Fatal Frame review

Keeping with the survival horror game review theme, I decided to play and review Fatal Frame for PS2 this weekend.

This game turned out to be a pleasant surprise. After becoming completely skeptical of game recommendations from Silent Hill fans (see: Clock Tower 3 review), I honestly was not expecting a lot from this one. I was glad to be proven wrong.

Fatal Frame took me about 4 and a half hours to complete. The story was interesting enough to keep me hooked. The protagonist, Miku, goes off to a mansion to search for her older brother, who recently disappeared during a trip there. Miku very quickly discovers that the mansion is haunted, and she has to help the trapped souls be set free.  This is where the combat comes in.

The combat system is what sets Fatal Frame apart from all other horror titles. Miku’s weapon is not a gun or a blunt object, but an antique camera. Careful timing of a photograph through a charged camera lens damages a ghost, and enough of these photographs defeats the ghost. Some ghosts are weaker and you battle them only once, while others are stronger and make multiple appearances, and therefore you battle them a few times. The ammo in the game is various types of film, some of which are more powerful than others. This system is unique and refreshing and provides quite enjoyable boss battles, however sometimes battle becomes tedious when there are too many fights in a row.

The Japanese atmosphere is also really enjoyable. I enjoyed the various cultural symbols, such as the Japanese instruments, dolls, etc.

The graphics in the game are impressive when it comes to scenery, but fall very short when it comes to character models. The people and ghosts are not at all realistic looking, which is somewhat disappointing.

The music and sound effects in the game are mostly well done, but the voice acting is (yet again) terrible. Miku, her brother, and the ghosts speak just about as agonizingly slowly as they walk, and the script lacks inflection, to the point of causing me to roll my eyes and groan while I waited for a character to finish a simple sentence.

The controls are workable, but there are a few flaws. While walking, Miku moves painfully slowly. The “run” mode is more of a slow jog. Also, there is a strange tendency for Miku to get briefly stuck on her surroundings as she moves past something, which is weird and frustrating. Whenever the camera angle changes, so does the direction that one needs to press the control stick to move forward. This can be extremely frustrating when coming out of a door, and Miku suddenly does an about face and begins walking out of the room again.

The puzzles in the game are fairly simple to complete, but they differ from the traditional Resident Evil style of puzzles, which is also a nice change.

Fatal Frame is definitely a one time play in my opinion, but its originality makes it stand out from the many other survival horror series out there today. The story may not be the best in the world, but the level design and combat system are not to be missed. I look forward to trying the other Fatal Frame games, and hope that they have fixed some of the original’s problems.

Be sure to check out Chris’s review of this game!


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