The longer I run this site, the more it becomes clear that immediate, embargoed, day-one reviews of video games haven’t been doing a lot of titles justice for a very long time now — right back to the PlayStation 2 era at the very least, and probably beyond.
The trouble is, thanks to the Metacritic-fuelled world we live in, if a game scores poorly in those initial reviews, in most cases it is doomed to languish in obscurity, even if there are interesting things to say about it. There are occasional outliers — the wonderful Nieris probably the best example — but for every game that manages to claw its way out of the darkness to get some degree of recognition, there are myriad others destined to be forgotten.
Which brings us to Quantum Theory, a third-person shooter developed by the people behind the Project Zeroseries. Almost universally panned by Western reviewers on its original release in 2010, this is not a game that anyone looks back on particularly fondly — or at all, in most cases. But I thought it sounded interesting. And you know what? It is. Let’s take a closer look.
What might it look like if the creative minds behind the masterful Project Zero series of ghost-hunting survival horror games made a third-person shooter?
A lot like Quantum Theory, as it happens! Released in 2010 as the work of Project Zero creator Makoto Shibata and Koei Tecmo’s Team Tachyon development department, Quantum Theory was not well received by press or public alike. Checking it out ten years later, though, it turns out there’s a lot of interesting — and visually arresting — stuff to explore in this game.
And so it is that we come to the fourth installment in the Project Zero series: a game that never came West in an official capacity.
Known as Zero: Tsukihame no Kamen in its native Japan and Mask of the Lunar Eclipse in the West following an ambitious (and successful) fan-translation project, this fourth game represented a number of “firsts” for the series.
It was the first installment to not be exclusively developed by Tecmo. It was the first installment to leave the series’ original host platforms of PlayStation 2 and Xbox. And it was the first installment to make a number of mechanical shakeups to the basic Project Zero formula, which would become fixtures in subsequent releases. Let’s take a closer look.
How do you follow an impressively creepy horror game about ghosts in the Japanese tradition? With more of the same, but different and/or better, of course.
Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly began development shortly after its predecessor was completed, and eventually released for Japanese and North American PlayStation 2 players in late 2003, and for Europe the following April. This was then followed by an enhanced Xbox port, which released in Japan and North America in late 2004, with Europe once again bringing up the rear in February of 2005.
Interestingly, the game then got a complete remake for the Nintendo Wii in the summer of 2012; this released simultaneously in Japan, Australia and Europe, but skipped a North American release. It’s this latter version that we’re primarily concerned with today. But first, a bit of history…