Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse | Review

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse | Review

Project Zero

My relationship with the Project Zero franchise is very unique indeed, as is the way the series has been revived over the years. The first contact was now more than 15 years ago, when my father was playing one of the very first chapters on PS2, and I will never forget how terrified I was by the unique scenes that, even today, characterize the most recent Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse .

"Recent" so to speak, because the work that I had the opportunity to try is nothing more than a remaster of the original chapter released exclusively on Nintendo Wii. What we have before us, however, is not a reissue that manages to shine for the technical sector and for the remastering operation. On the contrary, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse presents itself both in its peculiar beauty and in rather evident defects.


Return to the island of Rogetsu

But let's take a step back and understand the context in which the work is positioned. Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, the fourth installment in the series, was originally released in 2008 on the Wii to mixed reviews from the press. The title, published by Koei Tecmo and Nintendo, and developed by Grasshopper Manufacture (the studio behind No More Heroes), told the story of three female protagonists, who travel to an apparently cursed island to investigate the death of two other girls. In the past, the five had been kidnapped by a man and taken to a cave, and the legacy of a forever marked youth is what drives the survivors to shed light on what happened.

Thus the player is immersed in the characteristic setting of the Project Zero series - "Fatal Frame" in the rest of the world - made up of environments and situations that wonderfully refer to Japanese folklore. The work, which is to all intents and purposes a third-person adventure with an action touch, has always stood out for the type of horror it offers, decidedly different from many other titles released on the market to date. The horror of Project Zero exudes the traditionalism of the rising sun in every aspect, from the general art direction to the sound system. It goes without saying that all fans of the genre could literally fall in love with what is, without a doubt, one of the most peculiar horror games ever.


In fact, I believe that the setting is the most successful element of Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, which still manages to distinguish it today as if by magic. The gloomy atmospheres, the animated scenes with ad-hoc camera movements, the sounds and the apparitions of ghosts never feel the weight of the years but, on the contrary, manage to convince in their art that they are unique and distinctive.

The weight of traditionality

On the other hand, the whole play system appears more dated, which is excessively slow from almost every point of view. The movements of the protagonists are often difficult to manage, as well as being woody like few others seen in the past, even more than the most modern chapter of the series, Maiden of Black Water. This undeniable shortcoming becomes even more evident if we consider the backtracking element, since moving from one part of the map to another is almost always a tedious and, unfortunately, boring process .

--> Similar speech for what we can consider the combat system: in the Project Zero series, in fact, the protagonists can drive away the ghosts using an occult camera, the Camera Obscura. There have been different reworkings of the mechanics over the years and almost always the most successful were those for Nintendo consoles, respectively of Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and the aforementioned Maiden of Black Water. This is because, trivially, the two titles exploited the movement controls of the Wii Remote and the Wii U GamePad, making the experience less static and more immersive than one might think.

The remastering of Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse inevitably required a rework of the controls, which now use the left analog stick. As slow as it may appear at times, I can say that aiming with such a scheme is almost always reliable and manageable, although I think more work should have been done in this regard. On Nintendo Switch it is also possible to use the motion controls, a function that allows you to get closer to the original experience and which, in hindsight, I really wanted to try. On the other hand, it's a shame you can't take advantage of the same functionality on PS4 and PS5 as well, since the controllers have gyroscopes.

A lazy remaster

Not to be However, the graphics sector has also aged well. On the one hand, the increase in resolution and frame rate is very evident, reaching 4K and 60 fps, which makes this edition of Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse the visually better one. On the other hand, on the contrary, many textures are often presented in their very poor quality, which weighs heavily on the overall experience with the work.

It should in fact be considered that one of the elements that distinguish the franchise – especially Mask of the Lunar Eclipse – are the cramped and dull environments, which therefore keep the camera almost always close to walls or other objects. If we also take into account the fact that the view switches to first person when we fight ghosts with the Camera Obscura, it becomes more evident how much the presence of low-resolution textures affects the general visual system.

I think, however, that a good job has been done with the general lighting system, as well as ambient occlusion. I don't feel like negatively criticizing the graphics sector only on the basis of the textures because, on balance, it has more merits than defects if we consider that we are dealing with a remaster. It remains undeniable that more could have been done, especially on PC, to make this Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse a little less dated (and not "more modern").

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