Review by ryliru

"Fatal Frame delivers as a horrifying survival horror adventure."

A foreboding mansion, obscured by gnarled trees, becomes clear in the pitch darkness of the night. A man slowly opens the cliched creaking doors and realizes that he has lost his previous surety for coming there at all. He takes a step, then another, and finally is engulfed in the shadows. The doors close, and without even attempting to leave the man knows that he is indeed locked within the bowels of the house... and he is not alone. With camera and flashlight in hand he will battle the spirits of those long dead, searching for answers to the disappearance of a novelist within the very house he finds himself immersed in. And so Fatal Frame begins.

GAME PLAY: 10/10

As you traverse the haunted corners and rooms of the horrifying Himuro Mansion there will be times when you'll have to fight back. Fatal Frame revolves around attacking ghosts using an antique camera, searching for sedentary visages of phantasmal presences to open new areas, and hunting for items and periodicals to increase your safety and knowledge of the happenings surrounding the Himuro Mansion's... shall we say, “checkered” past.

Fatal Frame's most exciting form of gameplay involves using a camera to trap the souls of vengeful ghosts. By pressing circle the game switches from the standard third person perspective to a first person camera view. A reticle appears in the center of the screen, and as you use the right analog stick to track the frustrating path of the enemy, power is accumulated. If you feel that you have enough force stocked up, a picture can be taken by pressing the X button and damage relative to the spirit power amassed is dealt to the ghostly adversary. The great reason that the battle mode of Fatal Frame does not become repetitive is that every ghost has a different moving pattern and strength. For example early ghosts are only able to travel in a straight line towards the main character, but more experienced ghosts travel very quickly in a circle and then teleport randomly before lunging with a powerful strike before you even know they existed. With extremely difficult gameplay and the fear the comes along with random encounters and horrifying boss fights, the battle portion of Fatal Frame leaves very little, if anything, to be desired.

Many times throughout the course of the game you will come across doors that have been sealed by the force of a talisman. To unlock these areas the daunting task of finding and snapping a picture of a certain apparition arises. Hints to the location of these scavenger hunts are given as a picture of the original talisman is taken. The real fun of finding these photo spots are the puzzles that frequently come into play before the mission can be completed. My favorite variation of the puzzles in the game are the ones where you need to collect information from books or diaries scattered around the house and ascertain the needed date or number from said writings. A great and terrifying game with equally entertaining puzzles? Who knew?

Many times in Fatal Frame a small glistening light may catch your eye. By examining these glistening orbs a player will find either a healing item or a piece of writing. I was worried after reading a few of these that they would become boring, and I would have to trudge through them just because I might miss something important. Fortunately each of the compositions had its own feel and style, and they always made the happenings of the macabre dwelling that much more unsettling.

SOUND: 10/10

With moans and footsteps reverberating off of every imaginable corner of Himuro Mansion and enemy specific noises that were just as well placed, the sound of Fatal Frame could not have possibly fit better with the overall feel of the survival horror title. As you walk around in the house, for most of the rooms, a soundtrack will play that sounds like very low television static with screams and random noises thrown in at appropriate times. These work beautifully with the fright present in the game, and because they are so masterfully done the fearfulness is greatly amplified. Each boss and random enemy has its own special cry that comes each time you land a good shot of them. It was really fun to sit and listen to the gratifying sounds of them crying in pain each and every time they were taken down. The sound of Fatal Frame is as good as could be hoped for.

GRAPHICS: 10/10

The enemies in Fatal Frame look just like you'd expect them to after living and dying in the satanic Himuro house. The house itself varies greatly from room to room and each is designed as outstandingly as the last. Also, the fact that you are able to exit the house and walk around in open areas such as a courtyard or dock is a nice touch and give the ability to encounter changing weather.

If you are going to be afraid of these ghosts they need to look menacing, right? Good news comes in the form that the wraiths present in the Himuro household are much more than children under bed sheets. There are woman with broken necks, floating disembodied heads, and much more to scare the life directly out of you. As random ghost encounters are employed as you search the house for clues, the need for many different enemies is ever present. Each of them has a different attack plan, and it goes without saying that each looks different and stunningly spooky in their own right.

The rooms are very impressive in terms of look and design. The attic is cluttered with junk, yet it still maintains the class present during the entirety of Fatal Frame. The body of water behind the house can be looked across just as far as the fog allows, but never once will you see another light of civilization. The whole place adopts a very dark feeling that doesn't go away at any time. The grasp of night in Fatal Frame is unrelenting, always present through every window you look out of, and it was the obvious choice for the game as darkness breeds horror. But don't go thinking that this lack of light will take away from the effective look and feel of the many nooks and crannies of Himuro Mansion. If anything, the darkness feels right at home.

DIFFICULTY: 9/10

At the start of the game the only problem with difficulty may be keeping your tolerance for fear in check. As the game progresses the battles will become much more difficult and you will assuredly find yourself restarting the game for another crack at the latest boss. Speaking of those, the final boss in the game took me five tries to successfully defeat. Challenges will be found in abundance behind these walls, that you can be sure of.

STORY: 10/10

The story begins as a man enters the Himuro Mansion in the attempt to find the truth behind the recent disappearance of a famous novelist. As he searches the house he finds himself face to face with the avenging spirits of the dead. His sister, Miku, comes to the house a good while later to find out what has become of her brother. There seems to be a cycle about the house of having new explorers vanishing and more coming to investigate. Perhaps there is more to the Himuro house than just unsteady floorboards and claustrophobic areas...

REPLAY VALUE: 9/10

After beating the game once you unlock some nice extras and a battle mode. This battle mode in itself is a reason to beat the game as it is a fun way to kill some extra time. Also, the story and game play are reasons to play this horror survivor again. Also after a single successful run through of the game a nightmare mode is unlocked that really turns the difficulty knob all the way to the highest level. Such things are easily worth another play.

FINAL VERDICT: A great game. Go out and buy it now. If you aren't the type for scary games, give it a rental first to see if you can handle it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/27/06


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