Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water | PS5 Review
Updated: Nov 28, 2021
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is a single player survival-horror game developed and published by Koei Tecmo, and is a port from the Wii U which is now available on Windows PC, PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo Switch. For the purpose of my review I was playing the PlayStation 5 version. This remastered edition features all the original content from the Wii U version, including new cosmetics, a photo mode, and improved controls with a slight performance and visual upgrade.
The story of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is a long and sprawling piece of drama and mystery. There are three main characters - Yuri, Ren, and Miu - that you take control of throughout the various acts found within the game. The three stories converge together to uncover the story of some tragic deaths at Mount Hikami which was once worshipped as a sacred place. The ponds and lakes surrounding the mountain are believed to house spirits who help people travel from life into death. As a result of these religious teachings, people choose to come to Mount Hikami to seek death. As a trigger warning, I feel it’s very important for me to note that there are a lot of references to suicide throughout the game so if these topics are disturbing for you or triggering in any way; perhaps give Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water a miss.
The three characters that you play with have an ability known as shadow reading and also carry an item known as the Camera Obscura which is their main weapon throughout the game. This makes for a very interesting combat style where you essentially have to exorcise ghosts by taking photographs of them. This immediately had me intrigued and really gripped me simply for how unique it is. Instead of having guns and traditional weapons or being totally vulnerable and having to sneak past enemies, Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water really had a unique spin on the combat. During combat your aim is to do damage by taking photos of the ghosts and aiming to snap that vital fatal frame. As you progress there are various upgrades to the camera including different types of film and different lenses which allow you to do more damage or even regenerate health depending on how much damage you do.
For the most part, a lot of aspects of the gameplay felt quite clunky however I can imagine this was done to maintain the integrity of the Wii U version. I feel like a remaster should be taking the original gameplay and elevating it and even out any bugs that existed in the original. This would mean that existing fans of the game would be able to approach an old favourite with much smoother gameplay and newcomers. I fall into the category of newcomers to the series so I don’t exactly have any point of reference but I certainly struggled in some areas because the controls, particularly in combat were quite clunky and made the various areas quite stressful to navigate at times especially in narrow paths and tunnels. With this being a PlayStation 5 release I’d have liked to have seen some use of the adaptive triggers and the haptic feedback features of the DualSense controller - I feel like the combat would have felt far more immersive using these features.
I really enjoyed Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water at its core however I very quickly started to feel incredibly confused by the story and how everything connected. With the long playtime, it took a long time for the dots to connect and make sense, however the story is incredibly intricate and makes it feel worthwhile to stick with it and experience the whole thing. One thing I liked was that the game is broken up into separate episodic style levels that are usually anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour long so each level felt really well padded out and not too short or too rushed.
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is a game I would recommend to existing fans of the series as well as to new fans alike. Despite feeling slightly clunky in some areas, the game was really intriguing and had me gripped from the beginning. Aside from some of the story elements initially flying way over my head, I did end up managing to put the pieces together and understand how they all worked together. Koei Tecmo managed to maintain a certain air of mystery and suspense throughout the entire game and for the majority of it this tension just built continuously, always leaving me hungry to play more and see where exactly this sprawling narrative would go next.
Lj's Rating: 4 ghost portraits out of 5.
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Many thanks to Koei Tecmo for the Review Key.