Review by Razorskin
""Man, i wish I hadn't seen that!""
Supposedly based on a true story, Fatal Frame is the story of Miku, a young girl in search for her brother who has turned up missing during a visit to the haunted Himura Mansion. Once in the mansion, she finds the place infested with disturbed spirits and hints at a deeper, more troubling history. Unlike other games in the survival horror genre, you have no weapons, but must fight the violent spirits with a mystical camera that damages the ghosts when you take pictures of them.
Graphics: Fatal Frame looks really good. The whole package is pulled together really well to pull off a grisly environment. Excellent texture maps and a well-detailed environment immediately draw you into the game. There aren't any ''empty'' rooms. In fact, most areas have curios and antiques littered about, giving the rooms a realistic feel to them. Real-time lighting with the flashlight (which can be moved with the right analog stick) help to pierce the cold dark that envelops the mansion. The character models are done well and while they may not be uber-detailed like in Silent Hill 2, they still look sharp. What really stands out is the design and look of the ghosts. In fact, the ghost effects are awesome to behold. They fade in and out and the visual effects when they are ''invisible'' is well done. You will find yourself shocked and horrified by what turns up when you least expect it.
Gameplay: The basic idea behind this game is exploration and investigation, not running from room to room, shooting whatever gets in your way. You'll find clues laying about, like audio tapes that offer menacing clues to the history of the mansion. While a good part of the time, you'll be looking for keys or items to unlock new areas, there is the occasional puzzle which will force you to think and even look through your notes for the solution. The main focus of the game, though, is the use of the mystical camera which allows you to take photos for points or damage to violent ghosts. Ghosts break down into groups: 1)Aggressive attackers, 2) One-chance ghosts (which you only get one shot at shooting for points), and 3) Hidden ghosts (ones that only show up when you take photos). Luckily, there's a light meter that lets you know when you should be looking for those kind of shots. You can use these points to buy upgrades or power-ups to improve the camera's performance, which will help later on in the game.
Audio: All the sound effects and even the ambient music really helps in building a tension in the air. Voice-acting is pretty good. A lot of times, the music creates a tension in the air that's reinforced by odd sound effects or even chanting in the background. There will be times where you'll come up to a locked door, only to hear something behind it that chills you to the bone.
Controls: Fortunately, Fatal Frame has avoided the remote-car-like controls of Resident Evil and gone with a Devil May Cry like setup. The character's move slowly and you have to hold a button to make them run, but considering the slow pace of the game, it's not really a bother. When you switch to the camera to battle a ghost, the controls change so that the left analog stick controls the camera and the right moves the character, making ghost battles feel somewhat like a FPS.
The Bad: There does seem to be some minor issues with collision detection. At times, you'll get caught on a part of the furniture which seems to hang out too far. It's not a severe problem, but it does manage to happen from time to time. Also, the save file size is pretty huge at 1800 kb, and another 1410 kb if you want to save some of your photos to an album. For those who play a lot of games, this is a huge chunk to take out of one memory card. The in-game camera feels fairly static, which will force you to use the camera to look around the room.
Fatal Frame has got creepy nailed down. You'll find yourself going ''Man, I wish I hadn't seen that'' after a ghost passes by or shows up in front of you. If you're a fan of ghost stories, you will love this game. It's scary and the story grows deeper the further you get into it. Once you beat the game, you unlock other difficulty modes (if you beat the game on Nightmare, you get a different ending), and you can use your power-ups already purchased for the camera. If you're looking for another Resident Evil, packed full of guns and action, you might be disappointed. Fatal Frame is a slower, more psychological game that really pulls off the whole package well.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/08/02, Updated 03/08/02
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