Review by CChan

Reviewed: 09/17/02 | Updated: 09/17/02

So chilling that you'll wish you've never heard of this game.

Terror seizes you as the creepy environment unfolds one by one, introducing you to Tecmo’s most eerie and spine-chilling game ever created. It totally beats down Resident Evil and Silent Hill to a squashed pulp. Well, why? Zombies and frightening monsters are like a mutated housefly compared to real ghosts – and not ghouls.

Graphics – 9.4
Everything in the game is so nice and beautiful – to create an eerie atmosphere, that is. The ghosts are so horrific that you’ll simply scream your heart out and rush for the Power button on your PlayStation2. The dark shadows that move around so realistically according to Miku’s everlasting torchlight’s direction. The lamps, and items such as tables and Japanese dolls are placed so strategically so that it’ll make your heart shake a bit – because sometimes you might mistake them (as in my case, actually) for ghosts.

The 3D environment is absolutely great, together with the real-like ghosts that are created with only one purpose – to scare you to death. And it’s no exaggeration either that you might suffer phobias on dark places later, and Fatal Frame has already had a profound effect on me already. The lighting effects too is the one thing that is used frequently, and the outcome is obvious. Since Fatal Frame is set in an old Japanese mansion with only half-lit lamps, it’s not a surprise that it’s dark all the time, compared to Resident Evil with the reason given it’s raining.

Music – 9.8
No background music, at least so far I’ve noticed but do wails of ghosts count? Or even some weird chanting that you’ll hear constantly throughout the game? So far, I’ve noticed no background music, except perhaps when you’re fighting one of the bosses. The voices might get a bit cheesy, especially Miku’s, but the rest, including the ghosts are fine. Sound effects are just nice, snaps from the camera and footsteps on the wooden floor.

One side note is about the apparent ARNIS audio technology that is implemented in the game. I’m not an audiophile so I don’t know what it meant, but it should be something good ‘bout the sound system. All I know is, if you have a good audio system (you don’t really need a hi-fi), and set the bass and volume to the maximum, you’ll get an absolutely best scary environment to play in. I’m serious. Confine yourself to a darkened room and play.

Gameplay – 9.0
The series of ghosts that appear are harmless – at least, most of them. They just appear suddenly out of nowhere, and you take out your camera, and seal it. But some emerge suddenly out of nowhere, and despite being harmless, you’re shaken with fright because perhaps of their looks or depending on the situation. Take this scenario for example: You’ve just finished fighting your first boss, and you’re sweating profusely with fright, and your heart’s beating real fast. You quickly rush out of a door to get to a save point, and suddenly a ghost appear right in front of you, out of nowhere. Do you yell? Yes, of course.

Tecmo is entirely clever in putting the ghosts at the right places. The bosses indeed is terrifying with the ugliness and mutilated figure. They can attack you by other strangling you or by other means or objects. And healing items such as Medicinal Herbs are scarce. Your film also could be running out because you frequently use them against bosses, and again, they’re hard to come by. This sounds like Resident Evil, because certain items are hard to come by.

And there are the puzzles. I’ve been walking around for hours trying to find a way to proceed to the next plot but failed, until I realized that there is a certain sequence that you’ll need to follow. For example, get into this room, then upstairs, examine this door, etc. And some puzzles include keying in particular symbols (which are in, I presume, Japanese) and if you don’t know what to do (if you missed the clues), you’ll need to consult a guide. Most likely you’ll need to.

The implementation of using a mystical antique camera (not the old ones that take hours to take a single picture) is certainly unique, but I doubt it, despite the claims by Tecmo that it’s ‘based on a true story’. Well, maybe the story about a girl called Miku in search of her brother Mafuyu is true but using a camera to capture ghosts? Uh-huh, not likely.

And the thing I’d like to complain is about the speed of Miku running. By walking, you can compare her to a crippled tortoise, and when she’s running (as claimed by Tecmo in the controls section), she seemed more like jogging than anything else. And the ghosts get her easily perhaps because of this miserable reason (the brother Mafuyu too runs about the same speed, when you get to play as him in the prologue), but the ghosts too approach you TOO SLOWLY, but some bosses are pretty fast and has the ability to teleport you around.

There are also random ghosts, plenty more to come if you proceed further, and there are even random bosses. Well, yeah, sounds frightening.

Replay Value – 7.9
Would you ever play this game again? Not me, definitely. There are several modes and another ending to unlock, but when you see the requirements, I’m not going to do all that – playing the game all over again, using the Hard difficulty. As if the Normal mode is not frustrating enough.

Overall – 9.3
Other than being the horror of all horror games, this game is also a puzzle of all other puzzle games. Maybe the frightening scenes will deter you, but the story gets more interesting as you go on. Stories about horrible occults and rituals that caused innocent deaths are pretty well okay. Shall I tell you about a situation that happens to me once where after watching my friend playing this game, I saw a boy staring at me and a body due to my over-imaginative mind? Nah, maybe not; that might deter you from ever getting this game.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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