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Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The Project Zero series has quite the cult status in Western territories, with its three mainlines games still rated highly amongst gamers even today thanks to their smart use of horror antics mixed with exploration and haunting storytelling. Whilst Nintendo and Tecmo Koei could not agree on fixing the bugs found in the fourth Project Zero on Wii, meaning never saw its planned localised release, the two companies have joined forces for not only the recently released thriller Project Zero 2: Wii Edition, but an intriguing Nintendo 3DS spin-off that uses the external cameras for some chilling Augmented Reality scares. The 3DS becomes the Camera Obscura and the world is filled with apparitions intent on bringing death upon players in Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir.

Initially, many will look at Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir and see nothing more than a glorified take on Face Raiders, the free title included with the Nintendo 3DS hardware. However, despite this preconceived notion and the seemingly barebones introductory screen offering three options that goes towards supporting that train of thought, there is plenty of depth to be found within. There is Project Zero: The Purple Diary, the main story mode; Spirit Camera, a collection of games that make use of all the 3DS cameras; and Cursed Pages, which uses the two external cameras and the special ‘AR’ book included for some mini-game antics.

Impressively, the full game included, Project Zero: The Purple Diary, follows perfectly in the footsteps of its home console predecessors, telling the tale of a young girl named Maya, who is trapped due to an evil curse. It is up to the player, with the use of the in-built 3D cameras and augmented reality system, plus the handy 16-page ‘Purple Diary’ that comes included upon purchase of the game, to help her out. Whereas in the mainline entries, the action takes place in a third-person viewpoint, with the Camera Obscura -- the device that is used to ward off the advances of evil spirits -- being picked up and used as an ancillary device, here the Nintendo 3DS itself is the useful tool for subduing ghosts, and the player is sucked into the thrilling mystery from the offset.

Screenshot for Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

One day an unmarked package turns up, and inside is the subject of urban myths from over the years; the infamous Purple Diary. Legend tells of its curse, its gruesome pages filled with deeply disturbing imagery and nonsensical scrawl, and the very first page that appears blank, yet actually shows messages to only a handful of unlucky souls. Upon reading the mystical text, a portal draws people into its twisted depths, only to leave bodies to eventually be found with their faces ripped off. In this instance, the Camera Obscura by the player’s side emits a strange noise, almost as if reacting to the diary, and when inspecting matters further, all manner of devilish action ensues.

The Camera Obscura is the only hope of escaping the curse of the journal, and after encountering Maya, a young girl seemingly trapped within its confines, so begins an journey of exploration, scouring the pages for clues as to what happened and hurriedly looking for how to break the spell. Throughout, Maya appears in the ‘real world,’ requiring the 3DS to be physically moved around to talk to her, almost as if she was indeed stood next to the person playing. Along the way, the external 3DS camera’s are used to interact with the Purple Diary in numerous ways, making use of special lenses en-route that bring about a variety of effects (clearing purple smoke, removing darkness, and a few others that will not be spoiled here!). The diary itself needs to be manipulated at times in order to solve puzzles to help unravel the mystery at hand and shed light on the secrets buried deep inside.

Screenshot for Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Project Zero: The Purple Diary involves more than just games, riddles and plenty of storyline unfolding, with numerous battle encounters also on the menu. This is where Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir encourages gamers to actually get up out of their seat and feel as if they are a true part of the experience. Ensuring there is sufficient room in the general vicinity is a must because it honestly becomes really engaging, having to move the system in all directions (3D is automatically turned off in these instances to avoid blurring issues) in order to locate spirits ready and waiting to attack; tripping over a table or chair leg is likely if not careful! Once a spirit is found, it is a case of trying to keep them in sight of the camera’s Capture Circle, waiting for its Spirit Power to slowly charge up. Take a snapshot too quickly and only minor damage will be dealt, but wait too long for it to reach its limit and there is a chance of failure as the spirit may strike first. The trick to dealing the most damage to malevolent forces is to wait until the outer perimeter of the Capture Circle turns red, since this is when an attack is about to be made. Not only will this ‘Shutter Chance’ mean the phantom’s attempt get blocked, but it will be knocked back with a strong ‘sealing’ blow. The tension levels during battles rise considerably, and the general mix between slow, story updates, asking Maya questions to attain a better understanding of proceedings, and the hectic and intense battles makes for a grand adventure indeed. Accompanied by strong visuals that are on par with past Project Zero iterations, a truly creepy soundtrack, and some very impressive voice work (Japanese voices also included as a bonus!), the story mode alone makes Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir an intriguing prospect for those looking for an alternative take on the usual horror fare.

After completing the main story, unlocking the extra mode and beating that to receive the full explanation behind the mystery, though, there is still more to find in Tecmo Koei’s Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. Spirit Camera may only be a small aside, with three modes on offer -- Spirit Photography, Spirit Check, and Spirit Challenge -- but it still proves to be an enjoyable affair. The first is merely a case of photographing anyone or anything only to find that afterwards something other-worldly was present and only picked up by the camera. The oft-disturbing results are then stored in the Nintendo 3DS Camera application for your viewing pleasure. Spirit Check is almost like a daily horoscope, with your personal image being captured and transferred to the Purple Diary AR Book on the table/desk/PC screen (Nintendo does allow for the AR Book to be downloaded in PDF format) before offering some comments about any spirits plaguing said person and even offering advice on a daily basis. Spirit Challenge is the most interesting, since it involves battling against ghosts projected into the room you are currently playing in thanks to the Augmented Reality 3DS feature. Simply grab an image of someone and the game attributes Attack Power, Speed and Health to them, before transplanting the picture onto a spooky figure intent on mauling the player!

Screenshot for Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Finally, there is Cursed Pages, which is four different mini-games that make use of the AR technology in different ways, mixing in some motion controls for good measure, with each game opening up progressively upon completion of the previous. Four Strange Masks focuses on one of the AR Book’s pages and the aim is to watch what each of the pairs of eyes that appear on each mask do and then answer the questions that pop up. The Haunted Doll has a particular style of eerie doll appear on the relevant page, before several of the sinister spirit-filled toys appear before your very eyes around the room currently resided in, with the aim being to move the 3DS around to find the exact match before snapping it to abolish the evil inside. The Boy in the Book is a form of hide-and-seek, except here he hides within the confines of the book and provides obscure clues as to which page he is residing. Saving the best for last, there is Spirit House, which uses the superb 360-degree motion capabilities of the 3DS to allow players to view their full surroundings as the on-rails camera slowly moves along an abode plagued by apparitions; snap them quickly for success. All four are broken down into progressively more difficult stages, with an ‘Endless’ mode to finish off, and are surprisingly engaging considering how basic they initially sound.

Screenshot for Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The mixture of Augmented Reality and motion controls present a truly immersive adventure with exploration in a 360-degree field, not only in the room players are in, but being able to view all around the in-game areas. Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir may be criticised for being a ‘test’ product, but it proves to be a fantastic new approach to a much-loved series, and bodes well for future 3DS experimentations.

Graphics

Whilst there is not much to Spirit Camera, the visuals within are on par with the previous Project Zero games, including the recent Wii remake of the second entry, providing a suitably eerie atmosphere throughout.

Sound

Haunting all the way, the soundtrack adds to the overall ambience perfectly, and is matched by some highly impressive voice work in either English or Japanese.

Value

Although not as meaty as other 3DS experiences, this is by no means a throwaway product, and unlocking all of the mini-game options, as well as completing the engrossing story mode more than once to open up everything will ensure more than enough enjoyment is garnered from The Cursed Memoir.

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Many may bemoan the fact that Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is a bite-sized gimmick of an adventure, but it stays true to the Project Zero series, mixing in some intriguing new gameplay techniques, and has plenty of depth for those that bother to scratch away the surface and delve deeper. The highly successful integration of both Augmented Reality aspects and gyroscopic movement opens up endless possibilities for developers in the future.

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08.07.2012

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Also known as

Shinrei Camera: Tsuiteru Techou

Developer

Tecmo Koei

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  2/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Rob64 (guest) 08.07.2012 14:01#1

I liked the AR Games and Face Raiders, but they were free. How short is this?

Interested, but still unsure. Good review, though. Makes me tempted!

Jake (guest) 08.07.2012 16:46#2

Doesn't this link to the Wii game? PZ2?

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Rob64 - I got a good four hours out of the main story mode, then played for a couple of hours more on the mini-games before going back to play the extra modes that opened after the story had been completed, before tackling the harder story mode that fills in the full story.

10 hours seems reasonable for someone not desperately rushing to finish it. Not amazingly long, but nowhere near as bad as some sites make out.

Jake - yes, there is a link, but I've not been able to try it. This is from Siliconera:

After you complete Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir you can point the 3DS at the AR marker on the back of the Project Zero 2: Wii Edition instruction manual to unlock extra content.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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