Fatal Frame is a survival horror game that was first released in 2001.It has a lot in common with games like Resident Evil 1 through 3 and Resident Evil Code Veronica because it has fixed cameras that you move in and out of frame as you make your way around. The year is 1986 and Mafuyu Hinasaki is searching for a famous novelist who seemed to disappear while researching for his latest book in the rumored haunted Himuro Mansion. This mansion is supposedly filled with spirits and people have gone missing in it before. When Mafuyu fails to return his sister Miku enters the mansion. With several people already missing Miku only wants to find her brother but there is much more going on.
Fatal Frame still has just as much power to scare you as it did when it first came out. It is based on a Japanese urban legend and not a true story as copies of the game outside of Japan claimed. You play as Miku over a four night span as she searches for her brother. The mansion is filled with spirits of all different levels. Some are echoes of pasted events called residual hauntings. They are spirits just going through the same pattern and are non-interactive. Then there are the two other kinds of entities. The ones trying to help you or delivering a message and then there are the angry vengeful ghost that are after you for no other reason than you are alive and they hate you for it. There are several groups that have issues in the mansion. There is the original family that lived there a long time ago. There’s the novelist and his group that never came back and of course Miku’s brother Mafuyu. Plus, dozens of other people that have somehow ended up trapped there.
The only way Miku can see spirits is with a very old antique camera that she found that her brother dropped when he disappeared inside the mansion called the Camera Obscura . The camera is how the combat works. You move around the mansion in 3rd person but when you use the camera it switches to a 1st person shooter through the camera lens. It’s clear that the camera has special powers over the spirit world both in searching for helpful spirits and attacking the evil ones as you exorcise them away.
Fatal Frame only has one real flaw and it is a big one and that’s the controls are a clunky mess. It did not matter which control pattern we picked we still could not find one that we liked and the controls are slow to respond sometimes. Often in the heat of the moment you will just run right into the thing you are trying to escape. You can upgrade the camera making it more powerful but the ghost get stronger and faster too. It helps but does not solve the movement issue we kept finding. The issue is even worse during boss battles. We got used to the controls being a mess but it never got any better.
Fatal Frame took us between 10 to 12 hours to get through the first time and the replay is above average not because of controls of course but Fatal Frame has a great story and there is still no game out there like it besides other Fatal Frame titles. Survival horror is supposed to make you uncomfortable and never feel safe, Fatal Frame does that from start to finish. Ghost will even follow you into other rooms because they can go through walls. Fatal Frame is easily worth paying $9.99 on PSN but we are not sure why the Xbox version is not available for Xbox gamers. You can still find physical copies from your PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Fatal Frame will still scare the hell out of you.