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First Impression: Project Zero 2 – The Crimson Butterfly (PS2) ~ A Sisterly Bond

Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly

Wikipedia entry

Ah Fatal Frame, a series I found quite interesting when I was a little child but fell in love with a few years ago when I was able to get my hands on a collector’s edition of the Wii U entry in the series. It was the 5th entry in the series and I loved it so much, I started to hunt down all the other entries in the series. Last year, I was able to get myself all the European released games on PS2, in a physical copy! While testing them out,  enjoyed myself quite a lot with Fatal Frame 2. So, I kept playing that game. It’s no secret that I enjoyed myself with this game since I gave a spot on my top 10 games I played in 2018. So what are my actual opinions on this game? Well, let’s find out! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

PS: The article was originally going to be publish on this Sunday, but because today is my 26th birthday, I decided to publish it today as a birthday special.

A sisterly bond

fatal frame II screenshot 2The story starts out with two sisters running around in the forest playing. Suddenly, the pass a stone and it looks like the duo entered another dimension. The two get terrified that there is no easy way out and even worse, the two split up. Not willing, mind you. One of the two sisters get mesmerized with a crimson butterfly that she keeps following.

So, you need to go look for your sister in a creepy and haunted town while you need to escape ghosts and try to find an exit of the city. The setting for this horror game is excellent. The voice acting in this game is really well done, the voices of the two sisters is excellent. I also loved the performances of the ghosts since they kept me on the edge of my seat in certain battles.

The story is mostly told through notes, cutscenes and the environment.  There are moments you are together with your sister and there are moments she sees that damned butterfly again.  She really likes these red butterflies. Now, the story so far has been quite enjoyable. While sometimes I feel that the story is mostly used to string levels and area’s together, it’s executed extremely well. I really felt that something strange was happening and that there were higher powers at play.

Now, I am quite curious where the story of this game will go. The mysteries are getting unrevealed slowly but I still don’t have any answers. Now, do you need to play the first game before you can understand the story of the 2nd game? Well, not at all. The story is totally independent from the first game, while a lot of story mechanics return in the second game, all the characters are new.

Also, I haven’t beaten the original game myself. Now, you might wonder why I have chosen to play this game on the PS2 and not go for the director cut on the XBOX or Wii. That has two reasons. One, I don’t own an XBOX and two, the physical copy of the Wii game is extremely expensive. Now, when I was finishing up this review, I discovered that the game got released on the Nintendo eShop, so I bought myself a digital copy.

Anyways, we are getting off track here. The story itself is interesting. It’s two fold actually. In one part, it’s about how to escape the village and in another part, it’s about saving your sister. So, I have the impression that this game has multiple endings. But, I have to beat the game to know that for sure!

Spooky Camera

project_zero_2-6Because this is a Fatal Frame game, the Camera Obscura shows itself again. If you have played any other games in the series, you know how this game plays. In this game, you have to explore an area that’s filled with ghosts. Some ghosts aren’t hostile but the most of them are hostile. In order to defeat the ghosts, you have to take pictures of the ghosts. The better they are in frame, the more damage they receive. The damage also depends on the film you use. There is an aspect of survival horror to this game since the amount of film isn’t infinite. The stronger films are really hard to find and quite rare.

Combat in this game is an awkward dance with the ghosts. You have to come close to snap a good picture. But, if they are too close, they can grab you and you get damage. So, you have to move backwards. Now, the camera you use is quite old. So, it needs to recharge after each use. You have audio and visual cues to see when the camera is recharging.

To be honest, I found the combat controls better in the Wii U game I played. In my review of Resident Evil 4, I mentioned that I had difficulty with aiming my gun on the PlayStation 2. The same thing applies here. So, each play session, I have to get used to the controls. It doesn’t take too long, but it makes me miss the Wii U controls. Maybe when I play the Wii version, I won’t have this issue too much.

Now, this game doesn’t have an autosave. Much like Resident Evil 4, you can save at certain locations. In this game, it’s a red lantern on a pedestal. You have a limited amount of save slots, but that doesn’t bother me too much since it helps me to get more points. Side note, there is an improvement over the save system of Resident Evil since there is a small picture accompanying the save file.

Yes, the better the image, the higher the points you get. These points can be used to upgrade your camera. Upgrades like shutter speed or damage output. You can also find upgrades in various, sometimes hidden, locations to get certain things up to a higher level. There is a safer way in earning points as well. If you are able to make a picture of the scripted harmless ghosts, you get some bonus points. So, it’s highly advised to explore around and not go to solve the puzzles straight away.

Oh yes, this game has puzzles. Some of the puzzles require you to analyze a photograph and try to work out where it came from. Other puzzles require you to find a certain key item to open a door or to lift a curse on a door in order to progress.

Like a lot of other survival horror games, this game also suffers from some jump scares. Now, I find the build up to the jump scares pretty good. Most of the jump scares happen a bit off screen when you haven’t encountered a ghost for a while. In the Wii U game, the jump scares were way worse. Also, it’s quite possible to miss some jump scares if you didn’t explore certain areas of the room.

Exploring the city and the buildings is made much easier with a great map system. The map draws itself while you are exploring. The area only adds itself when the area is discovered. Also, when a door is locked, the door isn’t shown in blue but in red. Now, if you unlock a door when solving a puzzle that is somewhere else on the map, I don’t know for sure if the door also changes to blue. Since, to be honest, I haven’t paid attention to that.

There are a few additional things to the combat and gameplay I’m going to keep a secret for this article. The only thing I’ll say about it is that there is a combo system and a few other features. The camera is used in so many different unique and creative ways, it keeps the mechanic from being repetitive.

 Atmosphere in the dark

fatal frame II screenshotThis game is totally worth to wear the title of horror game. The atmosphere of the game is done extremely well. While this game first released on the PS, this game still looks amazing to this day. Some models and textures do show their age, but the lighting and visual design gives an extremely creepy atmosphere. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of my play sessions. I even went as far as closing the curtains of my room or to play this game at night with a good pair of headphones and in the dark. Only the dim glow of my darkened LCD television to keep me company.

I have played this game without and with my headset on. I found the game better when I played with a headset or with a good sound system. I wouldn’t listen to most of the soundtrack outside of the game but in the game, it helps to build the scary atmosphere so well. Some tracks sound like wind blowing through the room or that something is chasing and/or following you. Together with the amazing sound design of the ghosts, this game is just creepy.

The ghosts don’t sound either human nor other worldly. This is especially creepy because the ghosts moan and speak in Japanese. Well, most of them speak Japanese. Some ghosts also speak English and hearing that suddenly makes it even more creepy. They even managed to make picking up items scary with playing an animation and a creepy sound effect each time when you reach down to pick up an item. You also never know what the item will be since it’s a glowing white orb on the ground. It’s also possible to find some items in various drawers and house hold items. So, explore away!

Now, the bulk of the story is told through the locations you visit. There are some cut scenes where somethings are explained, but the visuals help to tell the story. There are also some moments where you find a stone that tells some additional story to flesh out the story even more. Earlier in this first impression, I talked about how the two sisters entered a cursed village and they are trying to find their way out. In this game you explore various locations. From a graveyard to a scary forest. You also explore various typical Japanese homes to a big shrine. While I was exploring, I really felt I was exploring an abandoned haunted village. The realism and attention for detail in the visual presentation is amazing.

Something I really want to praise this game for is that lighting. The lighting in this game is one of the strongest points. Of course, the game takes place during the night. It’s never light outside. At least, so far. I haven’t finished the game after all. The various candles littered around the village help to sell the atmosphere even more. The flashlight that you can control with one of the joysticks of the PS controller works flawlessly.

So, I think it’s quite clear that the atmosphere of this game is solid. When you want to play a good horror game, I highly recommend this game. The game also provides you with some good challenges. From tricky ghost encounters to clever puzzles. Now, you can run away from the ghosts, but you’ll lose points. And if you don’t get enough points, you might not be able to defeat certain bosses easily. Since, points = upgrades.

The controls is something that some people don’t like about this game. Personally, I got used to them after a while. I already talked about the struggle I had with the aiming of the camera. But, that also helps in the immersion department in a way. Remember, you are playing as a young Japanese girl trapped in a cursed village looking for your sister and a way to escape. Of course, you are scared and you are looking frantically for a way to defend yourself.

I’m almost forgetting to talk about the animation of this game. The animation in this game gets extremely close to the uncanny valley. I’m convinced that it’s in the uncanny valley for some. Especially how certain characters react and express their emotions. For example, how the two sisters like arms when they are witnessing something scary for the first time. They are looking for comfort with each other. It still blows my mind that there was such life like animation on the PlayStation 2.

I could continue to talk about this game for a while longer but most of it will be praising the game. If you are a horror fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this game. The quality of the Fatal Frame series is up there with the Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil games. I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the game when I write my review. Consider the things I haven’t talked about in this first impression review as nice surprises when you decide to play this game.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing this article. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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First Impressions: Pokémon Ranger (DS) ~ All These Circles Make Me Dizzy.

Pokémon_Ranger_Coverart

Wikipedia entry. (Since the official site is updated to the latest entry in the series.)

Sometimes games have a lot of potential. And this game surely has potential. This Pokémon spin-off is based on one of the opponent types in the main series. Yet, some games then fail horribly to deliver. I was planning to make write this article in a story-ish thing-y but I wanted to be direct for this game. It made me think about something. If you ever ask yourself why I don’t review that many bad games on my blog is because the games I play are the games that catch my eye and I think are interesting to play. I also look beyond the graphics and other things while I’m playing. And I trust my instinct in order to avoid bad games. Yet, it happens that a bad game slips in here and there, but when I’m having fun and when I’m enjoying myself, that makes the game a lot better. Remember that I judge my games extremely personally. That might be a flaw of my reviewing skills, since I should actually review my games more so that I look if it would be for everybody. Anyways, I thought this was important to say since there are a lot of fans for this game. So, to avoid flaming in the comments I better explain myself. But feel free to leave me a comment to tell me how I did or what you think of this game. Anyways, here we go!

The first isn’t always the best.

ds_pokemonranger_ss01 copy

This game made me doubt my instinct of choosing great games. I’m going to be extremely honest here, this game is flawed. Yet, it’s a game I’ll finish since I want to beat the first one in the series before I continue to play the other games in the series. I did play the sequel and the 3rd game in the series and I really enjoyed my time there. I never beaten them though. Okay, Guardian Signs I had beaten but not 100%, since I had a part of the epilogue left to beat.

I’m going to dive into the parts I didn’t like of this game first. Honestly, I don’t like the overworld animation. Some Pokémon seem a bit jittery when they move and the running animation of your character is way to fast for your friend Pokémon to keep up. And this causes a lot of issues. Pokémon will no clip through walls and various other locations to reach you. When they can’t cross a certain river or other place, they will spawn next to you after a short while of being off screen.

The graphics in this game look really neat though. It’s another take on how things can look in the main series. I’m so glad they took it in an other direction yet, similar. But the level design don’t look very pleasant. Not that it looks ugly or anything but I really don’t feel the polish of the other Pokémon games that go into cities.

Bad?

ds_pokemonranger_ss03 copyBut there are other things really makes me want to rip this game apart. First of all, the map screen is a total joke. It’s actually useless. Your map is more like a radar with an arrow representing you and squares if there is a door you can enter. Also, it displays Pokémon nearby. I actually found a glitch in the map. Before the sewer part in Fall City, you need to try to get on top the entrance of the sewers, that road, and look at the map then. It’ll appear that a lot of Pokémon are there.

Secondly, I really dislike in this game is the music. It’s bland and forgettable. I actually had to play the OST to remember the music. I really hope that the music in the rest of the game makes up for the music in the first section of the game.

Thirdly, while the capturing of Pokémon is an awesome idea and it works in the game as well, it’s the only really enjoyable part of the gameplay. The locations to explore are bland and generic. Also the capturing can be really frustrating since sometimes the Pokémon will run on the side of the screen which makes drawing your circles around them a real pain to execute. Not to mention the possible damage to your touch screen if you get a bit to … circle-happy? Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the possible interruption you can have in mid-capture when your styler levels up. Yeah, it can happen.

But the biggest let down has to be the extremely weak story. Even the first Pokémon game had a better story. It suffers from cheesy-ness, generic characters and basic plots. The plot can be summed up easily by: “Superstyler is stolen by bad guys to cause evil.” No character gets depth and stay dolls on strings to play a certain role. Such a lost opportunity. This makes predicting the story extremely easy and ruins the thrill of the story.

Why do I still play this?

pokemonranger_inline_1162522340

By now you might think that I have given up fate for this game. But surprisingly, there is a charm in this game that keeps pulling me in over and over again. Even with the obvious flaws of this game, it remains fun. Exploring the, linear, places to progress is fun.

Finding the right Pokémon to assist you in destroying a big rock is sweet. Also, you really need to think about which Pokémon you have to take along since you can’t have them all at the same time.

The controls of this game is a major plus. You can use the D-Pad and/or the stylus to move. And it actually works extremely well. Yet, I managed to find a bug in the controls. When you have a ladder that goes down, try walking at the side. When you are in middle at the side, the screen will shake while your character continues to walk in front of him.

But in conclusion, this game is good but not great. This game plays it extremely safe to introduce us to a new spin-off that is a lot of fun. But it needs a lot of polish to make the game more fun. This game might have some serious flaws but it doesn’t destroy the game and it’s still playable. But I’m going to leave it here. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. Until the next one. 🙂