Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, the review of the remaster of Fatal Frame



Made to celebrate 20 years of Fatal Frame, the remaster of the last chapter also lands on PS5: the review of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water.

Born in 2001, the Fatal Frame franchise started from a fascinating premise, going to explore the link between ghosts and the ability of cameras to imprint their image on film. Asking the question: what if there was a machine that could not only allow people to see spirits, but also possibly take energy away from them with every shot?

This concept has found in 2014 on Wii U a sort of consecration, further developing the mechanics seen on Wii and 3DS a couple of years earlier and exploiting the GamePad of the console to simulate precisely the use of a camera. On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the series, the latter episode was chosen for a commemorative remaster, and here is the review of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water.

History

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, the protagonist Yuri Kozukata

The story of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is inspired by real events, drawing inspiration from the dramatic events involving the so-called “suicide forest” of Aokigahara and, in general, the theme of people who decide to take their own lives, which has always been very topical in Japan. The events of the game revolve in this case around the mysterious Mount Hikami: a disturbing place, which after sunset is haunted by spirits.

The protagonist of the adventure is Yuri Kozukata, a girl who in the past was just about to take her own life but was saved by Hisoka, the owner of an antique store who owns the legendary Camera Obscura: an ancient camera that can perceive ghosts, photograph them and eventually damage them to make them finally “pass over”.

Yuri is not the only character that we will control in Maiden of Black Water: during the course of the campaign, divided into fifteen chapters called “drops”, we will be able to take the role of Ren Hojo, a writer who studies the popular legends related to the concept of death, and Miu Hinasaki, a young girl that we will be able to save during our expeditions on Mount Hikami.

The mountain is cursed, there’s no doubt about it: the people who visit it at night without returning are influenced by rancorous ghosts, who take possession of their bodies pushing them to suicide. Yuri can perceive these presences thanks to an innate ability that, in combination with the Camera Obscura, will serve her to shed light on the disappearance of a series of girls and on the mysterious woman who seems to have control over the black waters that flow in the depths of the mountain.

Gameplay

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, Yuri explores Mount Hikami at night

The gameplay of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is that of a classic survival horror game, in many ways already dated at the time of the original publication. The control of the character is relative to the screen and the view can be adjusted freely, but there is really a lot of sluggishness in the movements and therefore happen to feel trapped and helpless when there is a ghost in front of suddenly, getting stuck in the scenario in a simple attempt to back away.

The mechanics governing the combat system, i.e. the use of the Camera Obscura, is managed on PS5 through a combination of standard controls and gyroscope, the latter called into play to tilt the lens and capture in the frame two spirits together or their flying manifestations and then shoot: an operation that gradually accumulates the energy needed to launch the Fatal Frame, i.e. a powerful attack that often closes the fight.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, the use of the Camera Obscura during the fights

The camera is, in short, our only weapon in the game, and as such we can upgrade it between one mission and another, using the points earned to buy more or less powerful films and more or less fast in recharging, but also mount different lenses and take advantage of special maneuvers often related to individual characters, which allow you to slow down enemies, to take several photos in sequence or to inflict additional damage.

Clearly the experience doesn’t end with simply exploring a scenario and dealing with the ghosts attached to that place. There are, for example, puzzles that must be solved by finding specific objects and using the powers of the Obscura Chamber to unlock others, but the environments are actually few and the backtracking, although justified narratively, soon becomes a cumbersome presence.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, Miu and the Camera Obscura

The system of Maiden of Black Water can count on some interesting ideas, although implemented without too much conviction. We imagine, for example, that the Nintendo Switch version in portable mode can take full advantage of the mechanics of the real use of the Camera Obscura, but we have expressed some concerns in this regard even at the time of the review of the original for Wii U: the use of the gyroscope is not fast enough and precise and so in the most difficult fights you have to fall back on the analog sticks.

The game undoubtedly boasts a great atmosphere and a sense of constant tension that is not properly exploited to instill terror in the player, unless he has the easy scare. There are virtually no jumpscare, if not in a very delicate declination, and the level of challenge in general is permissive, providing us with a large amount of healing potions and items that can counteract the effects of the cursed water of Mount Hikami.

Graphics and sound

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, Yuri is about to be attacked by a spirit

If in terms of gameplay and structure Maiden of Black Water has obviously not changed from 2015, we were curious to see how much effort had been put into the technical adaptation of the game compared to today’s standards. Well, unfortunately there is nothing to be excited about and you can tell from the introductory sequence, too dark and dirty back in the days of Wii U and a fortiori inadequate today.

The polygonal models of the characters seem to be the only element towards which some attention has been paid, with a resampling of textures and some changes to the shaders that, combined with the transition to a substantially higher resolution, have preserved the beauty of Yuri even on next-gen platforms like PlayStation 5, which can also enjoy a frame rate increased to 60 fps.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, Yuri's model looks very polished in the remaster

It’s too bad that the geometry has remained unchanged, as well as the animations: the funny running of the girl still makes you smile. The big problem, however, are the scenarios, which in a horror game of this type play a key role and that we see here constantly covered with low-definition plots, which give the worst in the closest shots and confirm that in this sense has been done almost nothing.

The soundtrack is a mix of sounds and creepy verses, able to contribute significantly to the overall tone of the adventure, and this edition allows you to listen to dialogue in English or Japanese, but without Italian subtitles. The extras, finally, are represented only by a traditional photo mode and a certain amount of unlockable costumes for the characters.

Comment

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water celebrates twenty years of Fatal Frame with a remaster that takes care of the look of the characters, increases the resolution and doubles the frame rate but does not go to act on the quality of the scenarios, which feature textures in very low definition. Technical shortcomings that are added to those of the original game of 2015, already dated in many respects, but do not affect the incredible atmosphere and artistic direction. It is precisely these elements that still make Fatal Frame’s latest episode fascinating, despite all its obvious limitations.

PRO

  • Great atmosphere, fascinating setting
  • Fairly long campaign with several endings
  • Well-rendered characters and 60 fps
  • Dirty and poorly defined scenery, low resolution textures
  • Cumbersome controls, lots of backtracking
  • Translated into English only
  • Have you noticed any errors?
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