Fatal Frame – PlayStation 2
Platform: PlayStation 2
Release Date (NA): March 4th, 2002
Genre: Survival Horror
Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
Oh Fatal Frame, one of the games of my childhood that scared the living crap out of me as a kid. I have to say, why did my parents let me play this? They obviously didn’t realize how gruesome it actually is. After not finishing the game completely when I was younger, I decided that our Nerd Bacon Halloween was a perfect time to pick the game up for another play through. Does it still hold the same scare and fear today like it did when it was released? Lets find out.
Fatal Frame follows the story of Miku Hinasaki as she searches for her brother Mafuyu after he mysteriously disappears. Mafuyu left for the Himuro Mansion to look for his mentor Junsei Takamine and his been missing for two weeks. Junsei Takamine disappeared in the mansion along with his assistant and editor while conducting research on his next best-selling novel. The player controls Miku as she explores the Himuro Mansion, looking for Mafuyu. The further Miku explores, rope burns appear on her wrists and ankles. She learns this is a part of a ritual conducted by the occult occupying the Himuro Mansion on a shrine maiden to appease the spirits.
As you travel through the game, you will come across many different spirits that are trapped within the mansion. The catch is that they can only be seen through the view finder of Miku’s antique camera. This camera was given to Miku by her mother and was told that it can see things that could not be seen with the naked eye. The game play tries to stay true to the survival horror genre by playing in an intense third person mode. This, along with only being able to use the camera as your only defense assures that you will have a stressful and intense gaming experience. Just to stress you out a little bit more, the camera has a limit of how much “spirit power” it obtains in regards to how much damage it will do to the spirit. On top of this, there is also a loosely-structured scoring system based on the size and angle of your photo.
No matter how hard you try to adjust the camera, you just can’t. The in-game camera is fixed and cannot be moved in any way by the player; however, the trade-offs are some exquisitely “filmed” views of the game. As Miku travels down a screened hallway, the camera will pull back and up to deliver a view of the scene that you’re absolutely sure has been snatched from a movie and dropped into this game. Since the camera is fixed, you may wish to change the default controller setup; otherwise, you’ll find that Miku makes an immediate about-face as she walks through a door or gets boxed into corners turning ’round in circles when battling spirits.
Just like in any horror game, no, any survival horror game, the sounds/soundtrack play a major role in setting the overall atmosphere of the game, no the experience. Ambient sound in Fatal Frame is the kind you’d hear on dark nights with all the lights out … creaking boards, doors in other rooms closing, strange rustling sounds. After some ghostly encounters, you’ll be treated to ghostly voices either giving hints about events that the house has witnessed or its denizens’ final agonized screams.
Voice work in Fatal Frame is absolutely horrendous. While the voices done for the spirits were quite ghastly, the woman who voiced Miku completely phoned it in. You would figure that if you know you are going to be doing voice over work (even for a western port of a Japanese game) you would still try your hardest to actually make it sound good. The only voice acting performance that I thought was worth noting was the dead woman who left recordings for Miku to find.
Fatal Frame is a genuinely creepy looking game. It is a damn shame that the game really didn’t age as well other horror classics, especially like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Character models are well animated and rather realistic looking rather than cartoonish or stylized. While Miku looks completely out of place while searching around in the mansion, her white school uniform actually helps in locating her in the darker areas of the game. A nice col little easter egg, if you leave the game running for a little while, a built-in screensaver consisting of bloody hand prints appear all over the screen.
Here is a little bit more background on the “true story” that Fatal Frame is based off of.
According to the urban legend, just beyond the city of Tokyo is one of the most haunted locations in all of Japan. The rocky region is said to be location of where the Himuro Mansion (or Himikyru Mansion as it is sometimes known) once stood. The Himuro Mansion was the scene of some of the most gruesome murders in modern Japanese history. Local lore has it that for generations, the Himuro family had participated in a strange, twisted Shinto ritual known as “The Strangling Ritual” in order to seal off bad karma from within the Earth, every half century or so.
On the day of the Strangling Ritual, the maiden was bound by ropes on her ankles, wrists, and neck. The ropes were attached to teams of oxen or horses to rip her limbs from her body, quartering her. The ropes used to bind her appendages would then be soaked in her blood and laid over the gateway of the portal. They believed that this would seal off the portal for another half century until the ritual had to be repeated.
During the last recorded Strangling Ritual it is said that the maiden had fallen in love with a man who tried to save her from the ritual. This “tie” to Earth tainted her blood and spirit and ruined the ritual altogether. Upon learning of the maidens love, the master took up his sword and brutally murdered all of his family members, before finally, in fear of what would soon happen, fell upon his own blade.
This is the basis of the “haunting” of the Himuro Mansion. Local legend has it that these souls of the murdered family wander the mansion attempting to repeat the failed ritual using whomever enters the abandoned building. Blood splashes on the walls are reportedly seen, as if they were flicked from the blade of a sword that had recently sliced through flesh. Many had reported seeing spirits and apparitions dressed completely in white, rinsing cloths and preparing the grounds for the ritual.
However, the true validity of the urban legend remains largely unfounded. Assuming the horrific events took place even one hundred years ago, it is highly unlikely that no public records of this mass murder exist, especially so close to Tokyo. The “real” Himuro mansion no longer exists, but Tecmo based the location seen in the game on very traditional Japanese architecture of buildings that would have been built from in the 18th century or earlier.
I’m not sure if the story above is real or not, but it definitely an interesting read for an interesting game. Fatal Frame is definitely one of those games that you don’t want to necessarily play with the lights off at 3 in the morning (not like me). Do you want to play a game with a riveting story, horrible controls, but beautifully designed? Look no further. What did you think of Fatal Frame? Tell me your opinions in the comments below. Stay tuned to Nerd Bacon for my review of the next game in the series Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Until then, check out the rest of our survival horror games.
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