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Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Tecmo, Inc.
Developer: Tecmo, Ltd.
Style(s): Survival Horror
Synopsis: Created by the Tecmo development team responsible for the Deception series of games, Fatal Frame is a survival horror title based on the ancient belief that a camera can capture one's soul. As Miku, the younger sister of Mafuyu Hinasaki, players must explore Himuro Mansion in search of the girl's missing brother. The title is apparently based upon a true story, though certain aspects of the game have no doubt been fabricated to make it a more enjoyable video game experience. Equipped with a camera, which serves as both a weapon and tool for solving some of the game's puzzles, Miku must fend off the attacks of the numerous spirits that plague the area, while unraveling the mysteries surrounding the mansion. When assaulted by an apparition, players must attempt to capture it on film. A first-person view (seen through the camera lens) allows one to move and "shoot" simultaneously. The longer you manage to keep the ghost in the viewfinder, the more damage is dealt to it. Defeating a ghost rewards your character with spirit power; experience points that can be used to upgrade various attributes of your camera, including shutter speed, a larger view area, and the potential to inflict more damage. Much more than just an offensive weapon, the camera must be used to activate puzzles and to gain access to certain parts of the mansion. To aid the player in finding these clues, the controller's rumble will become increasingly stronger as you draw nearer to the object in question, and the filament will glow brighter. Notes and other documents discovered in the mansion usually reveal clues that help in solving some of the game's more obscure puzzles. Plot points however, are usually revealed through flashbacks, and other supernatural experiences. The game's requisite horror quotient is provided by the numerous ghosts and spirits that populate the various locales in and around this mysterious dwelling. Sharing a common heritage with titles such as Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil, Fatal Frame provides a unique take on the genre, while providing plenty of the suspense and foreboding sense of fear normally associated with the genre. ~ Gavin Frankle, All Game Guide
Package Contents: Registration Card
The manual is mostly black and the text is rather small. The controls and features needed to play the game are adequately covered, however, with brief character bios at the end. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The game is dark, but that helps the atmosphere. The lighting effects and transparent ghosts look great, but the mansion isn't as detailed as the one found in Resident Evil. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Tecmo's first stab at a survival horror game offers an interesting gimmick that seems like a natural extension of the genre: instead of using a gun, axe, or a blunt instrument to defend themselves against a monster or mutant, players are instead forced to explore their environment using nothing but a camera to document evidence of the spirit world. One expects the game would be terrifying since players are vulnerable -- without a weapon, they'd have to learn how to move silently and avoid dangers rather than confront them head-on. Unfortunately, Fatal Frame skirts around this intriguing premise and opts for a more traditional approach by using the camera as a means to eliminate the antagonistic apparitions instead of simply recording them in a personal scrapbook. This is unfortunate, since the Japanese setting around which Fatal Frame is built is steeped in atmosphere and genuine thrills. Over 100 types of ghosts are present in the game -- men, women, and children in varying stages of decay -- drifting through the environment at different speeds, phasing in and out of view, teleporting, or communicating via disturbing moans and shrieks. The ghosts are also grouped into different types. Some spirits are forced to wander aimlessly in certain areas, while others channel the violent means of their deaths toward the player. Control is an improvement over traditional survival horror games, as players can guide the lead character, a young girl wearing a white blouse and black miniskirt, with full use of the analog stick. Somewhat more awkward is switching to camera mode, which changes the viewpoint to a first-person perspective with a target reticule in the center. One moment you'll be walking down the hall, notice a ghost floating by, and then have to quickly switch to the first-person perspective, aim the target, and snap a photo. While this only takes a few button presses, many of the ghosts move so quickly it becomes a challenge. As players navigate the mansion searching for clues on the whereabouts of the girl's brother (by finding tattered pieces of newspaper clippings and journal entries), they'll make their way past libraries, suits of armor, porcelain dolls, ornate furniture, gardens, and more. A flashlight is available to illuminate darkened areas, and the visual effects are extremely convincing. Players attempt to snap photos of ghosts to build spirit points, allowing them to upgrade their equipment to ease the challenge of the 20 main battles in the game (composed of five acts or chapters). The boss encounters are somewhat disappointing based on the familiar point-and-shoot mechanics, with the camera essentially taking the place of a gun and film being the substitute for bullets (there's even more "powerful" film you can find within the mansion for those Kodak moments). By finding spirit stones, players can access their camera's secondary functions, such as pushing ghosts back or temporarily freezing them, so the photography aspect is minimal at best. The basic strategy of running away, snapping pictures until the ghost comes near, then running away again gets tiresome. While the graphics certainly do an excellent job of evoking a mood, Fatal Frame deftly uses sound -- creaky steps, rattling chains, loud booms, faint footsteps, groans, and quick, unintelligible whispers -- to great effect. You'll be on edge in this game simply because you don't know what to expect, and things appear and disappear so suddenly you'll wonder if you actually saw something or just imagined it. The clever use of mirrors also adds to the creepy fun when you see a reflection of a ghost drifting behind your character. Quickly turn around, and it will likely vanish. As good as the graphics and sound are in this game, one can't help but think it would have been more interesting to play the role of a reporter investigating paranormal activities on behalf of a news channel. Snapping photos for evidence, placing tape recorders in different rooms, and/or using various gadgets or traps to ensnare the ghosts instead of shooting at them would have made for a highly entertaining game (a cross between Activision's Ghostbusters and Tecmo's own Deception series). Fatal Frame certainly has its share of scary moments without relying on blood or graphic violence, but the battle system is so hokey and repetitive that the game's potential is left underexposed. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Completing the game opens up a separate Battle Mode against the 20 bosses, and players can go back to take pictures of ghosts they missed. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The game proves you don't necessarily need music to heighten the tension. Atmospheric sound effects make it seem you are actually walking through a haunted mansion. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The camera aspect is misleading, as it is used more as a weapon than anything else. There is a scrapbook in this game, but the interface is clunky and saving pictures is a slow and cumbersome process. The game delivers scares, but it doesn't deviate too far from the survival horror formula. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.