Two Crimson Butterflies

Halloween! Horror! Hauntings! Ghosts? Darn, I broke my streak. While I’m busy with a project of my own (notthing thhat hasn’t been done before, I’m afraid, but you still need to give back to the gaming community once in a while), I thought this would be a good chance to revisit Project Zero 2, or Fatal Frame 2, as they know it on the other side of the world.

I have both the Xbox and PS2 versions. It would be easy to say the Xbox version superior: after all, it’s on a more powerful console. Right? Not so fast! Inspired by this Digital Foundry video about Silent Hill 2, I decided to actually check if there were any differences between the two versions. Turns out, there are quite a few, but it’s not as easy as saying that one version is superior.

PS2 on top, Xbox on bottom:

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The most noticeable thing is how dark the PS2 version looks, whereas the Xbox version went for a far lighter gamma. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches: while the darker PS2 image looks more atmospheric, it also loses some of the fine enviroment details. A lot of care went into the details in this game, and on the Xbox you get to appreciate them more easily.

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The Xbox version also looks sharper, especially when played on a 360 (which emulates the game well, fortunately). On a side note, look at the above screenshots: the pillars on PS2 have self-shadows to make them look less flat than the Xbox one. However, this doesn’t happen anywhere else that I’ve tried.

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The lighting is improved on Xbox, although the result can occasionally be weird – why would Mio and Mayu look so bright here?

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These two pictures, however, better show the improvements on Xbox: the candle lights the hallway and creates a far better contrast in comparison to the flatter PS2 approach.

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A long time ago, I mentioned how Project Zero 3 had fake real-time lighting. It was present here too, and still looks very fake. On Xbox, however, you get a few more shadows on enviroment objects. They still don’t move when you move your torch, but at least they are there.

There are other differences of course: the audio on PS2 sounds louder and clearer, though it lacks surroud support. The Xbox version has many more extras, of course, which never made it to the PS2. And yes, there’s the fabulous FPS mode, which is more interesting than it sounds.

So, instead of a straight port, we got two quite different versions. I prefer the Xbox one, but it’s up to tastes. The PS2 one certainly is moodier, owning to the darker enviroments and lower lighting. But Project Zero 2 was never an especially scary game (compared to PZ1/3 in particular), so I don’t think it’s as important.

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