GAME NAME: Project Zero 2: Wii Edition
DEVELOPER(S): Tecmo Koei
GENRE(S): Survival Horror
RELEASE DATE(S): 29 June 2012
Nintendo, along with Tecmo Koei, have remade another gaming horror staple but having the remake of Project Zero 2 done for the Wii initially seemed like a bit of a strange call. It is actually a very clever move though, visual improvements don’t need to be scaled up to HD and most of the work appears to have been done on the control methods for the game.
For the newcomers and anyone else who started gaming after 2004, Project Zero 2: Wii Edition was originally a PS2 release called Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly (also known as Fatal Frame 2). It is a typical Japanese horror title in the vein of Silent Hill, though this particular series is miserly when it comes to weapons (i.e. you have none) and is deeply rooted in Japanese superstition. The premise of the tale lies in the twin sisters, Mio and Mayu, who manage to get themselves trapped in an abandoned village. Of course, the village is not as empty as it appears as it is home to all manner of tortured spirits. Players take the role of one of the sisters, Mio, since the other one is off being kidnapped/possessed/injured much of the time.
There is only so much of the story we can tell without wrecking parts of the game but there is a story behind each and every ghostly presence seen in Project Zero 2. Just what that story is is saved until the game has been completed and that will take around 11 hours, not counting the time you need to retread your steps because you forgot to save. Gameplay is deceptively simple: investigate your surroundings, Resident Evil 3-style, trek around the creepy village and take photographs of ghosts. The Camera Obscura is your only defence against spirits, your only other options are a) run or b) hide.
Taking photos of a ghost that possesses a health bar (or should that be death bar?) counts as combat. Take the bar down and the ghost is vanquished or subdued for a time, depending on how pissed off it is. Other ghost are only onscreen for a moment, necessitating some quick reactions to get them on film. Successful snapshots of any ghosts award Spirit Points, which can be spent to upgrade the camera and lenses, and Spirit Points vary according to how good of a photographer you are. Varying grades of film can be found that do more damage to spirits but, like Resi, the good ‘ammo’ is scarce.
There has been some improvement to the game in terms of visuals. The voices have been redone, substituting the American voices we remember from the original for a pair of British accents. This is a little jarring and out-of-place at first but it will soon grow on you. There is no Japanese language option, sadly. Cut-scenes have been sharpened and the models for the twins revamped but the limits of the Wii’s hardware mean that it isn’t a major upgrade on the PS2 version. It still looks extremely playable but the visuals pale in comparison to the changes in the control system. The PS2 controller was never conducive to effective camerawork but the Wii’s controls suit Project Zero 2 to a T. Hold A, point, and shoot. The Wii remote’s pointer takes over control of Mio when you’re able to take a photo and there is a far reduced chance of missing a shot entirely, unless the eerie atmosphere starts getting to you. And it will, repeatedly.
Gameplay has also been tweaked, with a few new ghosts and challenges thrown in to give old fans a hard time. Pretty much every aspect of PZ 2 that has been altered has done so for the better, resulting in a well-rounded scare-fest. Another feature, which may be entirely new, is the existence of a ghost hand that grasps at Mio at random intervals when she is collecting items. If you react fast enough, your health bar remains unscathed but if it gets you, there will probably be a few brown stains on the couch.
Speaking of destroying furniture, Project Zero 2 Wii Edition includes a new Haunted House mode which can be played with two players. Sort of. There are several different stages, with varying objectives, and the second player’s task is to mess with the first player. Pushing buttons on the second Wii remote will trigger sound effects or vibrations in the first player’s controls. Alternatively, hitting A will make a ghost appear on-screen, making for a very interesting evening’s entertainment. These sessions will measure your Fear levels, based on how stable your hands are throughout the whole ordeal.
In sum, Project Zero 2 Wii Edition is an above-average remake, with enough to interest long-time fans and way more than enough for newcomers. The tense atmosphere is effective enough to cause nightmares, the welcome control overhaul was a long time in coming and even the visual updates are not to be sneezed at. The inclusion of a new game mode just makes Project Zero 2 that much more attractive. Provided we can play the game in daylight, thanks.