As opposed to my previous Wii U Game of the Month, this one was actually delivered two days before its actual release date. I’ve spent a little time with it, and it’s definitely a game that was well suited for Hallowe’en.
I was able to pre-order a limited edition physical version of this particular game – something that was exclusive to Europe.
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water has the honour of being my pick for my Wii U Game of the Month for November this year. It is the penultimate Game of the Month for Wii U, and it seems that the last one is set to be a Limited Edition, too…
Anyway, back on topic. Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is set on Mt. Hikami, a notorious suicide hotspot. Over the course of the game, you take control of three different characters who explore the mysterious mountain.
In the prologue, you control Miu Hinasaki who wakes up to find that she has been ‘spirited away’. She explores for a bit, but has an otherworldy encounter – the prologue ends with her disappearance.
The two other characters you control are Yuri Kozukata and Ren Hojo.
Yuri’s first trip up the mountain is with Hisoka Kurosawa to find some Postmortem Photos at the request of Ren. She later takes on a missing persons case, despite being told not to so by Hisoka. Turns out people disappearing on Mt. Hikami is quite common…
Ren himself also ventures up the mountain, with his assistant Rui Kagamiya.
Being a suicide hotspot, Mt. Hikami is haunted by the spirits of those that have died there. Many of them are malevolent and seek to do harm to the protagonists.
However, the protagonists can defend themselves with the Camera Obscura. By taking pictures of the spirits, it is possible to exorcise them.
The GamePad serves as the Camera Obscura in this game, and it works well. There’s different types of film to use, with each one doing a different amount of damage to ghosts. You can also find several different lenses scattered throughout the game, which can do things such as stun ghosts or restore your health based on damage dealt.
When taking pictures of ghosts, if you wait for them to launch an attack and take the photo at the last second (when the capture area turns red) you get a ‘Fatal Frame’ (which is also the name of the series in America). This allows you to snap several pictures in quick succession, dealing hefty damage to your incorporeal adversaries – usually you’d have to wait between each picture for the film to load.
If there are five or more photo targets on screen, the capture area will turn red and you can take a photo for a ‘Shutter Chance’, which deals a lot of damage and drives the ghost away.
There are several items scattered throughout Mt. Hikami just waiting for you to pick them up. These could be medicinal herbs, different types of film or even crumpled notes. However, it sometimes might not be as simple as just picking up the item – there are occasions when a ghostly hand will reach out to grab you and you have to shake it off if you are unable to dodge it in time. Definitely leads to a sense of paranoia about picking up items.
Of course, Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is a horror game, and it pulls of the atmosphere so incredibly well. It doesn’t rely on jumpscares – there’s maybe a couple in there, but ultimately it’s the potential of encountering a ghost (or several) that works so well.
Adding to that is the theme of water – well, it is in the game’s title. Several places on Mt. Hikami have been flooded, and you need to trudge through that water to progress. The thing is, the wetter you get, the more likely you are to encounter ghosts.
There is a Wetness Gauge which can be filled as various things such as being grabbed by drowned ghosts. If the Wetness Gauge fills up you, you’ll take more damage from attacks, but in return you will deal more damage and absorb more Spirit Power.
If you Wetness Gauge turns red, you have been tainted – you take continuous damage, but the damage you take and deal out, as well as the Spirit Power you absorb, increases even more.
By building up Spirit Power, you can use the lenses with special effects that were mentioned earlier.
The Camera Obscura can also be used for Shadow Reading – some objects are hidden from plain sight. The Camera Obscura reacts to such objects, and by taking a photograph of the item at the correct angle you will reveal it.
Taking photos of ghosts will earn you points, which count towards your score and rank at the end of an episode. These points can also be used to upgrade the Camera Obscura, which does things such increasing damage or decreasing loading time.
There are several different costumes and accessories to unlock for the three playable characters, and this is where some controversy arises. In the Japanese version, Yuri and Miu get lingerie and a bikini to wear – it seems that these have been replaced by Zero Suit Samus and Princess Zelda outfits in both European and American releases.
I saw at least one European review mentioning that some unlockable costumes are risque, but I can’t really say much on the situation until I’ve unlocked everything myself. Still, I didn’t buy the game for some costumes – I bought it because I wanted to experience the Project Zero series, and I have to say I’m really enjoying what I have played so far.
If you’re a horror fan, then I highly recommend Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water – though it does mean investing in an external hard drive for the Wii U if you want the digital version. At the time of writing, it seems that the UK Nintendo store has managed to get more stock of the limited edition – though whether that will be in stock for long, I couldn’t say. If you’re outside of Europe or Japan, though, well, it’s digital or nothing.
Anyway, Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water nails the atmosphere and is a welcome addition to my library, even with this costume controversy.