Posted by: coolerbecky | July 1, 2009

Crimson Butterfly: A Lesson in Town Planning

Welcome to the second of the series of reviews of Fatal Frame. This time, we’ll be examining the relationship between creepy undead twins in Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly. Once again, this review is brought to you by Mr Larsen of Forwardslashawesome.

Have the villagers in this game learned nothing from the first game? Building your village over a pit full of eldrich abominations is an extremely bad idea! The upkeep is extremely steep (regular human sacrifices) and there are no physical benefits to doing so!

Fatal Frame Box ShotIn Crimson Butterfly, you step into the shoes of Mio Amakura and her older identical twin sister, Mayu. In a fit of nostalgia, the two girls have decided to visit one of their old childhood play areas, a forest which will soon be underwater due to the building of a nearby dam. While chatting about their childhood memories, Mayu suddenly starts following some strange red butterflies deeper into the forest. Concerned, Mio follows her sister and both girls end up trapped within the cursed All God’s Village.

While the first Fatal Frame game focuses on feelings of isolation and helplessness, Crimson Butterfly avoids this by having two living characters in the village, instead focusing on the intense wrongness of the situation that the girls find themselves in. It is made extremely clear from the very beginning of the game that the village and its undead inhabitants do not have the best of intentions towards the twins.

Crimson Butterfly is much creepier than Fatal Frame in some ways. While Fatal Frame is more or less outright scary, Crimson Butterfly boasts a smaller repertoire of unique ghosts but holds a more personal touch. The story is also a lot more artistic than that of the original Fatal Frame, with strong themes of obsession and madness apparent throughout the game. Many of the (now deceased) characters in the game have kept diaries, which provide a stronger background to the history of the village and its inhabitants. The things that some of those characters write… well!

There’s also the option of listening to the dying or current thoughts of the undead, but most of them are more or less thinking the same thing. They’re either complaining about how dark the village has become or they’re commenting on how much they screwed up the last sacrifice.

cuteundeadAs expected, graphics are much improved. The ghosts in the game have clearer and more expressive faces, which makes gameplay a little bit more disturbing since you can actually see the effects that Mio’s camera has on them. It’s fine if the horrifying ghost of a sliced up man reels backwards in pain, but it’s somehow heartbreaking if the same creature that’s attacking Mio is the ghost of a confused and helpless little girl who just can’t understand that her touch hurts people now.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that haven’t been handled well in Crimson Butterfly.

Firstly, gameplay is supposedly streamlined, but ends up extremely clumsy. Not only have controls changed drastically between the two games, the quick turn button, for example, is noticeably missing. The signature weapon of the series, the camera obscura, also has a habit of zooming in on various ghosts at inopportune times, then becoming extremely unresponsive, which makes aiming at the ghosts extremely difficult at best.

fatalframe2_16_resizeSecondly, the storyline of Crimson Butterfly, while frightening to some extent, is also completely ridiculous, culminating in a predictable and extremely irritating ending. If the intention was to creep players out by strongly suggesting that all twins have obsessive incestuous feelings towards each other, then the game has succeeded. The game also keeps telling you that the tragedy in the village is caused by Sae, a psychotic laughing ghost who was the ultimate unsuccessful sacrifice. While Mio gets chased all over the village by Sae, she never does actually fight this ultimate boss (unless you’re willing to go through the game a second time after completion just to get a satisfactory ending).

Crimson Butterfly, while still a pretty good game, does not quite stand up to its predecessor. It’s the kind of game that you’d play once, after which it’s to be relegated to the back of the cupboard, never to be seen again.

You can find out more about Crimson Butterfly at the fansite, Beyond the Camera’s Lens, located at http://www.cameraslens.com/. Alternatively, you can listen to Mr Larsen’s podcast at http://forwardslashawesome.com.

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