Review by vihena

"Survival TERROR a more suitable name!"

Resident Evil started it all, but never truly got the feel of what it was like to walk down a hall, feeling terror at every step of the way. Sure they tried to scare you with a creature popping out of a window suddenly, but you can only do that so much. Eventually, you'd see it coming a mile away.

Silent Hill took over with that and gave you a sense of the unknown. You didn't know what was beyond your flashlight, and that's damn scary!

Unfortunately, these two series had one major flaw- it was horror. Purely disgusting, bloody zombies, or juicy sounding creatures littered your path. Other than them making you want to puke, there isn't much else to it.

So bring in FATAL FRAME. C'mon, you gotta admit, ghosts are scary! Japanese ghosts are by far the scariest of all types! Tecmo plays on your psyche, your true inner fears like no other with this game.

Try to imagine, waking up in the middle of the night, and going to the washroom in the dark - you look in the mirror, and the thought that would scare you the most would be an apparition staring back at you, right behind you. To top it off, Fatal Frame does that with a girl in a Japanese Kimono. Freaky as hell!

Try to imagine, again, walking down a dimly lit hallway, and just at the bend, you see a shadow ever so slowly revealing itself along the dusty dirty floor. You can feel your heartbeat going faster as you see more and more of that shadow.

Fatal Frame takes into effect that every step of the way could lead to something behind, in front, or around the corner. Spirits just pop in and out of nowhere, instead of shattered glass, or a boarded up window to give it all away (RE??). They top it off with freaky sound effects that you hear in most horror movies. Terror every step of the way!

The environments themselves are rather bland and could use work, but some of the objects placed around the mansion you explore just sends chills down your spine. You know how antique dolls can be scary? Imagine traditional Japanese dolls in Kimonos. Or suits of old samurai armor propped here and there. As for the characters - the main characters almost look like they're pulled right out of Dead or Alive 2, but with a more streamlined design. The rest of them are very much a Japanese ''manga'' style that really helps stylize the horrific details of the game.

Gameplay is standard Survival Horror fanfare with entirely 3D environments. Think RE: Code Veronica. One effect I particularly liked more than RE or Silent Hill was when you opened a door, there was no inbetween loading time. The camera would zoom in right behind your character. So whatever she sees first, is also what you see first. This can be very unnerving and freaky, because sometimes, surprises do lurk behind closed doors.
The downside is lots and lots of backtracking to previously visited areas. It can be somewhat of a chore sometimes. Fortunately, the clues to where you have to backtrack to are literally shown to you at times, and there are always pleasant new surprises along the way!

The interesting, or lame aspect of the gameplay (depending on your gaming style), is the battles. Unlike most games of the genre, you use a camera to battle. It sort of becomes a first-person shooter from there with some ''Pokemon Snap'' added in. All in all, it can be either a frustrating, or fun experience. A real make or break situation here.
A point to add to that is you're looking RIGHT AT the ghost you're battling when you use the camera, so you basically have to take in every horrific detail it has to offer.

Soundwise, this game has no music. None that I would consider to be music anyway. But it does have a constant atmospheric sound effect everywhere you go - sounds of spirits howling in the distance, or something like that- very hard to describe, but damned freaky. Because the ambience, there is never truly a moment where you feel a ''sanctuary'' like you do with the Save Rooms in Resident Evil, or silent areas and outdoor areas like Silent Hill. Instead, the only time you feel you're safe, is when you turn off your PS2.
The scores also lend itself extremely well during cutscenes!

Speaking of cutscenes, so much of it is just so full of suspense, that you'll feel familiar with the feeling that you get from watching movies. A lot of the game borrows elements from horror and suspense movies to make the experience truly pure terror.

The downfall of this game? Simple- like almost every other survival horror game, it's like owning a mystery novel/movie or a horror movie. You already know who did it, you already know what's going to happen if you open that door. There's no replay value. Sure, Fatal Frame tries to tackle that with some unlocked features, the fact that you can continue to upgrade your camera through a new game, but it doesn't introduce new elements.
Overall, this game isn't strong in gameplay, but tries to scare you like no other.

So why buy it? It's very entertaining watching guests play this game. The expressions on their faces when they open that closet door? Priceless!

This game scares the bejeezus outta me, and it'll scare the bejeezus outta you too! And it'll definitely freak your friends out.
Truth betold, Fatal Frame dethrones both RE and Silent Hill in the Scary Dept.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/01/02, Updated 09/01/02

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