Fatal Frame 2 is one of the best survival horror games to have ever graced the consoles.
Fatal Frame 2 Directors Cut is the story of Miyu and Mayu, twin sisters. In the opening cinema of the game, Mayu wanders off into a forest, following a group of eerie crimson red butterflies. Miyu chases her sister for quite some distance and ends up in an old fashioned village, abandoned and lost to the ages. The sisters will discover that the ghosts of the villagers who once lived here haunt this city. As you explore the village, you will learn what caused the deaths of all who lived there, just who the woman in the blood soaked kimono is and who the shrine maidens were. This all unfolds at an excruciating pace, leaving you chasing clues across the city, to say nothing of your sister who seems to be having an odd reaction to being in this place.
The graphics of this game are definitely crisp, some of the better amongst the survival horror genre with the cut-scenes exemplifying this. They easily match up to games released later, such as Devil May Cry 3 and Halo 2 (although the colors are much more subdued and not as shiny). Many of the cinemas in the game will give you the backstory of the game and as such they have done their best to heighten the tension you will already be feeling. Scenes showing what happened in the past will almost always be shown in black and white and every last cinema has a grain filter appearance, leading to an even darker feel to the game. These cinemas will pop-up when least expected and without warning, leaving you not really knowing when something is going to happen. And just when you get used to them, the game starts to introduce new things and enemies without a cut-scene, leaving you unprepared for what’s to come.
The controls are very responsive, even for a game with fixed camera angles. Comically enough, even though the controls are very responsive, your character still moves like an absolute slug. This isn’t a problem in most fights as the ghosts you will encounter don’t move much quicker than you do and can easily be outrun, but it’s a serious annoyance when you’re just exploring and you have to go back and forth across the village. When fighting the ghosts, the weapon you use in this game, the Camera Obscura, controls very well and you can even move around with it raised to fire, giving you the ability to maneuver and attack at the same time. You will need some time to adjust to the change in the controls when using the camera, but overall, with some time, you will find it quite easy to battle almost any ghost… or to flee from them.
The audio is probably one of the creepiest parts of the game. While the voice acting is bad, and I mean laughably so, the sound effects and things being said do much to balance this out. Almost every ghost you will fight will be constantly talking to you as you battle them and the things they call out still stick with me, to say nothing of the spirit stones you will find across the city. These stones contain the last thoughts and feelings of citizens of the village who perished, giving you some insight into their last moments. Once again, the voice acting is bad, but as the story unravels you cant help but be drawn into what’s going on and what happened in this haunted place. Also, you will hear sounds and things happening all around you as you explore the village and at no point will you really feel safe once you get engrossed in the experience of this game. While many survival horror games go for the quick movie scares such as things jumping out of a closet accompanied by a loud shrill noise, Fatal Frame 2 leans away from this cheap tactic. While there are many sharp sounds accompanying ghost appearances, the game is just as likely to leave you unawares of a ghost until it is right on top of you or it grabs you. The ambiance is definitely one of the strongest points of this game and, admittedly, without it the game wouldn’t be half as good. But it is there and that’s what matters. There are also many elements that are mostly exclusive to Japanese literature and horror and will be a definite breath of fresh air to most westerners. The most important thing to note is, of course, the ghosts. These creepy guys will literally come out of nowhere at times and each is special in its own way. Be it how they attack, move or their ability to move quickly, the only thing all ghosts have in common is their ability to move through solid objects. This makes even the fighting tense as some ghosts will be hidden from your sight, but your warning system, the cameras filament, will be showing an enemy nearby. This can make even easy fights tense situations.
The main differences between the X-Box Directors Cut and the PS2 version is an added ending and a battle mode. The extra ending is a interesting, but not really all too important, ending. It provides the "happy ending" that the original lacked and many gamers wanted. The battle mode allows you to do mini-missions to earn rewards, usually entailing battling multiple ghosts at once, with limited time as well as limitations on just how powerful the film you get to use is. Its fun for a short time, but in the long run its nowhere near as engrossing as the game itself.
Fatal Frame 2 is more of a trip into the old school horror genre than it is one of the more action based thrillers that populate movies and games nowadays. So if youre a fan of old school horror movies and then this is definitely up your alley as it does its best to lean away from the action based thrillers that populate the movie and video game horror genres, this game is for you. Enjoy your trip into the haunted village and do your best to survive when the Kusabi comes for you.