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Fatal Frame on PS2

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Reviewed By LessonNo5

The makers of the game make no secret of this, so I don't really think it's important to advertise the fact that this game is "based on a true story." I don't know why this game seems to want to make that fact so well known, there have been a bunch of games released that are based on true stories. I mean, saying it right on the cover doesn't make it any more believable. But if you were wondering at all if it were true... Yes, it is based on a true story. Anyway...

For those of you out there that are sick of action based, run and shoot type horror games, you'll probably enjoy this game. It's not the type of game where the most important thing to find is ammo. It's obvious the designers made every effort to make all aspects of this game as scary as possible. The sound is brilliant. So much so, that I think it could possibly be the best part of the game. It does an amazing job of building the game atmosphere with ambient noises. That right there is what the game is all about. It's about slowly building the kind of terror that makes you not want to open the next door.

Like I said, it’s not really about combat. Fatal Frame does have an interesting combat system though. It’s based around the enchanted camera that the heroine carries. It can be upgraded with different types of film you might find, but also with a point system that allows you to customize it’s use. Also, when you enter camera mode, the game becomes first-person perspective, so in some ways it’s like a shooter. The camera plays a very important part of the story so it’s multiple uses, including that of a weapon, are more natural than you might think. When I first picked up the game I was a little put off by the camera bit, so I thought it was necessary to note its importance.

The game’s story is good. It all starts with a mansion in Japan in the eighties. A group of people goes into the mansion to gather information in it for a book. By that time, the mansion is already the stuff ghost stories are made of, and the sudden disappearance of the group in the mansion doesn’t help. The plot thickens when our heroine’s brother goes in to find said group, and also disappears. So, now about 50,000 people have disappeared in the mansion, so of course our protagonist goes in as well, to find her brother.

The game is broken up into chapters, which are called days. For example the first part of the game is “Day 1: The Strangling Ritual.” I thought it was a good way of breaking up the story, since it allows for several different twisted tales from the mansion to be played in the same locations. The tales from this mansion are pretty twisted, by the way. I won’t go into much detail, because uncovering the happenings of the previous inhabitants is half the fun. You don’t have to take my word for it though... There’s proof enough in the strength of the story in the fact that DreamWorks expressed interest in bringing it to the silver, spit wad covered screen.

The main character in this game is Miku, a seemly defenseless young lady. It seems these days that a lot of horror games are featuring female protagonists. Resident Evil 2 and Nemesis had them. Even Silent Hill 3 switched to a female character. Some people attribute this to the sharp rise in female horror gamers, but Keisuke Kikuchi, general producer of Fatal Frame and the soon-to-be released Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly has this to say about it. “We believe that, women more than men, and children more than adults, are weaker in physical strength and more emotionally sensitive. When a horror game aims for sympathy with the main character, we believe it is more fitting and scary to have a young, weak female character overcoming the odds than a beefy male character fighting his way through every obstacle.” Well, that’s cool... But whatever happened to the believable male character? Oh well... The full interview with Keisuke Kikuchi can be found at IGN, and he talks a bit about the upcoming release of the sequel there.

The point is that it doesn’t really matter in this game. The main character is very easy to identify with, and you quickly find yourself investing an emotional interest in the game. I can easily recommend this game without fear that horror gamers won’t enjoy it. If you’re the type that likes spilling a lot of undead blood, though... Well, you might want to skip it. The puzzles are good, though, for the most part. They make sense and you don’t have to backtrack through fifty rooms to get a key item to continue. The graphics are really nice. They’re good and sharp and the lighting effects with the flashlight Miku carries are fantastic. The only problem I could really pick on is the enemy design. They’re transparent (being ghosts) and the effect still looks like it did back in the PSX days.

The enemies, by the way, are also based on logic. They're the angry spirits of the people that have disappeared within the mansion's walls. So you can pretty much count on not having a hundred ambiguous demons to slay. That doesn't mean they're any less terrifying though. This game just begs to be played in the dark. It's also a good one for playing with friends, because the action moves along quickly enough to make it interesting to just watch it, and the story has the power to draw in people who aren't even actively controlling the character.

Now for the bad news. The only reason I even took off half a star for this game was because of the movement problems. There are a lot of times during the game when you have to be mighty quick with that camera, and the movement system foils it. It's an unfortunate drawback to and otherwise great game.


(Out of 5)

There are a lot of tough shots in this game. Be ready with the camera all the time. Also remember that this game opens doors in real time, so unlike resident evil, things can be waiting for you on the other side...
Miku, the main character, moves very slowly. She has a slow walking pace and an only slightly faster run. This can be a big problem when facing ghosts than can warp. The key again is quick reflexes with that camera.

Playstation 2 - 03/04/02
XBox - 04/09/03

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Q1 2005 - PC/XB/PS2