Fear can be a huge motivating factor in one’s decisions. Usually fear will draw a “flight or fight” reaction. Fear can play with our senses. Fear can be the most influential emotion humans have. Fear is used to manipulate you in Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.
In Fatal Frame II, twins Mio and Mayu explore a lost village that has mysteriously appeared behind their childhood home. They explore it, finding spirits lurking about. Their only saving grace is a camera that can capture the souls of the spirits. Capturing the souls requires a steady aim and good film. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.
Tecmo is known for having excellent graphics in their games, like Ninja Gaiden and the Dead or Alive series. Fatal Frame II is no exception. The two main characters look almost real and move naturally. Normally saying that a character runs like a girl would be considered an insult, but in this case it’s a high compliment. You almost feel as if you are watching a movie instead of interacting in a game.
The backgrounds are incredible. The game has a grey tint to it, which is appropriate for a game like this. The wood of the building looks dry and untreated. The flashlight illuminates the immediate area, and shadows are cast realistically on the ground. The trees look barren, branches stretching all over. At times the graphics will look like they are filmed on old black and while film from the early days of movies.
The ghosts of the game are freaky. They are very transparent and move smoothly and fit in with the setting perfectly.
While graphics might be the way people are drawn into a game most of the time, the use of sound in this type of game is crucial. FF2 doesn’t disappoint. The gravel of the paths, the concrete of the sidewalks, and the creaking of the stairs are present with every step, making a distinct noise. The wind whistles at times, sending shivers down your spine.
There isn’t any music with the game, except in the intro and certain cutscenes. It sounds like something coming from a music box and is appropriately spooky. The lack of music is a conscious gameplay decision. The feeling of loneliness is enhanced because of this.
The voices in FF2 are done equally as well. Mio and Mayu sound very young and childish. The spirits of old souls can be heard from a special radio. Fear can be heard deep in their voices. If anything, the only complaint about the sound is how often Mio calls out to Mayu. It gets rather annoying.
There are two ways to play the game, a field mode and a first-person mode. The field mode controls like the traditional adventure game, while the first-person mode is similar to other first-person games. Those who are used to playing first-person games and want to play in this mode will have no trouble in this mode. In the field mode, the left thumbstick moves the character, the right thumbstick aims the flashlight, X and the left trigger make the character run, Y opens the game menu with the map and inventory, A and the right trigger search the area and pick up items, and B switches you to the Viewfinder mode.
The Viewfinder mode is used to look through the camera to capture ghosts. The left thumbstick moves the view while the right thumbstick moves the character, X and the left trigger move the view faster, A changes the power-up lens, Y uses the power-up lens, the right trigger takes the photo, and B returns to the field mode.
The controls are responsive, but occasionally it would feel that the camera wouldn’t take the picture when I wanted it to. However, it was probably more my fault in trying to get the perfect shot instead of the controls.
Fatal Frame II is not an action game, though I doubt that anyone would expect that since the main character is a young girl wearing a school uniform. The game is an adventure game intended to freak you out, and it does a good job of it.
While playing Mio, you explore the mysterious village. During this time you’ll walk around and pick up items such as herbal medicine, film, and spirit stones. You’ll also discover clues into the existence of the village and escape the ghosts haunting it.
As you get further into the game, more areas become available. However, some of the puzzle solving is little more than finding the right key to open the door. Still, more thought went into these puzzles than what goes it most puzzles in other games.
Two items become essential in the game. The first of these items is the Spirit Stone Radio. During the game Mio collects Spirit Stones. These stones can be placed inside the Spirit Stone Radio, and the radio can play back the thoughts of the original owner though the supernatural essence left in them. These will give clues as to where to go and what happened to the village.
The second and most important item is the Camera Obscura. While the camera looks old, it has the ability to see supernatural forces and capture their essence. A filament on the screen will glow when ghosts or hints are close by. When it turns blue, a non-violent ghost or a hint is in front of you. When it glows red, a ghost in front of you is ready to attack. The brighter the filament and the more the controller shakes, the closer the ghost is to you.
Capturing ghosts in the picture is crucial to the game. While looking through the viewfinder, a Ghost Wave Gauge lights up when a ghost is in view. The higher the Ghost Wave Gauge, the more powerful the shot will be. If the Ghost Wave Gauge turns red, a shutter chance occurs, which pushes the ghost back as well as causes damage. A Fatal Frame occurs during a shutter chance, but requires even more precise timing. Should a ghost get too close to you, it will grab you. This happens because you can’t move much while in the Viewfinder mode. The screen turns into a reverse black and white picture, similar to the negative of black and white film. Wiggling the left thumbstick helps to shake off the ghost.
The camera can be upgraded with lenses that slow down the ghosts or push the ghosts away further than a normal shutter shot. Spirit Orbs collected during the game can be used to increase the range or the damage caused by the camera as well.
The only issue with the game other than some of the puzzle solving might be finding save points and getting to them. There are several scattered throughout the village, but finding them can be difficult.
The game plays very distinctly between the FPS mode and the Field mode. While you might not want to play the entire game in both modes, it’s nice to be able to experience the game in whichever mode you choose to.
The game includes a survival mode as well that will test how long you can survive against the ghosts in the village.