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SummarySometimes beautiful, otherwise a meandering mess.
The GoodI have to hand it to Tecmo, they know how to make good ambient horror. The original Fatal Frame is a masterpiece of atmosphere, pacing and gameplay that ends up sending you to a sort of gaming nirvana. Fatal Frame 2 features an enhanced, more atmospheric setting with a far more varied set of environments and dark, terrifying locales.
The control scheme has been updated with more fluid camera control, extra camera customization options and a more well paced upgrade system. The FPS mode unique to the Xbox version is a fantastic compliment to the original game and really adds a whole new dimension to the tense environments.
The sound design in Crimson Butterfly has been vastly improved. Not that there was anything wrong with Fatal Frame's sound design the variety of music, chilling ghostly lamentations and the new Spirit Radio all lend to Crimson Butterfly being a truly splendid auditory experience. The same traditional japanese instruments are used for background music however there are also more upbeat tracks and even a great ending theme with lyrics.
Character models and ghosts are far improved over the PS2 version of the game, aliasing it non existent and load times are barely noticeable.
The BadIn comparison to the original Fatal Frame, which is a fair comparison, Crimson Butterfly just does not stack up. It's hard to really describe how it feels when you are trying to describe the difference to someone who has never played the game before. In Fatal Frame, you were gently prodded from one objective to the next by subtle environmental hints, ghost appearances or the now obligatory glowing blue ectoplasm on the doors. These elements are apparent in Crimson Butterfly however some hints are so vague and some pictures or clues so indecipherably cryptic and you will invariably have to rely on a walkthrough at some point. It all feels really loose and meandering. The village is a welcome departure from one environment but at least the mansion from Fatal Frame was cohesive. Each environment in Crimson Butterfly is loosely sewed to another with a cryptic clue or the total reverse, the presence of Crimson Butterflies fluttering around an objective basically punching you in the face with a solution. It goes from being ridiculously vague to insultingly obvious.
Puzzles are repeatedly recycled in Crimson Butterfly, sometimes within a few rooms of each other. The fact is they aren't even really that good. There is a Pinwheel Puzzle which is braindead simple and a simple rotating Doll puzzle which are recycled repeatedly. This was a problem in Fatal Frame and it disappoints me that Tecmo didn't address it in the sequel.
There are several endings in Crimson Butterfly however in order to see the true ending of the game you must go through on the hardest possible difficulty level. This really gets on my nerves. Games like Silent Hill and the Suffering have got it right where your actions throughout the game reflect the ending you receive. A game that forces you to play through the most insanely frustrating difficulty level just to see an ending is cruel.
The biggest issue with Crimson Butterfly however is that it isn't particularly scary. It comes across as contrived, falling back on horror cliche's and cheap jump scares. There are things in closets, under the floor etc. etc. The reason the Silent Hill series is so frightening is because it is so visceral, it doesn't fall back on gore but it really gets in your face and floods your mind with negativity which forces you to flee from it. That is frightening. Something putting it's hand on your shoulder and then not being there when you turn around isn't scary, it's cliche'd.
The Bottom LineFatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly succeeds and fails as a sequel in different ways. I commend Tecmo for trying to vary environments however by convoluting them they have created a confusing atmosphere that leads to nonsensical meandering due to to overly vague clues.
The recycling of puzzles is frustrating as this was a problem in the first game however the camera upgrading system, camera control and visual clarity have all been improved, which is fantastic.
Fatal Frame 2 is by no means a bad games. It's a lot of fun, looks great and will definitely engage you until the end. It just suffers from a feeling of staggering from one location to the next clumsily until sort of figuring out what to do next. Then there's the fact that it will only really make you jump a couple of times, other than that it is quite tame.