Koei Tecmo – Nintendo – Wii U – Out Now
Project Zero (aka Fatal Frame) definitely has a unique take on the survival horror genre. Rather than guns or other weapons, you are armed solely with a camera. The Camera Obscura is a special type of camera that allows you to interact with the other side, with ghosts and other departed oddities. Using the Camera Obscura when confronted by a spirit or other supernatural nasties, deals damage to them, and you also need the camera to find other items that assist in game progression. The fifth game in the series see players taking control of 3 different characters who’s stories all seem linked to the same fate. You control Yuri, Miu and Ren, all of whom are seeking out answers to mysteries all linking to Mt. Hikami, a former popular tourist destination, turned suicide hot spot. Suicide is a recurring theme throughout the game and adds a real unnerving edge to an already grim story.
The player movement feels quite sluggish and controls a bit slow, but you are able to dash around, albeit it somewhat clunkily. The camera is controlled using either the right stick or the game pad. Naturally the gamepad suits this style of play more, as it feels more like an interactive experience. Looking at the gamepad when you have your camera drawn, lets you see what the character is seeing through the lens, and moving the gamepad allows you to look around the room and change the portrait orientation of your photos. There is the option to turn off the motion controls however, although this is one game where they’re no more a burden than using standard controls. The camera can be upgraded with points collected throughout each stage, allowing for quicker film loading times and longer ranged attacks etc. The game is presented in stages (or drops as it insists on calling them), meaning after each Drop, you end up in a stage select menu that allows you to look at your characters and buy items such as health and different types of film for the camera, and also (when you unlock them) change character outfits, which although in Japan was quite racy, it has been toned down in the west for more tasteful costumes including other Nintendo characters. You do occasionally share stages with NPC’s that follow you around. These don’t really assist in anyway and just make you crap yourself when you turn round after you forgot they’re there.
Things do occasionally feel like they are plodding on too slowly, and there are sections where you have to match photo’s that you find to progress in game which seem like a chore. There’s some neat abilities in the game, such as the fatal touch, which occurs when an evil spirit is at its weakest, you touch it and you’re treated to a cool little cinematic of how that spirit died, although it’s usually quite macabre, but it’s in a worn VHS style flashback, a wonderfully fitting look that is replicated for dream sequences as well. One of the other features in the game is something that makes you more vulnerable to ghosts. That’s being wet. The moist your character becomes, the easier it is for the ghosts to get you. An unusual addition to proceedings, but it’s there and doesn’t cause too much bother, and certain items can dry you off. The games aesthetic is very reminiscent of the far eastern horror films that were very popular in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Much like other survival horror titles, there’s lots of different files and diaries to find dotted around, filling in the back story of the terrible events, gradually plugging the gaps in the story, usually with a grim tale to tell of how unassuming people are drawn to the mountain and end up killing themselves.
Project Zero, despite the slow controls, is a very creepy, very macabre game, although once you’re about halfway through and accustomed to whats going on, the scares start to dwindle as the ghost start becoming less terrifying and more annoying. It’s a game that harks back to when the genre was at its best, and although it’s not quite up there in terms of gameplay quality, the atmosphere and story certainly are. It may be a little slow paced for some, but if you’re after a survival horror experience reminiscent of the PS1/2 era, including the scripts and voice acting, then look no further.