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North American box art
Haunting Ground, known as Demento (Japanese: デメント?) in Japan, is a survival horror video game and a Clock Tower spin-off, developed and published by Capcom for the PlayStation 2 in 2005. The gameplay shares many similarities with Clock Tower 3.
The protagonist of Haunting Ground is Fiona Belli, a young girl who the player must guide through Belli Castle and its immediate environments in an effort to escape. Along the way, players must solve puzzles, unlock doors and evade, hide or attempt to fight against the castle's inhabitants. Fiona is accompanied by Hewie, a White Shepherd and the two must work as a team to solve certain puzzles and outwit their pursuers.
Throughout the game, the castle's inhabitants chase and attack Fiona, although if they are evaded for long enough, they will cease to do so for a set interval. While it is possible to retaliate with kicks, Hewie's bites, or alchemically created weapons, the game's focus is evasion. To facilitate this, there are numerous hiding places found throughout the game's levels. Ultimately, however, Fiona must face off against each pursuer in a boss battle, after which a different enemy will begin to pursue her.
In addition to the main enemies, two other type of enemy are encountered during the game. Neither are inherently dangerous to Fiona per se, but each can alert Fiona's pursuers to her location, and cause her to panic. The first are small floating orbs of blue light known as Luminescents, which follow Fiona and emit a loud noise if they come into contact with her. The second are small fetus-resembling homunculi, who attach themselves to Fiona's legs and let out a piercing scream.
As well as controlling Fiona, the player also controls Hewie. Using the right analog stick, the player can order Hewie to stay, follow, attack, fetch and shake hands. In order to maintain a good relationship with Hewie (which can affect the ending of the game), Fiona must issue commands, and then praise or scold him depending on whether or not he obeys. Praising or healing him when he becomes injured increases Hewie's friendship level. If not given enough attention, Hewie will ignore Fiona's commands and wander off, and if he is repeatedly mistreated he will turn on and attack her. On normal difficulty, Hewie can be knocked unconscious by enemies, but he cannot be killed. On hard difficulty, however, he can die, which results in a game over.
When faced with certain scripted events or prolonged enemy attacks and chases, Fiona begins to panic. If allowed to remain in a panic for too long she will enter full panic mode and begin to run. Panic mode causes a blurriness of the screen, saturation of the surroundings, inverted black and white coloring and a freeze-frame effect during which time the control pad will begin to vibrate. The player is unable to stop Fiona running (although they can control the direction in which she runs) and must try to prevent her from running into walls and objects, as doing so causes her to fall and begin to crawl; at this point any further damage whatsoever will kill her. Hewie can be called upon for help during panic mode, encouraging him to attack any pursuer, and thus prevent Fiona from being killed. If enemies are avoided long enough, panic mode ends after a set period of time.
The game begins with Fiona Belli (voiced by Cornelia Hayes O'Herlihy) awakening in a cage in the dungeon of Belli Castle. Immediately prior to the start of the game, Fiona was involved in a car accident that killed her parents, Ugo and Ayla. After escaping the dungeon, Fiona begins to explore the castle, and soon rescues and befriends a White Shepherd named Hewie. During her subsequent exploration of the castle, she encounters several characters: Debilitas (Lex Lang), a large, mentally disabled man who works as the gardener at the castle; Daniella (Moira Quirk), a homunculus unable to taste and feel pleasure or pain, who works as the maid; Riccardo (Greg Ellis), the castle's groundskeeper; and Lorenzo Aureolus Belli (Enn Reitel/Robin Atkin Downes), a mysterious and initially unseen old man who seems to want to help Fiona escape.
Fiona Belli awakes in a cage in the dungeon of a castle. She has just been involved in a car accident, but her memories of the incident are hazy. Noting that the cage that keeps her prisoner has been left unlocked, she steps out, but is startled by a large, fierce animal that runs past her. She quickly begins searching for answers and a way out of the castle. Soon, she befriends the animal that initially frightened her, a White Shepherd named Hewie. As Fiona begins to unravel the mystery in which she finds herself, she learns that she is the carrier of the Azoth, which, for unknown reasons, is sought after by Riccardo, the castle's groundskeeper.
The first enemy Fiona encounters is Debilitas, a large, mentally disabled man who thinks of Fiona as one of his dolls. Fiona then makes contact with a man named Lorenzo, who seems to want to help her escape. He tells her that to do so, she needs a staff from the chapel. However, upon taking the staff, Debilitas corners Fiona and Hewie, forcing a confrontation. The way in which the player defeats Debilitas affects the ending of the game.
Having rid herself of Debilitas, Fiona soon finds her next enemy, Daniella, the maid. Daniella is jealous that Fiona can smell, taste, touch and "experience pleasure." She is especially jealous that Fiona can engage in sexual intercourse. Wielding a large shard of broken glass (or a hot poker depending on which cutscenes the player sees), Daniella is defeated when she is impaled with a shard of broken glass from a ceiling window.
The third villain is Riccardo, who wields a flintlock pistol. For the majority of the game, Riccardo keeps his face hidden under a hood. Upon revealing himself however, Fiona is shocked to see her dead father's face. Riccardo reveals that he and Ugo are clones, and that he murdered Ugo as revenge for leaving the castle and marrying Fiona's mother. He plans to use Fiona (by means of her womb and use of her Azoth) to bring about his own rebirth, so that he may live forever. As they fight atop a water tower, Hewie rescues Fiona by attacking Riccardo, causing him to fall from the summit.
The final enemy is Lorenzo, who seemed to be an ally, but who now menaces Fiona in several different forms. The player first meets him as an old, crippled man. He tells Fiona that Riccardo was always the problem child, and that he created both Riccardo and Ugo in an attempt to find a body with an Azoth which he could use to gain immortality. Ugo had the Azoth, but left the castle to marry Ayla. Now with Riccardo dead, Lorenzo believes that Fiona is his, so he can take the Azoth she inherited from Ugo. He chases after Fiona, but she is able to crush him in a rock press. However, she soon encounters a resurrected, youthful Lorenzo; the life energy he acquired from Riccardo's body has allowed him mastery over his own aging process. With the help of Hewie, Fiona causes Lorenzo to fall into a pit of lava. At this point, the castle begins to shake and collapse, and Lorenzo returns as a flaming skeleton. He chases Fiona as she heads for the exit, and attempts to block her escape, but as they reach the door, he finally dies, and Fiona and Hewie eventually leave the castle.
Development and release
On September 24, 2004, developers debuted Haunting Ground under its Japanese name Demento, at the Tokyo Game Show after launching a teaser page on the Capcom website two days prior. While the text was in Japanese only, the English translation of the teaser page read: "One person awakes / Continuation of a nightmare / An unknown place / Fraught with insanity."
Capcom released Haunting Ground in Japan on April 21, 2005, in Europe on April 29, 2005, and in North America on May 10, 2005.
IGN wrote "Haunting Ground's combination of high-end presentation, disturbing sexuality, and psychological mindjobbing makes it one of the most interesting games of the last couple of months," and selected it as the "Game of the Month" for May 2005. GameSetWatch also felt the sexuality of the game was a positive; "Disparaging Haunting Ground for its copious objectification of women is a facile task, and so is discrediting its storytelling for the gratuitous exposure. Easy, easy, to fetishize a horny maid, a half-naked young blonde in dire straits and at the mercy of grasping, perverted men. But it's precisely that off-putting sexuality that makes Daniella terrifying, that makes Fiona's circumstances so explicitly repugnant, that sharpens Haunting Ground's fear factor to a knife in the gut."
1UP.com praised the graphics, character models and environments, arguing that the game featured "some of the most detailed, lavish 3D environments Capcom has ever produced." GamePro described the visuals as "stark but appealing."
Critics also praised the use of Hewie. Just Adventure called him "adorable" and "an asset of the utmost value," whilst 1UP named him "one of the best-implemented efforts" of a dog in video gaming. GameSpot noted that Hewie, despite being well-trained, occasionally did not obey orders, adding realism to the game.
There were criticisms however. GamePro stated that "despite a few fresh ideas, Haunting Ground is no classic. The thin story relies too often on cliché and titillation, the villains aren't terribly frightening, and the gameplay becomes too predictable too quickly. Ultimately, this is Resident Evil Lite with a dog." The New York Times felt the game came close to greatness, but fell somewhat short; "The greatest annoyance of Haunting is that with a little more thought and greater attention to detail it could have been a lot more fun. Great game design does not reside so much in clever gimmicks like friendly dogs and defenseless blondes as it does in the dozens of smart touches in a game."
Re-release & Sequel
July 24th 2012 saw news of a Haunting Ground re-release slated for the Playstation 3 system in the future, having been rated by the ESRB with Sony Computer Entertainment named as the publisher. Despite this no news of a potential release date has been confirmed by Capcom and there is still no word on whether it will be released as a HD port, or simply as a PS2 Classic.
During an interview on February 27th 2013, Christian Svennson when approached about the future of Haunting Ground claimed that "we had a developer ask us if they could submit a pitch for a new Haunting Ground recently – a western developer. And we were like, ‘yeah, I don’t think that’s going to find a terribly receptive audience in Japan from the producer’s team and the like’. So we kind of steered them away. But it’s interesting that even within the dev community there’s still some fans out there who want to see it come back. And that’s my very long-winded way of saying no, I don’t think there’s any activity on that happening that we can talk about.”
As of March 2014 there has still been no news regarding the re-release of Haunting Ground or a sequel to it.
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