Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water was originally released for the Nintendo Wii U in 2015 and was the fifth main instalment in Tecmo Koei’s supernatural horror. The Project Zero series is one that I think very fondly of, and I have played all four main entries prior to Maiden of Black Water. Well, apart from the game that was released for the Wii in 2011. Simply because I never owned a Wii (come at me).

The premise of Project Zero sounds like something that should not work. Your main weapon is a camera called Camera Obscura. It’s a concept that was enough to put many off back in the day without a second thought of giving this spooky series a chance. Though I suppose the concept of trapping ghosts using proton beans is always an exciting thought. But that’s not Project Zero, this can be a very visceral horror experience.

Considering the fact that the original three games were released for consoles without built-in motion controls, we had to make do with traditional analogue sticks, and that was fine. Granted, the Wii version did have motion controls, but it wasn’t until Maiden of Black Water arrived for the Wii U in 2015 that it was a perfect fit for the console’s tablet device. I should have been so excited to play this horror game using the Wii U tablet as the actual Camera Obscura, right? Well, for some reason I wasn’t. No matter how hard I wanted, I just could not warm to Maiden of Black Water. And that has haunted me to this very day.

fatal frame maiden of black water

Credit: Tecmo Koei

Thankfully, like a resurrection from a swamp on Hikami Mountain, I have been granted that second chance with a remaster of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water for modern consoles. So, has my experience changed this time around, despite this essentially being the same game as it was in 2015? I can safely say, like having back-up from the Ghostbusters, that yes, my thoughts on Maiden of Black Water have changed and I am so happy to say that.

Right, let’s quickly gloss over the story before moving on to the more technical details. However, before I move on to the story, I must warn you that its premise centres on the concept of suicide. So, please be aware of this before playing Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water.

Now, I don’t want to give anything away here, because for me personally, to enjoy a good horror story, the emphasis relies heavily on the element of surprise. That being said, Maiden of Black Water takes place in the fictional location of Hikami Mountain. Home of a once vibrant community before tragedy reared its ugly head and this once peaceful place became a hotspot for suicide.

fatal frame maiden of black water

Credit: Tecmo Koei

The story follows three main protagonists, each with their own tales to tell, but will eventually entwine with one another. Miu Hinasaki, the daughter of well-known series protagonist Miku Hinasaki. Yuri Kozukata, who can contact the dead. Finally, an author by the name of Ren Hojo, who is authoring a book based upon his research of Hikami Mountain. Ren also just so happens to be a friend of Yuri.

Now let’s get on to the gameplay details. As I already touched upon, Maiden of Black Water will be combat free. After all, it’s not like you can punch a ghost in the face. The only way to ‘combat’ ghosts is by using the Camera Obscura. The player must accurately take photos of the ghosts in the hope that they will be pushed back. As you progress in the game, ghosts will become stronger, and you will need to load up your camera with stronger film.

I know if you’re already this and you’ve never played a Project Zero game before, it might sound kind of lame. But trust me, it works ever so well and proton packs aside, it’s a highly effective way to experience the spooky tales of the Project Zero series. It keeps things more grounded, more visceral, and ultimately, scarier. It doesn’t matter if it’s a video game, a movie, TV series or a novel. The horror genre will also be my favourite. However, I am not one to get truly scared by monsters or gore on the TV.

fatal frame maiden of black water

Credit: Tecmo Koei

The only time when I feel genuinely unnerved is when it involves supernatural spirits. I don’t know what it is, perhaps it just feels more real to me. So, when I first played the original Project Zero for the PS2 in 2002, it scared the crap out of me. In fact, from what I can remember, it was the only game (as well as the two following sequels) to make the hairs stand on the back of my neck. Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is no exception. It’s a horror series like no other, and if you play this game at night, in the dark and with a headset, you’re in for a hair tingling treat.

Speaking on a headset, the audio design in Maiden of Black Water is fantastic. From the eerie soundtrack, the creeks of a haunted mansion, the whistles of the trees in the darkened mountain, not to mention the groans of the spirits that lurk within the walls. The sound design really is something to be proud of and even if there is nothing insight, you’ll often have that sensation that you are being watched from afar or perhaps from right behind you right now.

In terms of visuals, Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water has aged rather well. Granted, it was only released about 7 years ago. But Tecmo Koei is a developer that often takes a lot of pride in how a game looks. Just take a look at Dead or Alive games that are a decade old, they still look quite good today. So, it should come as no surprise that Maiden of Black Water still holds up well, especially with the improved resolution on modern consoles. Among the visual and gameplay tweaks, this remaster also has a quite impressive new Photo Mode to play around with, which is a perfect fit for a series like Project Zero.

I must also mention that I have had the benefit of playing Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water on both PS5 and Nintendo Switch. It doesn’t matter which version you play, both games look and play great, not to mention the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up regardless. However, much like the Wii U tablet, the Switch offers the best way to experience Maiden of Black Water in my opinion. Playing handheld with the built-in motion controls, the Switch tablet effectively becomes the Camera Obscura. It might feel a little fiddly, to begin with as you frantically manoeuvre your hands to snap pics of ghosts, but once you get used to it, this might end up being your favourite way to experience Maiden of Black Water.

To conclude, I have always been disappointed with myself that I have given Maiden of Black Water a fair chance on the Wii U. I’m not really sure why, perhaps I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time. However, I am so glad that this fantastic horror title has been granted its second chance by Tecmo Koei and I hope that my fellow gamers take this opportunity to play one of the spookiest games you will ever likely encounter. Is this game perfect? No, but it’s no less a memorable experience. If you love horror, especially of the supernatural variety, you owe Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water the chance to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

  • If you or anyone you know may have been impacted by suicide, Safe in Our World is a charity that provides information to any help that you might need.