Projekt Zero: Maden of blackwater - Review
The Fatal Frame franchise about fighting ghosts with the help of an old camera will celebrate its twentieth anniversary on December 13 — it was on this day in 2001 that the first part debuted on PlayStation 2.
Shortly before the landmark date, the creators released on all current platforms a remaster of the fifth game in the main line - PROJECT ZERO: MAIDEN OF BLACK WATER (Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water), which was originally an exclusive Wii U. For fans of the series who didn't have a Nintendo console, it's time to catch up.
The story in Maiden of Black Water is presented on behalf of three characters. The first heroine's name is Miu Hinasaki — she goes in search of the missing mother of Miku, familiar to fans from the first Fatal Frame. The second girl, Yuri Kozukata, helps people with the help of psychic abilities and simultaneously searches for Hisoka Kurosawa, who saved her from suicide near a cliff. The game also offers to stay in the shoes of the writer of dark stories Ren Hojo, acting in cooperation with his assistant Rui. They are all united by the mysterious Hikami Mountain, where strange voices attract people in their dreams. You will have to deal with the mysterious abductions in this place, as well as try to understand the ins and outs of the mystical force controlling human consciousness.
Maiden of Black Water takes as its basis the narrative structure known from the third part, where control switches between the three characters, depending on the plot chapter. You are free to replay the completed episodes, finding secrets and picking up missed items. Although the horror is mostly linear and keeps a tight rein, limiting the list of places available to visit, some bit of research is present here. Deviating from the path, you can find not only useful things - from camera lenses to consumables - but also multiple records of eyewitness events.
In addition, if you deviate from the course, you can meet unique ghosts. For example, at the local cemetery near the forest edge there is a giant woman in white, with whom you should be very careful. Moreover, the authors here do not depart from the theme of mythology — the prototype was yokai Hassyaku-sama, described as an elegant tall lady in white robes and a hat. The entire collection of ghosts with descriptions is stored in a special section of the menu.
The three arches of the characters are end-to-end, as they are closely intertwined with each other, relying on the central outline of the plot. The story itself is told quite fascinatingly and resembles a kind of detective thriller, where you connect one clue after another, following different eyewitnesses of events. But the authors do not throw all the cards on the table at once, and it is always interesting to follow the weaving intrigue, since the understatement leaves a maneuver for assumptions. Unfortunately, there is also a flaw here — a lot of interesting details are served specifically in the form of diaries discovered during the exploration. These are mainly the stages of various rituals, retellings of legends from the words of the victims and the thoughts of the deceased regarding the visited scene in the last moments of life. The game is not devoid of the old Fatal Frame highlight — a fairly realistic reflection of Japanese beliefs based on religious and mythological sources. This time, the center is the cult of worshiping the mountain of the Sun God and the sacred rituals associated with it for the repose of souls, as well as maintaining the balance of black water from the afterlife, which should not get into the world of the living. Water is the personification of life and death in many senses in the game, which is even reflected in the gameplay, but more on that later.
The fifth part of Fatal Frame turned out to be the most extensive game of the series in terms of locations — Mount Hikami even has a common map for greater clarity. This is a whole complex of buildings and structures — from an antique cafe-shop to temples, a hot spring, a lake of the deceased, an immense forest and even a shrine of dolls. Backtracking for horror is an inevitable part of the gameplay, but the authors have tried to bring variety to the setting. Therefore, even if you visit the same places again, sometimes it happens in a different way and with new obstacles. The narrative itself turned out to be quite integral and does not let go until the very end, unlike the chaotic fourth part of the Wii franchise, which never left Japan. Get ready for a long journey — the game offers a total of 16 chapters, if you take into account the prologue and interlude. Four additional episodes are dedicated to Ayane from Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive.
Gameplay is perhaps the most intense game, which has absorbed the best of the previous "Fatal Shots". Getting pleasure here is based on understanding the type of ghost and the ability to master management. The slowness of the heroes using ancient cameras as weapons to fight otherworldly forces is compensated by a fairly large evasion window and a scattering of auxiliary mechanics. When encountering enemies, the main principle remains the same — it is necessary to enter the frame area and set its position simultaneously, affecting the silhouette of the ghost and the maximum number of floating spiritual particles. The absorbed particles accumulate in the form of a scale, which can be spent on the use of lenses and slowing down ghosts.
Creatures are able to hit not only directly up close, but also from a long distance, as the same monks do, generating fireballs from a staff. Of course, there are also bosses who also have their own patterns and attack speed. Sometimes it's worth taking care of protection and keeping a distance, although the closer the hero or heroine is to the enemy, the more damage.
Even at medium difficulty, ghosts can rapidly absorb health if the characters are careless and in a hurry. Here you will rarely be safe due to the fact that enemies are able to follow you, literally penetrating through walls and doors. The balance in the game is pleasant and makes you use your entire arsenal of tools, including consumables and photographic film, rather than mindlessly clicking the shutter. Moreover, even the developers decided to link the puzzles with the camera this time — it is necessary to find places from the hint pictures and take identical photos by comparing the contents.
The game was not without a local "Pyramid Head" in the person of a mysterious priestess, from whom you will have to run away, since the camera Obscura is powerless against her. On-site upgrade of camera parameters and equipment of various parts and lenses with useful effects. Among the lenses, by the way, there are really powerful copies, and the authors are pushing to use them, since the main branch of improvements is expensive. You can equip up to three lenses at the same time and switch between them at the touch of a button. The two heroines have the same cameras, whereas the writer Ren has a different type of camera that allows you to take four photos in a row instead of using lenses.
The side story behind Ninja Ayane offers a completely different type of gameplay without using a camera at all. At the same time, all the characters are united by the fact that with a low value of health, they begin to stumble and walk even slower, so it's worth monitoring their condition.
In addition, a new unique mechanics related to water appeared in the fifth part. Having been attacked by special dark ghosts, heroes receive damage per unit of time, as well as deterioration of protection and field of view. Being in the rain or in contact with any moisture increases the humidity indicator. Although wet characters attack harder, the number of ghosts in the location increases, as does the damage from their injuries. You can get rid of humidity with the help of a special object - cleaning coals.
The most important aspect of horror is the sound and its perception by the player. So the local sound design remains on top throughout the game. Whether it's ambient enveloping with sticky fear, numerous sobs, screams, exclamations and other effects - the atmosphere literally penetrates the brain. Koei Tecmo, perhaps, turned out to be the most talkative dead. The cacophony of rage or sadness, depending on the ghost, that occurs during battles, attacks you like a living sound. Any actions are accompanied by a special accompaniment, which, as a guide, conveys the right mood and situation, sensitively following you. This is one of those games where high-quality headphones will help you dive deeper into the depths of despair and horror.
The artwork does not lag behind, and the developers not only drew a lot of ghosts, according to their roles during their lifetime, combining ent and visual into a single whole, but also constantly flirt with the color scheme, where cold tones and low contrast prevail in creepy moments, and brightness and clarity instantly enlivens calm segments. Yes, as you guessed, the authors alternate calm and tense moments with enviable regularity, so as not to tire and not get bored.
The fifth Fatal Frame looked good on the Wii U, and looks neat on the PlayStation 5. Yes, there are roughnesses — reflections in mirrors are buried in ladders, but they are rare, fortunately. In addition, the environment, such as trees and some types of surfaces, is poorly detailed in places, but there are no complaints about character models and special effects, fog and flames, water drops on the characters and liquids in general. Separately, I would like to praise the display of ghosts, shadows with lighting and the effect of spoiled film when watching videos.
The authors added new costumes and accessories for the characters to the remaster, which can be opened inside the game and admired. Capture your favorite moments with the help of a variety of filters and options of the newly appeared photo mode.
On Wii U, the game actively used gyroscopes and the screen of the Wii U GamePad controller to control the camera, and not all players liked it. Some of the audience and reviewers brought the management into the minuses, calling it "cumbersome". In the remaster, everything returned to the classic version, known from the past parts on PlayStation consoles. It turned out quite intuitively, and there are no problems. The developers have left the ability to aim using gyroscopes, but if desired, this option can be disabled. The sensitivity of the camera and the rotation of the gyroscopes can also be adjusted in the menu.
For those who have never played Fatal Frame before, we emphasize that this is a series of medium-budget horror films that have historically paid off with sales of only a few hundred thousand copies. Accordingly, the "blockbuster" level of The Last of Us or even Resident Evil is definitely not worth waiting for from her. With limited finances, the developers continue to rely on the foundations laid back on the PlayStation 2 in 2001, trying to introduce modern elements along the way, and they are doing well. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is "slow”, linear, there is no explosive action and many hours of cutscenes, but it boasts a unique atmosphere, an unusual combat system and an interesting plot. It deserves a recommendation for beginners, but at the same time it should especially appeal to fans of original Japanese horror films of the “old school”.
The undoubted advantages of the release include its price: Koei Tecmo will not forgive the “full cost" for the horror movie - the version for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 consoles is sold in the PS Store for 2,849 rubles, and in the Russian Steam reissue is available for 1,333 rubles at all.
Our site rated the original fifth Fatal Frame for Wii U at the time by 7 points out of 10. Since the management problems disappeared in the remaster, and it is distributed at a budget price, we decided to add another point to the game.
PROJECT ZERO: MAIDEN OF BLACK WATER (Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water) gives a unique experience of immersion in the mysteries of the disappearance of people from Mount Hikami and ancient Japanese rituals. The game tries to immediately cling with bony fingers with a death grip, not letting you escape from her embrace. This effect is achieved thanks to the sticky atmosphere with frightening moments, powerful sound design, original art, strong history and gameplay, where fights are not a routine, but an exciting test. Let's hope that Koei Tecmo will give the authors the green light to continue, and they will not lose the identity of the series in pursuit of popularity.
PROJECT ZERO: MAIDEN OF BLACK WATER (Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water) was released on October 28, 2021 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC.
Please note that in the European region, the series is called PROJECT ZERO, in the American - Fatal Frame, and in Japanese - just Zero (零). At the same time, it is best known internationally as Fatal Frame, so in the review we often write Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. On Steam, eShop, Microsoft Store and PS Store, look for it under the name PROJECT ZERO: MAIDEN OF BLACK WATER. The remaster is available in Western markets exclusively in digital format.