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Project Zero Review: The Priestess of the Black Waters


The same year that a certain Silent Hill 2 – in 2001 therefore – released a new horror franchise on PS2: Project Zero (Fatal Frame in North America). A series developed by a studio unfamiliar with the genre, Koei Tecmo (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive), which has nevertheless settled in the hearts of players through five main opuses, with varying degrees of success. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary, Makoto Shibata, director of the license, and his teams wanted to (re) discover it with a remaster of the Wii U game. Project Zero: The Priestess of the Black Waters on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. A first step which, if successful, could lead to the validation of Project Zero 6.

Was Shibata-san right to rekindle the flame in this way? Is the Priestess of Black Waters the episode to remember for this exercise? We go back in time a bit with you, but from our PlayStation 5.

The mountain of sorrow

Project Zero test: The Priestess of the Black Waters

The prologue to the title sets the tone by making you witness the disappearance of a young woman, Miu Hinasaki, who wakes up totally confused and badly accompanied in a building perched on Mount Hikami, a mountain with a sinister reputation. The quiet hike or the more muscular treak are prohibited activities when the people who tread the paths of this place disappear without leaving a trace… or that some go there of their own accord to commit suicide. For the latter, going there is a bit like launching into a Souls, it’s accepting to die. The framework of the game will present itself quickly to newcomers: it will be a question of ladies with long black hair in The Ring / The Grudge style, or much worse for us, dead children who still keep screaming while running all around you.

A very good atmosphere due in large part to the cutscenes / visions that appear on occasion and serve the narration

All the Japanese folklore is present for a software which, despite its advanced age, can boast of having a very good atmosphere due in large part to the cutscenes / visions that appear on occasion and serve the narration. Aspect found footage, use of black and white or images ransacked by scratches and other voluntary technical glitches, The Priestess of the Black Waters knows how to be effective in these moments despite a too slow pace and therefore a too diluted story. But unfortunately, we also see two flaws: it’s much less impactful when you take control, and you will probably not be scared, because for once, the years are making themselves felt and the competition has taken off ([lobbying on]: Outlast, Face, I write your names[lobbying off]). The real times when you might have the hairs standing up very, very slightly, is possibly if you activate your camera for no reason and a specter pops up in front of you. As for the ghostly arms that try to nab you, it’s cute at the first meeting, afterwards, it’s mostly boring (even if it does not happen systematically) and it is not the only heaviness.

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The old demons still here

Project Zero test: The Priestess of the Black Waters

Project Zero: The Priestess of the Black Waters 2021 is a remaster, not a remake, with exercise limitations. As usual, we increase the resolution to do well, but given that we are starting with a Wii U software, which is not a basic standard, no miracle. Where many will certainly frown, roll their eyes, sigh or all three combined, and we won’t blame them, is in terms of gameplay and concerns of which one predominant: the totally crazy camera. Any action, almost, will be conducive to her packing up. Let the more sensitive prepare a bag just in case. The race, the movements of the characters, it doesn’t matter which one you play (there are several), are a challenge in themselves as handling is stiff, very stiff, and even stiffer than some older productions. A feat that we would have gladly done without, when we are always ready to defend old school gameplay. Just not there.

It does not get better when we stop on the mapping of the keys and the unfolding of the contextual actions (pick up an object, open a door). We will come back to this, but your mission is to capture entities on film forever. When one of them is on the ground, about to fade, you can touch it to access a video memory. Except that here, the assigned button is identical to the one which allows you to find your way thanks to the “traces of the past“(an ectoplasmic silhouette that indicates the right destination). And so, it happened to us, unwittingly, to activate this “gps”, while we were only looking to browse the vision of the fallen ghost to learn more. Frustrating. As for the contextual actions mentioned, the game is not a walk in the park, since for each open door or item picked up, the heroine or hero will take a long time to perform the gesture. Here again, the frequency of these things makes the whole thing difficult to digest and may get the better of your patience. A heaviness also valid at the level of the required round trips, numerous and badly done (in particular the fact of returning to the store of the protagonist between the chapters), which give the feeling of standing still, and therefore of s’ bother.

Project Zero test: The Priestess of the Black Waters

This remaster was also expected at the turn for its ability to get by by abandoning the gamepad … or almost. Indeed, three types of controls are available to you to take pictures with the Camera Obscura: the total gyroscope, the controls only with the stick, or even both at the same time. This last configuration can be interesting to adjust your aim at the very end via the movements. But don’t bother with the gyroscope alone, no need to aggravate your possible suffering. For the rest, things have not changed, but a little summary for those who are not used to it.

The totally crazy camera

As told, The Camera Obscura is your flagship tool for unlocking passages, spawning objects and hunting specters. Thanks to your pictures, you can mess them up to ward off them forever, knowing that your device has different purposes (to do more damage, strongly push back enemies …), evolutions (detect avoidable threats, display the energy of a ghost), and optimizations for the camera and its lenses (increased damage, attack distance, etc.) which, for their part, are conditioned on the points gained. Each saved photograph, as long as it has an interest, allocates you points affecting your end-of-chapter ranking, and your abilities since they allow you to perfect your stuff. It is the sinews of war and the backbone of soft, scoring, to the detriment of fear and a certain difficulty, the resources sown in the environments or purchasable being available in abundance. Novelties? A photo mode for beautiful creepy portraits, as well as outfits / accessories to keep your characters on top of fashion. Yeah.

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