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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Survival Horror

 

Publisher

Tecmo

 

Developer

Tecmo

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Great atmosphere and plot
- Intense camera battles
- Excellent soundwork

 

 

- The usual survival horror formula
- Somehow looks worse than the PS2 version
- Most of the extras exclusive to the Xbox version are useles

 

 

Review: Siren (PS2)

Review: X-Files - Resist or Serve (PS2)

Review: Resident Evil (GC)

Review: Resident Evil Zero (GC)

 

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Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

Score: 7.9 / 10

 

fatal frame 2 review         fatal frame 2 review

 

From a gameplay perspective, Fatal Frame 2 is pretty much just another survival horror game. But while the Resident Evil games focuses on zombie horror and Silent Hill has cornered the market on David Lynch-esque psychological mindtrips, the Fatal Frame series draws their inspiration from Japanese horror films like The Ring and Shikoku. The setting of a haunted Japanese village, combined with a somewhat unorthodox method of fighting bad guys, are what make Fatal Frame 2 so interesting, despite it otherwise adhering to the status quo.

The story focuses on two young twin girls, Mayu and Mio. While wandering through the forest, Mayu catches a glimpse a crimson butterfly. Captivated by its haunted beauty, she chases into the woods after it. Not wanting to be alone, Mio chases

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- Survival Horror Game Reviews

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after her, only to stumble onto an old, lost Japanese village. As luck has it, this is All Gods Village, and people who get lost in the woods get trapped in this otherworldly villa. As the two begin to search the village, they're attacked by ghosts of people that aren't too happy to be dead, having been robbed of life through some grave catastrophe. As the twins search for clues,

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they learn of a ritual involving two twin girls - and surely enough, Mayu begins to act just a little bit strangely, muttering something about sacrifices. Your eventual goal, playing as Mio, is simply to get the hell out with your lives.

For the most part, Fatal Frame 2 doesn't bring much new to the survival horror table. You spend a lot of time fumbling in the dark, looking for keys and piecing together bits of the plot from the leftover journals of dead people. Actual puzzles are sparse and aren't particularly difficult. But where these elements are somewhat lacking, Fatal Frame 2 makes up for it with its well-defined atmosphere.

The first Fatal Frame confined you to a single haunted mansion. You have a whole town to explore this time around, including several haunted mansions. Fatal Frame 2 feels a lot more open than its predecessor, even though you're still pretty much on a linear route. The environments, which were plain but effective in the original, are far more detailed here. There's also something alluring foreign about All Gods Village, since it's so different from the usual American-inspired cities and suburbs we're used to seeing. There's a different kind of horror here too the look is far less visceral, relying heavily on desolate environments, wandering ghosts and creepy soundwork. The game isn't above cheap scares, as it will pull the rug out from your perspective regularly to show some scary flashback or creepy imagery of dead people, but it's all done so effectively that it's hard to complain. This is especially true when it comes to the sound - the engineers really know how to make some creepy noises, and the voice acting is actually enough to feel creepy, especially when it's so distorted. Overall, the tone is more unnerving than outright scary, but it pulls it off very well.

Outside of the environment, the rest of the scares revolve around the ghosts, and how you fight them. Your only weapon is the Camera Obscura, an odd little invention that will trap the spirits from the unpleasant ghouls out for your soul. Defeating ghosts requires snapping their picture at the proper moments usually right before they're about to attack so in order to combat them efficiently, you're often placing yourself in the most danger, putting your lives solely in the care of your (hopefully quick) reflexes. Since aiming the camera requires going into a first person view, you're left with a fear of isolation, since the spirits can turn invisible, apparate at any point in the room and sneak up without notice. When you can't see them, your only indicator is a light at the top of the viewfinder, which shines brighter when a ghost is in front of you. It's incredibly intense, and while it's not as satisfying as blowing bad guys to the ground with a shotgun, there's a subtle thrill in the technique, and this is largely what makes Fatal Frame 2 so good.

 

fatal frame 2 review        fatal frame 2 review


Every picture you take is scored based on how much damage you inflict, and these points can be used to upgrade your camera. There's a lot of improvements you can add to your photographic arsenal of undead exorcism, expanding its power or range, or letting you freeze ghosts, making them easier to attack. Harmless spirits will also occasionally pop up for split seconds, and snapping images of those also add to your score. It really is to your advantage to stay on full alert of otherworld beings, deadly or otherwise, since you'll be better suited to take on the horrors that will come. This all takes quick reflexes, so you're constantly on your toes, injecting a healthy bit of paranoia into the inherent creepiness you're mired in.

The controls, often a stumbling point for games like these, are surprisingly not terrible. All of the movement is camera relative, and while Mayu doesn't move very fast even she's running, she's easy to keep under control, even if it still is a little clumsy. There are plenty of health items to be found and camera film is in abundant supply, so you really never need to worry about managing a limited amount of goods.

So, this is all well and good, but Fatal Frame 2 is over a year old, having come out for the PS2 in December of 2003 - what really makes this Director's Cut necessary, other than for Tecmo to show the Xbox some lovin'? As it turns out, not a whole lot. The enhanced graphical powers of the Xbox doesn't make it look any better. The frame rate is still fixed at 30 FPS and there's a grey noise filter over the whole screen, similar to the Silent Hill titles but far more noticeable. While it makes the landscape more easily visible and enhances the spooky atmosphere, it also ruins the clarity of the PS2 game. The cutscenes also look astonishingly bad, with lots of color banding and pixellization, (though this is a common Xbox problem). However, Tecmo has implemented Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, which will make people with decent stereo systems very, very happy, especially since the soundwork is astonishing even when it's in regular old-fashioned stereo.

The other additions to the Director's Cut aren't anything to go crazy over either. The most trumped-up feature is the FPS mode, which allows you to play the game entirely in first person mode. While it removes some of the cinematic intensity of the regular game, it also lends a lot more personality to the broken down houses you'll be exploring. The addition of an onscreen map also makes exploration helpful, and you have to wonder why they didn't implement this mode in the main game. However, the controls in the FPS mode are very floaty, and since you can't jump out in third person mode to get a better view of attacking ghosts, the camera battles are made both more intense and more frustrating. Overall, it's a pretty good idea, but it doesn't reinvent the game and really just ends up as a curiosity to muck with for a bit. You also can't switch between Normal and FPS mode mid-game, which means you have to commit at the start. The other extras new costumes, an additional ending and a survival mode will only appeal to those who played the hell of the original Fatal Frame 2 and want some more prizes.

Fatal Frame 2 is refined enough so that fans of horror games will find plenty to like, although it won't make anyone like the genre if they don't love it already. And since the bonuses are mostly negligible and graphics are actually worse than the PS2 version, it's hard to justify the Director's Cut's existence. It's still Fatal Frame 2, and is still therefore a pretty good game but if you've already played it, there's really no big reason to pick it up again, especially at the full retail price.

- Kurt Kalata
(January 9, 2005)

 

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