Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Oct 042019

As usual, October will be filled with horror game reviews, starting with one that’s long overdue.

Remember five years ago when I started the original Fatal Frame? I got stuck and gave up on it not long after that, but this year when I got my PlayStation 2 out, I decided to give it another try.

Fatal Frame is a classic survival horror game following a girl named Miku who heads into a haunted mansion in search of her brother (who himself went inside searching for another character). The mansion is filled with ghosts, most of which are hostile, but Miku can fight back by using the Camera Obscura to photograph them.

It’s a pretty interesting twist on combat. You need to keep the ghost in your sights to power up your shot, and taking the shot at the last minute deals extra damage.

As expected in a survival horror game, you have limited “ammo” in the form of film you find in the mansion. Fighting ghosts also gives you points you can use to power up your camera or unlock special attacks, which made it feel oddly like it encouraged combat more than other survival horror games, but at the same time every encounter felt deadly.

I got better at the combat the longer I played, but that never removed the dread. There’s something scary about a ghost advancing toward you while crying out about its death, then fading from sight as you desperately try to find it again before it attacks.

(Some can teleport. And they can go through walls!)

Adding to the sense of dread is that you don’t have a mansion full of wandering enemies that you can clear out. Many fights are scripted encounters, and then there are also random ghosts that can appear anywhere, even in rooms with save points. You can run from the random ones, and one random ghost that began appearing near the end was dangerous enough that I fled every time it arrived.

Of course, the fact that you’re encouraged to take the shot in the moment right before the ghost’s attack also increases the tension.

The gameplay also has all the survival horror mechanics I look for – puzzles, exploration, an environment that gradually opens up – and uses its supernatural premise to add to these. Locked door? You might need a key, you might need to solve a puzzle, but then again, you might need to take a photograph to get a clue and then go fight a ghost whose power is sealing the door.

Finally, Fatal Frame is just disturbing. The atmosphere is unsettling, the story is dark, and the more you learn about the events that occurred in the mansion, the more twisted everything feels. I’m actually surprised they got away with a T rating.

I often give survival horror games a pass on story compared to other genres, but like with the Silent Hill series, Fatal Frame is one where I really enjoyed learning more about the story (mainly backstory) as it unfolded.

Five years ago, I gave up on the original Fatal Frame, but now that I gave it a second chance, I ended up really loving it. It was the perfect way to kick off this Halloween season.

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  15 Responses to “Celebrating All Things Spooky: Fatal Frame”

  1. And here I thought with your extensive Fatal Frame V advocacy that it wouldn’t take you V years to finish the first one.

    I thought you actually played through it when you said you did.

    • I started it back then, but I only got a few hours into it. (It’s funny to look back and see how optimistic I was toward it at the time, only to get stuck and give up shortly after writing that post.)

      • “Yep, at long last, I’ve finally”
        ” I love my survival horror games, and so far, Fatal Frame is no exception”
        “it’s a perfect match”

        • All of that is true, especially now that I’ve completed it! There’s just an undocumented period of time where “I’m not good enough to play this game, so I’ll just give up on it” was my top thought about it instead.

  2. I’m ashamed to say I never finished a FF game. I was really loving the remake of the second game on the Wii though. The third one I just got stuck on. I should really give them another go.

    • I wish they had released the remake of the second game in North America. As it is, I’ll probably either get a PS2 copy or get it on PSN for the PS3 (if they’ve fixed the bugs that were there when it first came out).

      • Oh man, I thought they eventually managed to get it there. I remember they made something called ‘project rainfall’ or something like that to get Xenoblade Chronicles for the US. I thought it included FF and Pandora’s Tower too though for some reason.

        I wanted to get the newest FF on the WiiU but I made the mistake of waiting, thinking it would drop in price. It only went up.

        I didn’t realize it had really bad bugs. Hopefully they fixed them.

        • Operation Rainfall’s third game was The Last Story. Xenoblade, Pandora’s Tower, and The Last Story. I know there was a (failed) campaign to get physical copies of Fatal Frame 5 in North America, but I don’t know about any others.

          With how many Wii U games have already come to Switch, I’ve been hoping Fatal Frame 5 will make it eventually. (Maybe with a localization of the fourth game finally, but that might be too much to hope for.)

  3. It’s funny, I actually own the original Fatal Frame, but as with most of my Silent Hill collection, I’m too much of a wuss to actually play it myself. 😛 Unlike with Silent Hill, though, I haven’t found a good enough Let’s Play of Fatal Frame, so I also have no idea what the story is like beyond the first hour or so I was able to get myself to play.
    I should get on that some day.
    (I watched Markiplier play Fatal Frame 3 though, and it was pretty good IIRC.)

    I’ve also only just now noticed that it states on the cover that it’s “Based on a True Story.” Any idea what that’s about?

    • Mangaminx, whose Silent Hill 4 Let’s Play I watched, had done Fatal Frame, but I believe a lot of her original LPs were taken down for copyright strikes or something, so it’s gone now. The story is pretty interesting.

      I always found the “based on a true story” line funny, especially since it’s on the main menu too, so I looked it up. Basically, the mansion featured in the game is a real place, and while the story isn’t based on the legends about the actual mansion, it’s based on other folklore and ghost stories in Japan. The localization team decided that was enough to market it as being “based on a true story,” even though it’s a bit of a stretch.

      • That reminds me of a movie recently, I believe called “The Strangers” or something similar, that was also marketed as inspired by true events. The “true event” was a time when the director was a child and someone loudly banged on his house’s front door in the middle of the night. There was no one there, but his imagination ran wild, and that became the movie. 😛

  4. […] Unfortunately, I didn’t really find Maiden of Black Water scary. Combat could be intense, and the story had its share of creepy and disturbing moments, but it didn’t have that same sense of dread and tension that the first game had. […]

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