Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly – PlayStation 2
Platform: PlayStation 2
Release Date (NA): December 10, 2003
Genre: Survival Horror
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
Here it is, my review of the second game in the Fatal Frame franchise. If you are new here, I definitely recommend reading my review of the first Fatal Frame to begin with. How does Rhutsczar handle what many consider the scariest game ever made? You will have to wait until…now to find out.
I do have to start by saying if you liked the first Fatal Frame, then you will love Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Everything that was wrong from the first game has been fixed, updated, or just plain removed. Also Crimson Butterfly actually has a pretty decent story too. It definitely doesn’t fail in that department which, as a screenwriter, is the most important feature for me.
Here is a quick synopsis of what goes down in the world of Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly:
Twin sisters Mio and Mayu Amakura wander through the woods one day when they find themselves in a lost village. Mio, who feels protective of her sister due to Mayu having suffered a childhood injury that’s left her with a permanent limp, finds a Camera Obscura, and must use it to defend herself and her sister from ghosts that haunt the abandoned homes and other buildings. But before they’re able to leave, Mayu disappears, and Mio must find her before they become the latest victims in an ancient sacrificial ritual involving twin sisters. Over the course of the game, Mio will visit many different houses and explore the areas surrounding the village, making the game much larger than the original Fatal Frame.
There are three possible endings, but you can’t get the “real” ending unless you beat the game on Hard mode (which is only unlocked once you beat it on Normal mode). They did this in Fatal Frame 1 as well, and it bothers me. The Normal Mode ending is commendable because Tecmo has chosen to try something new with the story, but the Normal Mode ending is also very sad, and is a bit of a downer after all the energy required to beat the last boss. I don’t have time to play the game again and get the “best” ending, which is too bad because it sounds much better.
While there have been slight upgrades, the basic gameplay mechanics are still relatively the same the second time around. While exploring as Mio the game is in third person. But it switches to first person when its to kill…I mean photograph. Using the Camera Obscura used in the first game, the point is still to take pictures of ghosts for the most points possible. Random thoughts while I am writing this, the idea of the point system through photographs is actually the basis for the PL system in Dead Rising.
The camera functionality has been improved over the first Fatal Frame as well. The Fatal Frame 2 camera itself hasn’t changed much, except that the HUD is more informative and there is a slight delay between the motion of the lens and the motion of the world, which gives the player a lot better feeling of movement. New to Fatal Frame 2 is the ability to add and equip special items that add permanent functions to the camera. While some of these are cool (like the one that shows you how much life a ghost has left), some of the others seem useless. You can also power up your camera by “purchasing” special lenses with Spirit Orbs (an item found throughout the game) and points. These special lenses take spirit points (accumulated when you do shots worth a lot of points), but they give you special abilities that can help combat the ghosts. As with the first Fatal Frame, the strategy for fighting ghosts with the camera is to learn their pattern, wait for the fatal frame shot, take it, and then move away.
While they definitely didn’t stray away from the “fixed camera” option, they definitely improved it this time around. Fatal Frame 2 is technically a “fixed camera” game, meaning the camera doesn’t adjust its position based on the direction that the character is facing. Many of the cameras move with the player, and often they will twist and use odd perspectives to increase the uneasiness that the player experiences. Fatal Frame 2 also makes excellent use of alternate rendering methods, such as high-contrast black and white rendering, and super-heavy-film-noise rendering. Mix in a very well modeled character and some excellent ghost effects, and you have one of the best visual designs in a game ever.
My favorite element in the entire game is the scene compositions The atmosphere is excellent, and the Japanese themes make it even more disturbing.the atmosphere is very well done and the game has some really good scares in it, but above and beyond the scary locations and scary ghosts, there’s not a whole lot going on. Fatal Frame 2 avoids pop-out-of-the-dark scares, and the environment is done well enough that opening doors can cause you to catch your breath. But if you get over the ghosts and the creepy locals, there isn’t a lot of scary content left over.
The game is, however, extremely scary in the cerebral sense. This is all thanks to fantastic imagery in terms of the graphics and the sound. When playing the game, you will be fearful of what you don’t see, because until the last minute you won’t see anything, leading to some of the scariest moments in video games ever. The graphics reflect this, everything seems washed out in terms of color and every environment is finely detailed down to the last stitch in the dilapidated dress hanging in a closet. The character models are a bit flat when compared to other games, but the spirit models totally make up for it. It is clear a lot of attention was given to the fine details in the graphics, and the washed out look of the game just adds to the sense of fear, rather than detracting from it.
Overall, I have to say that Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly has to be one of my favorite games I have played on the Sony PlayStation 2. Are you in the mood for a game that not only screws with your mind and your eyes with some superb graphics and sound? Do you want to dress the scene in your own horror game? Look no further. All of the elements worked together to make a cerebral and visceral experience. Not like it isn’t linked enough here already, but if you want to hear my thoughts on the original Fatal Frame you can check that out over on the next page. Do you think I should play through the rest of series? I am interested so feel free to leave a comment! Stay tuned for bi-weekly reviews from Rhutsczar, as there are plenty hiding in the pumpline. Feel free to also check m out over @ Media in Review where I cover film, television, and anime, four times a week!
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