the 1st person perspective, taking out the standard 3rd . I myself like the original layout and I think transitioning from the different viewpoints adds more paranoia into the mix. Also concerning the control scheme is the menu interface which is more accessible then the PS2 edition which ultimately makes Fatal Frame II a little less frustrating.
The overall the gameplay of Fatal Frame II isn't totally new, but the context in which it's layered in makes up for some of the standard gaming moments. The unfolding story is the foundation of this adventure and Fatal Frame It's slower pace adds to the drama. Fatal Frame II is refreshing addition to the over violent series of Horror / Survival games and I'm glad it's found its way onto the Xbox.
Graphics & Sound
Redone from the Playstation 2, the Xbox rendetion looks remarkable. It's clear this isn't a direct system porting. The Xbox version is clearer and more detailed then the PS2 and it's a clear example of the difference between systems. The games style is similar to the darkened parts of the horror flick The Ring, and you'll probably notice some comparisons mainly in the black & white moments of the game. Fatal Frame II has some impressive detail and shadow work and boasts some of the best still environments in a game. The special effects just right and aren't overdone. Fatal Frame II achieves the perfect blend of hallucination and realism, which I would describe best as bone chilling.
The sound experience in Fatal Frame II is outstanding and you need to have surround sound to appreciate the atmospheric touches to the fullest. It's the little things that stand out in the game with plenty of quiet then loud sections. The ambient sounds, shrilling voices, and inlaying musical touches make the sound almost as important as the visual aspect of the game.
For the innovation of Fatal Frame II we will have to touch base on what's new in this Directors Cut edition. First off the most noticeable change would be the improved graphics, 1st person mode and the advantage of 5.1 surround sound which I covered above. The Directors Cut also has a 'survival' mode, which is basically an arcade-ish spirit hunt. The Survival mode is fun if you want to get right into some action without the drama, it really doesn't add to the overall experience of the game. Lastly the Directors Cut has some unlockables like movies, artwork, and in Tecmo fashion. outfits for the girls. The Directors Cut isn't just a port as I mentioned above, and all these features make it a worthy investment if you want to replay a game which might have been on your shelf for a while.
Also not a direct innovation as the Director's Cut add-ons are, but still a notable innovation is the The Camera Obscura itself. The design and implication of the Camera Obscura is innovative mainly because how it's brilliantly incorporated into a world of mystery. They have done a great job turning an everyday type object into something which is a life saver from some horrid situations. You will have to relay on your eyes more then your trigger finger as well as timing when using the camera. You can also customize the Camera Obsucra with power ups, and psychic lens upgrades. Great concept and I hope if there is another Fatal Frame project they continue using it.
Fatal Frame II is great adventure that any thriller/horror fan will enjoy. The Director's Cut is a much improved from the PS2 version with some extra features. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butteryfly DC will have you glued to your seat with cat like pupils, homing into every sound. This is one of the years finest adventures and worth checking out.
GOTY Runner-Up: Adventure Game of 2004