RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Oct 24th 2020 at 12:00:00 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under horror, capcom, playstation 2

When it comes to classic survival horror games, there is no other developer with the same pedigree as Capcom. They arguably invented the entire genre with the Famicom movie licensed game Sweet Home back in 1989. In 1995 Capcom would publish Clock Tower for the Super Famicom, with the series being developed by Human Entertainment. Its sequel, Clock Tower 2 would later be released internationally by ASCII; who would soon rebrand themselves as Agetec, as just Clock Tower. The international releases of the second and third Clock Towers followed the absolute explosion of the popularity of horror games, but would not be able to ride that wave themselves.

The following year Capcom took cues from Infogrames' 1993 release of Alone in the Dark to develop their survival horror classic Biohazard/Resident Evil. Both of these series would continue to be released by Capcom for the following years. Clock Tower received its two sequels on the first Playstation, while a fourth game would release on the Playstation 2 before the series would go dormant. Resident Evil has become one of Capcom's most popular and enduring series, and the older, dated games in the series have been remade entirely in recent years. Haunting Ground is a bit of a standout in Capcom's long list of horror selections. In terms of gameplay design it takes far more cues from Clock Tower, even being referred to as a spiritual successor. Capcom would both develop and publish Haunting Ground; called Demento in Japan, releasing the game in 2005.

Haunting Ground stars a young woman named Fiona Belli who has recently moved off to college. While driving, her vehicle is struck by another, and she wakes up within a cage in a dungeon of a strange castle. She soon meets up with a dog named Hewie, who quickly becomes her trusted canine companion. Together, the pair explore the castle, Fiona trying to find where they are and how to get home. It is not long before the massive, mentally challenged, and highly deranged groundskeeper named Debilitas truly enters the fray. It becomes obvious quite quickly that Debilitas has twisted, perverted desires for Fiona. He is only the first of four major enemies that Fiona and Hewie will run into. The one constant theme tying the enemies together is their desire to use Fiona's youthful fertility in some disturbing way. Fiona plays the role of the damsel in distress, but no knight in shining armor is going to swoop in to save her. She's trapped in the castle with only Hewie to depend on.

Like most dogs Hewie likes to sniff and root around, and he can be commanded to do so. While actively moving and exploring the castle Fiona needs to call to him from time to time to keep him right at her side. Fiona herself is entirely helpless, but she can command Hewie to attack enemies to buy her time to escape before calling him back to her. Since Haunting Ground is built with the design ideas of the Clock Tower series as its base, running and hiding become the player's main weapons to avoid bad endings. Like the later Clock Towers the game eventually features multiple major enemies for Fiona to try and hide from, survive direct encounters, and eventually dispatch. Hiding is not always the best option as its sometimes unclear if enemies figure out that Fiona is hiding through visual or audio clues. This pursuit of enemies can end up fairly annoying at times, and its not strange for Fiona to run all the way back to the beginning of the castle just to truly escape from pursuit.

The graphics are quite good for their time. Haunting Ground really feels like it pushes the PS2 to its graphical limits. The pre-rendered cutscenes still look excellent, and the in game graphics match the aesthetics given in its introductory scenes. The audio design is eerie and atmospheric, with a nice mixture between pure atmospheric audio and actual music. Enemy appearances and voice lines all dig under the skin and cause goosebumps. The game was composed by a dual team of Seiko Kobuchi and Shinya Okada. The pair really made the castle feel like the eerie and off-putting environment that Capcom truly aspired it to be.

Haunting Ground received mixed reviews during its release window, but has since become a cult horror classic. It could have had the potential to be a bit more popular, but its release came just weeks after the Xbox 360's release, drawing attention away from the game. Haunting Ground has since become one of the most prized Playstation 2 horror games. The original price I paid for it was $25, and that was the retail price at the time, every year since the price has just gone higher, and higher, ever so high to the point where its largely out of reach of casual collectors. The price of a complete Haunting Ground at the time of this publishing ranges from $350 to just over $400. The likely reason for this ridiculous price is the lack of digital re-releases outside of a Japan exclusive Playstation 3 release.

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