Fatal Frame is a game series that didn’t really see a whole lot of traction in the US after originally being released on the PS2. In fact, it was so unpopular, that the fourth game, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, exclusively saw a Japanese release when it originally launched for the Wii in 2008.
Now, with a resurgence in overseas franchises that were once wildly popular, the Fatal Frame games are making their way to the west. The fifth game, Maiden of Black Water, was released not too long ago. With its popularity, its predecessor was released and provided us with what we could have expected during the original launch.
Players will go through four different characters as they progress through the sanitorium-turned hotel located on an island south of Honshu known as Rogetsu Isle. Three of the characters, Misaki, Madoka, and Ruka, as children, were involved a cult-like ritual on Rogetsu Isle that involved two other young girls and some sort of ritual. As you progress, the story develops into a tale of horror, control and greed.
With the release of Maiden of Black Water, the fan base has made themselves known, resulting in the release of the long-forgotten Wii title.
Difficult Controls and Clunky Gameplay
Unfortunately, the gameplay is presumably the exact same as it was on the Wii, as some controls are incredibly frustrating to maneuver through. Of course, this could very well be my own experience, but the clunkiness of the controls made it very difficult to battle some bosses and travel through the levels. Some controls were already pretty accessible, like being able to immediately point to and photograph a ghost as it appears. But, for the most part, walking around and moving the camera felt incredibly stale and rigid.
This could also be an issue that only affected me, but some button commands wouldn’t register if you pressed them too quickly after another. For example, if I were to open up the inventory and select something and immediately select the following option, it wouldn’t register in most cases. While this might not seem annoying, it definitely was during more heated moments when I needed to get to the menus that I needed to reach.
Scary and Suspenseful Story
Overall, the story revolves around four different perspectives, as mentioned before. Considering that, it does take a little while for the point of the story to unfold. These perspectives are divided into twelve chapters, and about four or five total locations that detail exactly what happened, with each chapter unlocking areas that were previously unavailable. Every character’s involvement is important too, and doesn’t feel like a waste or filler.
If you decide to skip through the notes and journals that you’ll find throughout each level, then you’ll probably have a tough time understanding what’s going on. The story is beautifully complicated and woven together very well, but only if you play the game correctly. Just about everything you can read or watch is important to the overall story and in understanding just what happened on Rogetsu Isle. Considering that, you’ll need to read everything that you pick up if you want to understand everything that’s going on, rather than scratching your head at every cutscene and every character that shows up.
Tons of Goodies and Extras
Similar to its predecessor, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse boasts several extras that can be unlocked throughout your gameplay. When you go to the lamplight to save your game, you can check out the different costumes your current character can wear. It’s important to note that each character has different unlockables that are only available when you are playing as them.
You can also purchase different DLC that can also give you different costumes for the characters to wear. If you happen to play Maiden of Black Water on the same device that you’re playing Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, then you can get the Camera Obscura Hat from the save menu. There are also different Hozuki dolls that can be found throughout the levels that, when found, can also grant different rewards and extras.
I Definitely Gasped More Than Once
I would be lying if I said that Mask of the Lunar Eclipse didn’t scare me. In fact, there were far too many moments when a ghost would randomly appear in a walkway that would cause me to let out a yelp. It was never necessarily the visuals themselves that were scary, so much as how the camera immediately pans over to the point of interest the second that they appear. This made things much scarier as you were never expecting when an apparition would just randomly appear to either tie the story together or show you a secret.
The fact that you need to either use the Camera Obscura or the Moonlight Flashlight to exorcise ghosts was also a terrifying prospect. I played Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on easy, but that didn’t make battles any less challenging or difficult to maneuver through. Some rooms were battles took place were very small, making it more stressful to find ghosts through the viewfinder of a camera.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Snaps a Photo of Home
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was both an interesting tale of Japanese horror and a fun game. Despite the controls being very clunky and not always registering when it was most convenient for me, I still enjoyed every moment. Every discovery felt like a new puzzle pieces being fitted in to a 1,000-piece puzzle, and every apparition had a story behind it. It was find to find different collectibles, earn extra content, and read through the history of Rogetsu Isle as you entered just about every room.
With that, I hope that more people can also enjoy the game and bring the Fatal Frame series back with more installments. Maybe, we’ll even get a remake or a remaster of the original three games to accompany the ones that are already available to play on PC and console.
Leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation!
This game was reviewed on PC.