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Review | Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen (Wii)

Review | Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen (Wii)

by September 29, 2014 0 comments


Cubed3 explores the beautifully tragic and harrowing import, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen- also known as Fatal Frame 4 or Project Zero 4.

The Zero games have always been in the upper echelons of survival-horror, along with the likes of the (early) Silent Hill, Siren and Clock Tower franchises. Melancholic but never melodramatic, these types of survival-horror have a strong understanding of human emotion and psychology. Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen shakes the heart, but is it a cathartic experience that is also a great game?


It is the 1970s on Rogetsu Isle; a serial killer kidnaps five young girls from their rooms in a sanatorium. Detective, Choshiro Kirishma, who was on the case, rescues the girls but only to discover they are all stricken with Getsuyuu Syndrome which symptoms include amnesia. Flash-forward about 10 years later, two of the rescued girls have died by causes unknown. Ruka, Madoka and Misaki, the three remaining girls band together and return to Rogetsu Isle to attempt to figure out their lost memories and uncover the truth behind their kidnapping.  During the course of the story, the player will assume the roles of four characters: Ruka- the main character and hero, Misaki- strong willed tomboy, Madoka- reserved and timid shy-girl and Choshiro the detective.


Each character has their own unique means to fend off the spirits as well as abilities that can be upgraded via crystals that can be found by keen observers or those willing to back track. Abilities ranging from special attacks that affect spirits in different ways, like a slow-mo or a super powerful attack just name a few. Some passive abilities can be acquired too, like the ability to see hidden ghosts or a dodge function. The resource management that requires players to weigh their options is crucial fro survival in Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen.

Often the user will have to make a choice about how they spend their crystals while keeping in mind they have multiple characters to manage. If it isn’t crystals that are being managed, it is the limited about of quality film that the camera obscura uses to exorcise the spirits. There will always be the very low powered infinite low grade film so as not to make the game unwinnable, but savvy player will know when to use the more powerful yet limited film making for an ebb and flow style of game play.

Another layer of depth in Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen is the scoring system when actually encountering aggressive sprits. Depending on the type of shot the player snaps which is measured by a large variety of factors (proximity, angle, film used, etc) the shot will be rated and the player is awarded points. These points can be used at save points to purchase more healing items, more film and other resources. It should be noted that the higher the difficulty, the fewer options that will be available in the shop. The points earned have another purpose, which is used in new game plus. Costumes and new camera power-ups and abilities become available so long as the player can afford to purchase these features with the earned points the player has accumulated by the end of the game. Some costumes include some sexy schoolgirl outfits, kimonos, a Luigi costume or Samus’ Zero Suit.


The graphics displayed in Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen are quite breath taking. Makoto Shibata’s team at Koei Tecmo and Suda Goichi’s team at Grasshopper Manufacture get the most out of the Nintendo Wii’s architecture, painting a very somber and foreboding atmosphere. The locations explored are vast and detailed, not a single wasted space and each room with a story to tell. The girls are beautifully rendered, supple and delicate with not a single erroneous pixel or polygon.

Extra attention should be noted to how flawless the character animation is- each character has very distinct personality and is finely expressed by their body language and subtle motions, proving that the best animation wont come from motion capture, but is crafted by passionate animators. Details like when Ruka clutches her chest in uncertain fear as the player guides her onward really stand out and truly do make it easy for the player to make an emotional connection with the character. The design of the spirits have remained consistent through out the series and Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen is no exception. The ghosts are emotionally charged forces of nature filled with anguish and rage, tortured even. Each spirit is distinct and unique with an elaborate back-story and even has their own strategies in battle.

For all Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen grace and macabre beauty, it is very obviously not quite fully bug tested. Technical issues include a ghost list that which cannot be completed due to some bugs in the code, which is tragic for any one who wishes to complete the game 100% and unlock everything. Some unfortunate players may even encounter a game breaking bug, and it must be stressed that anyone who imports Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen, they really must read up on some of the bugs and glitches in this game. Aside from the myriad of technical issues, the game does have a few comically long load times when characters open doors. During a few intense moments of being chased, the door opening load times can take around 7-10 seconds while they slowly open the door while being pursued by a very powerful and invincible spirit.

A major contention with Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen is the lack of control options. This is especially perplexing since Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition has almost an identical control set-up with one distinction that holds the game back from being a masterpiece- the motion control does not use the IR pointer but instead uses the Wii controller gyroscope. Why limit the player to use just the gyroscopic controls only? Not only is the gyroscopic camera aiming inaccurate, but it also forces the player to maintain a steady arm at all times in order to maintain a stead view. The experience becomes physically exhausting and it is recommended to play with a means to prop an arm up while playing.


Check out the Score


 Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen plays like a classic survival-horror should. Intricate level design, resource management, puzzles and intimidating enemies compounded by a melancholic story, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen would be triumph in the genre had Koei Tecmo fixed the various bugs and glitches. The gyroscopic camera system is the only control option disappointingly, but the game is still highly enjoyable despite it. Hopefully Koei Tecmo will implement more than just one control option and it doesn’t require the player to have an arm with the steadiness of a brain surgeon.


One of the best looking games on the Wii. Easily on par with Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen has a very palpable atmosphere with some very haunting visuals and unnerving environments. Koei Tecmo and Grasshopper Manufacturer should be commended for their artistry in character modeling and animation using the Wii hardware to its fullest.


Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen has a very specific flavor to its sound design. The sound effects all have an antique like quality about them. The shutter sound and wailing and moaning of wind breezing through the halls have a very natural feel to it. The soundtrack is quite memorable and has a particular motif that will haunt the player’s mind long after they play the game. The motif goes through several different emotional beats and never gets repetitive or tiring, always hypnotic.


Despite the technical issues and bugs, despite the cost of importing and struggle of region lock bypassing- Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen is a worthy game of recommendation. A surprisingly long story that lasts between 15-20 hours long, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen extends beyond the first play through with a very robust amount of post-game content to be unlock in new game plus. Lots of power-ups and upgrades to unlock and a lot of costumes, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen will keep you playing for a long time.

Final Score


Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen comes highly recommended despite its technical short comings. It is very rare when the industry delivers a product that is such a labor of love, and the artists and engineers who passionately put so much effort into a game like this should have their work be played by people. The most tragic part of Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen’s story, is that so few will know its splendor. Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen flaws while are serious issues, the artist’s intent is so strong and profound, it is easy to overlook the qualities that hold this game back. A dark and cruel story offset by human emotion and characters that the player will connect to- all built on what many consider to be inferior hardware, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen holds its own with its contemporaries of today. Substantial gameplay with a charged story is becoming a rarity and too often modern games will rely on style over substance- Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen balances the yin and yang of both. For a die hard survival-horror enthusiast, Zero:Tsukihami no Kamen is a must.

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