Review by oldbill

"Proof that it doesn't have to be M rated to be scary"

Survival horror is a genre, which is spreading in popularity. The games that make up this frightening genre usually place a character in a third person perspective as they dispatch monstrous enemies with huge weapons, resulting in a shower of blood and gore. Until this point these games have been gore filled and subsequently ''M'' rated to keep them out of the hands of people below the age of seventeen. That's why Fatal Frame comes as such a pleasant surprise to fans whose parents are firm believers in the ESRB rating system. Seasoned survival horror veterans will likely say, ''T rated? How can it possibly be scary?'' The answer is Fatal Frame, a truly horrifying experience for the Playstation2.

Story 9/10
A novelist name Takamine decides that he wants to write a novel about the master of the Himuro family and the events that led up to his slaughter of his entire family. In order to do the most thorough research possible, he decides to go to the actual mansion where the bloody slaughter took place. He enters the mansion with his editor and his assistant. They soon disappear and are not heard from for quite some time. Concerned about his mentor's fate, a young man named Mafuyu journeys into the mansion armed with a camera, because according to legend a cameras can capture and seal away souls. Mafuyu also has a special ability very similar to the child on the movie The Sixth Sense, which allows him to see the spirits of the dead. Mafuyu soon encounters a mysterious ghost woman in a white kimono. Nine days later, Mafuyu's sister Miku became worried and went to the mansion in search of her brother. She too possesses the special ability to see ghost as it was inherited from her deceased mother. She must now search the mansion and find her brother and discover the fate of Takamine and his companions. There is another mystery to be solved. What grotesque rituals took place in the mansion? What were they for? You must assume the role of Miku and find out for yourself. The major flaw with the story is that it becomes confusing and difficult to understand in some areas of the game. A true challenge for mystery fans.

Gameplay 9/10
There have been many complaints as to the speed at which Miku moves during the game. Her running speed isn't a good deal faster than her walking speed. In my opinion this is a good thing. You won't want to go through the game holding down the run button like in the other survival horror titles. You run the risk of missing important things when you get in a hurry, such as the stationary ghosts that may be hidden and difficult to find. The controls are easy to use and have a very short learning curve. If you have played a survival horror title before the buttons should be a breeze to learn. The only weapon in the game is a camera, which was left behind after her mother died. The camera has the power of exorcism and with proper use, can dispel a phantom. Pressing the O button on your controller will bring up a first person view where you will be looking through the viewfinder of the camera. The viewfinder has a circle in the center that you must have centered on the ghost you are battling with to do any damage. It's not as easy as it sounds however. The camera has a charge area on the bottom of the viewfinder mode. The object is to keep the camera focused on the ghost until it charges up and, if taken when the ghost is in view, will deal the maximum amount of damage the charge and film can deal. The film is also a factor in camera power. The greater the quality of the film, the more damage it will do. Every time you take a photo of a ghost it sucks some of its spirit into your camera and with it comes the spirit points. You gain greater spirit points for close ups, fully charged shots (zero shots), and if the ghost is paralyzed by a bonus attack. Spirit points can be used to improve the basic performance of your camera and can be used to unlock bonus attacks and special features such as zoom. To recover health there are medicinal herbs and stone herbs will revive you when you sustain enough damage that you would normally die. The final subject I will cover is the filament. The filament is a small box on the screen that will turn blue whenever there is a clue or stationary ghost nearby. Use your camera to photograph these objects by watching for the circle in viewfinder mode to turn blue. When it turns orange that means there is a spirit nearby so be alert as it may or may not be dangerous.

Graphics 10/10
The graphics in this game are fantastic and highly detailed. The lighting effects are superb and realistic. There is not a great deal to say other then that.

Sound 10/10
This game utilizes the ARNIS audio technology so you don't need an expensive speaker system to enjoy it. There is no real music in the game, but you will hear druids chanting and strange, disembodied voices saying things in a strange language. The sound is one of the scariest parts of the game and always enhances the most shocking moments. Be sure to turn your volume up loud to get the full audio horror from Fatal Frame. Moaning ghosts and strange noises frequent this game making this game not only scary to the eyes, but the ears as well.

Overall 9/10
Fatal Frame is not perfect, but it definitely comes close. I must say that if you are looking for a truly scary game after you have worn out your Silent Hills this is THE game for you. This game is extremely scary at all times and I personally guarantee that this game WILL scare you quite badly and keep you in suspense for your many hours inside Himuro mansion. This game is a must have for anyone who enjoys a good scare.

Buy or rent?
Buy it. This game really needs to be enjoyed to the fullest with its battle mode and a special difficulty setting you unlock.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/29/02, Updated 04/29/02

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