Review by G.Vallentin
"this will be one of the scariest games you'll ever play"
Scary games have come a long way in the videogame industry. The earliest attempts at horror, such as Zombies Ate My Neighbours or even Misers House (if anyone can remember that far back) were futile attempts at creating a horrific atmosphere. However with the Ps2 on the market, Tecmo has taken advantage of the consoles processing power to create one of the scariest videogames ever made.
The story of Fatal Frame is as follows. A famous novelist by the name of Junsei Takamine, his editor and his assistant have disappeared while gathering research for one of Junsei's novels. Mafuyu, an aspiring journalist suspected that something was wrong so hes decides to start his own private investigation which leads him to a secluded mansion. Mafuyu turns up missing as well, and thus his sister Miku enters the Himuro mansion in search of her missing brother. The story is surprisingly interesting. There's a lot to learn about the mansion, its past, and all of the missing people within it and it all flows very well with the gameplay. I would have to say that the mystery behind the mansion is one of the best aspects of the game.
The sound in Fatal Frame is literally perfect. The creaks in the floor boards, the muffled voices in the distance. All of these erie sounds add to the overall atmosphere and make the game that much scarier. The music (if you can even call it that) is very sinister like in the respect that its a slow melodic tone that seems to dance with the rhythm of your heart beat. Again, this is one of the best aspects of the game.
Fatal Frame is definitely easy on the eyes. In fact I would argue that its better looking than Silent Hill 2. The character designs are fantastic. Each character has an almost manga look to them while still containing elements of realism. The atmosphere is just breath-taking and although some areas within the mansion do look the same, the feeling of deja-vu is rarely noticeable. The lighting is great as well adding to the overall atmosphere. Lights flicker and dance in the hallways creating grotesque shadows which could easily be mistaken for ghosts. The only graphical complaint that I do have is that most of the edges around the interior of the mansion, are really jagged looking. If you look carefully at your surroundings you'll notice that these jagged edges are found around every corner. This isn't really a problem though since your going to be spending your time exploring the mansion, not looking for graphical errors. It's also worthy to note that the old grimy look of the camera in first person mode is fantastic.
The gameplay of Fatal Frame isn't all that original. You find clues to solve puzzles, pick up keys to unlock previously locked doors and so on and so forth. This is of course your typical survival horror type of gameplay and I'm not complaining, but it would be nice to see a completely re-vamped style of gameplay for this genre. However this does not mean the game isn't without its originality. The camera system is very unique in the sense that instead of carrying a rifle to hunt down monsters, you carry a camera that can vanquish spirits. The better the photo you take of the spirits, the more points you will gain which can be exchanged for new abilities. These abilities include ''paralyze'', which stops the spirits movement for a brief moment, or even ''slow'' which slows down the spirits movements for a brief period of time. You can also use these points to increase your camera's power and attack radius. This point system adds to the gameplay because you'll actually find yourself trying to get better photos of the ghosts to increase your cameras abilities. It's a very important aspect of the gameplay since the point system can drastically improve your camera's functions. Anyone who rented or bought this game expecting a lot of action will be sorely disappointed. There aren't that many ghosts in the game to battle and most of the time you'll be puzzle solving or back tracking to different parts of the mansion for clues. That's one thing I didn't like about this game and most people won't, the back tracking. You'll find yourself moving from one side of the mansion all the way back to the other just to find a clue or to solve a puzzle. This backtracking can become repetitious and more annoying than anything.
Thankfully Tecmo removed the ''Resident Evil controls'' and added in their own. Pushing the analog stick up with result in your character moving forward no matter what position the camera is in. The circle button initiates the first person camera view where you can take photos, move forward or back and sidestep. However chances are you won't be moving around much in first person mode since its rather awkward and incredibly slow. It's easier just to which out of camera mode to evade a ghosts attacks. I noticed that the controls are jerky though and not too fluent. When your character is moving forward and then you decide to turn her to the right to investigate something, she jerks to the right quickly instead of sliding into position like any normal human being would do. The controls are a little too sensitive too since you'll often move the analog stick just a little to the left or right and suddenly your character will jerk to the side and completely position themselves in that direction. This is annoying but not annoying to the point of insanity. Other than that, the controls are pretty average and don't break any new boundaries.
Once you've beaten this game, which will take the average gamer 8 to 10 hours, you'll have more than enough of a reason to play this one over again. You gain access to new costumes for Miku, a new difficulty level, an alternate ending, scene selection and some bonus abilities for your camera. All available and unlockable after you've beaten the game. If you've leveled up your camera and added a bunch of abilities to it and are afraid your going to lose all that when you start a new game..don't be. The game records the level your camera is at when the game ends and what abilities it has learned which means you will never have to learn the same ability over again. If you enjoyed Fatal Frame the first time, your going to love it even more the second time. Tons of replayability.
So the question you've all been waiting for, should you buy this? Well, if your a fan of survival horror I don't see why not. The game does what its supposed to do, create a chilling story with a grotesque atmosphere and strange yet believable characters. I don't think this one will disappoint you at all.
STORY - 8
Above average. You'll want to learn everything about the mansion and the characters especially since its based on a true story.
SOUND - 9
Some of the creepiest noises you'll ever hear are in this game. Music also adds to the atmosphere, very effective.
GRAPHICS - 9
Nice framerate, beautiful lighting effects, great character design and overall smooth textures sum up this game.
GAMEPLAY - 7
Nothing too original here. Picking up items and solving puzzles is pretty much it. Camera system is innovative and fresh.
CONTROLS - 7
Thankfully Tecmo removed the Resident Evil control scheme from this title which makes moving around much more fluent. Movements are a little too jerky at times though.
REPLAYABILITY - 9
A lot of things to unlock once you've beaten the game such as new costumes, difficulty level etc. If you love this genre, you'll be playing this game more than once.
OVERALL SCORE - 8
Only a few minor problems plague this survival horror game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/23/02, Updated 03/23/02
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