Project Zero: Maiden Of Black Wa­ter

Pub­lisher Nin­tendo De­vel­oper In-house (SPD), Koei Tecmo For­mat Wii U Re­lease Oc­to­ber 30


Wii U

Amid the swirl of bleak ideas ex­plored by this un­usu­ally thought­ful hor­ror se­quel, the one that per­haps res­onates longest in­volves a folk­lorist posit­ing the no­tion of the cam­era as a “lonely box”. Does that lone­li­ness be­long to the sub­ject, iso­lated within the frame, or to the pho­tog­ra­pher, look­ing through the viewfinder as if gaz­ing into the void? Maybe it’s both.

Koei Tecmo’s se­ries has al­ways sought to scare play­ers by invit­ing them to get un­set­tlingly close to its ghostly sub­jects. And in us­ing Wii U’s GamePad to frame shots for its spirit-ban­ish­ing Cam­era Ob­scura, it has the per­fect con­duit to dis­com­fit still fur­ther. You hold the con­troller in front of your face as tor­tured spir­its lurch out of the dark­ness, spec­tral fin­gers grasp­ing at you. Some spin in an el­e­gant dance of death; some jerk and twitch, per­pet­u­ally dan­gling from an in­vis­i­ble noose; oth­ers crawl and lurch, des­per­ately scrab­bling for one last hu­man con­tact be­fore their light is ex­tin­guished. And yet you wait for them to ap­proach, know­ing that an ex­treme close-up is the quick­est – most mer­ci­ful – way to put them out of their mis­ery.

Tilt­ing the con­troller of­fers a chance to deal more dam­age through full-body shots, while other ghosts re­lease frag­ments that must be snapped to pre­vent a re­gen­er­a­tion. In­evitably, the game’s first half is more frightening, but en­coun­ters re­tain in­ten­sity through­out.

While an episodic story oc­ca­sion­ally strug­gles to con­trive mo­ti­va­tions for the three playable leads to re­turn to the game’s moun­tain­ous set­ting af­ter dark, this net­work of or­nate shrines, tun­nels and di­lap­i­dated build­ings is home to some ex­cep­tional set-pieces. There’s a truly dis­qui­et­ing mo­ment when pro­tag­o­nist Yu­uri stum­bles into a for­est of dan­gling ef­fi­gies, a dis­turb­ing im­age even be­fore you con­sider the story’s ties to the Sea Of Trees, Ja­pan’s in­fa­mous sui­cide spot. Later, a bravura first­per­son se­quence high­lights the uni­ver­sal para­dox of hor­ror: the ir­re­sistible force of the de­sire to know meet­ing the im­mov­able ob­ject that is the re­luc­tance to find out. If many of its peers ex­plore the fear of the un­known, Maiden Of Black Wa­ter taps into the ter­ror of the in­evitable and the un­avoid­able.

Some will doubt the mer­its of a guid­ing spirit, who will lead you to your des­ti­na­tion with a squeeze of the trig­ger, yet it’s the­mat­i­cally ap­po­site. Th­ese char­ac­ters are, af­ter all, ir­re­sistibly drawn to­wards the dark­ness, whether it’s a mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion with the de­ceased, or the deep, lin­ger­ing me­lan­cho­lia of (pos­si­bly sui­ci­dal) de­pres­sion. Like­wise sat­u­rated in sor­row, Maiden may be too gru­elling for some – this is a po­tent and up­set­ting work that leaves a deep im­pres­sion, spread­ing and dark­en­ing like a bruise.

Koei Tecmo’s mo­tives for the ‘wet­ness’ me­chanic (when damp, your defence is low­ered, but your shots deal more dam­age) may not be all that pure. Plenty of at­ten­tion is paid to how flimsy cloth­ing can look when sat­u­rated

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