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Haunting Ground: The Forgotten Gem of Capcom
Likely known as one of the more popular video game publishers, Capcom has had its fair share of successful and memorable video games -- Marvel vs. Capcom, Street Fighter, Mega Man, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and so on. There is one game in particular, however, that I feel also deserves very special mention. It is, as the title suggests, the forgotten gem of Capcom.
The game is called Haunting Ground (also known as Demento), released for the PS2 in 2005. It is a psychological thriller/survival horror game that is a bit reminiscent of the Clock Tower series. However, it not only stands apart from CT, it stands far above it. But I digress, as comparisons and contrasts between the two will likely be examined at a later date.
As you begin the game, you are placed into the role of Fiona Belli, an 18-year-old university student. Capcom makes no effort to hide their fanservice in her design. Beautifully pale and lithe with an -- ahem -- ample bosom, Fiona isn't exactly the athletic type. In fact, as you play the game, you will come to realize in the game's many cutscenes that she likes to fall down. A lot. She awakens in a rather creepy castle, stark naked and barely having any recollection of what happened before she found herself in this mess. Not only this, but soon enough she has a handful of stalkers after her and something called "Azoth". What's a poor girl to do?
Luckily, rather early on in the game, Fiona stumbles across and quickly befriends a canine companion. He is a white German shepherd named Hewie, and he is quite literally your saving grace in the game. Hewie can go places Fiona cannot and also aids her by fighting enemies and helping to solve various puzzles along the way.
Obviously, the objective of Haunting Ground is to get Fiona the heck out of this eerie place. It's not quite as simple as it sounds, though. This isn't one of those games where the dashing hero/ine storms the castle, guns blazing, mowing down anything that even looks like it might not be friendly. Fiona isn't well-equipped to put up a strong front against her stalkers like that. You'll mostly be running and hiding from your enemies during regular gameplay. There are also a number of puzzles to figure out. Admittedly, I could not complete a couple without consulting a guide, and I'm pretty good at these kinds of things.
Haunting Ground is a beautifully-designed game, especially for one as old as it is. The graphics are quite stunning (especially when played on a backwards-compatible PS3 -- gorgeous!), and every character has believable movements and AI. The voice acting is second to none. There are very few glitches and zero loading time between areas, making for a smooth and uninterrupted gaming experience.
The replay value on the game was very much taken into consideration. There are four possible endings you can receive, and it all depends on the choices you make during gameplay. One ending can only be received after completing the game at least once. Also, a hard mode is unlocked after one game completion, complete with new outfits for every character (yes, even precious Hewie!).
As wonderful as I make Haunting Ground out to be, it isn't without its flaws. Gameplay can get a little tedious and/or monotonous at times. There's a lot of running around, and Fiona tires eventually (obviously she's not in cross country at university). The puzzles can be tricky and also have the probability of downright stumping even the most clever gamer. I found myself often wishing that the playing field could be evened a bit, as the hit-and-miss process of creating various items and "weapons" via a bizarre-looking chemistry set is rather poorly explained, if at all. However, the upside to this is that despite being a hide-and-seek sister of Resident Evil, it makes for a much scarier show.
Overall, Haunting Ground is definitely worth the survival horror enthusiast's while, or for those who are just after a game that's a bit different from the normal hack-and-slash titles. I personally give it an 8.5/10. It's a game I enjoy going back to from time to time, and one that has earned a permanent place on my gaming shelf.