If you’ve read any of my articles over the past five years you should darn well know that I am one of the biggest survival horror fans out there. I’ve mostly dabbled in Silent Hill and Resident Evil with some offshoots to other lesser known franchises, but my heart will always reside in Raccoon City and Silent Hill.
The Fatal Frame series is one that I’ve always wanted to get into but never really made the plunge. I have copies of the series for my original Xbox and downloaded one and two onto my PS3; which is where I’m reviewing them for this article. I also own number 3 for the PS2 and cannot wait to get to that bad boy. The series belongs up there with the big shots. But for some reason never really gets the accolades that Silent Hill and Resident Evil receive. I don’t really understand why. I’ve been enjoying my time with the Camera Obscura.
The game takes place in 1986 in the Himuro Mansion, Mafuyu Hinasaki is searching for his missing mentor Junsei Takamine and his assistants. Mafuyu has an inquisitive sister that can see supernatural events like her older brother, Miku. She decided to enter the mansion and find her brother and bring him to safety. All she actually finds are horrors beyond imagination and a weird little item called the Camera Obscura.
This antique camera can damage hostile ghosts when pictures are taken of them. You must navigate the mansion with this as your only weapon, but you can upgrade it. Taking pictures of friendly ghosts and unfriendly ghosts gives the Camera points that you can distribute to make it more powerful. As you explore the mansion you find different types of film, just like ammunition these rolls of film can be more powerful than the standard film you get at save sights. Holding onto that film and using it on the right ghost is paramount to your survival. Just because your weapon is a camera do not think that this game is forgiving, it is very difficult and will test your patience sometimes.
Tecmo has always had gorgeous games. Even on the PS1 their games somehow always managed to look extremely well. Fatal Frame is no exception. The mansion pays exquisite detail to horror. There are tattered objects everywhere. There is no light to really maneuver. And evil ghosts are there to scare you at every turn.
I’m not a small man, and I would consider myself pretty brave but I don’t know if I could run around this mansion with only a camera to save me. Even the ghosts are well designed. There aren’t Mario Boos all over the mansion. This mansion is filled with some terror-inducing spirits. Even benevolent ghosts can get you to let out a little yelp because they pop up at random. The developers really put a lot of care and effort into making this game look and feel like a haunted mansion. They spared no expense!
The controls are pretty tank-ish and can take some time getting the hang of them. What also makes the controls a bit tough is that there is no camera control with the right stick. You are stuck with the angles that the developers give you. The circle is one of your most important buttons, it is what brings up the Camera Obscura and can save you from some ghostly torment. X is snap the photo, and the triangle is quick turn while in camera mode, this too is very helpful when you are running and trying to get a good shot of the ghost to damage it.
The thumbstick is walk. And when you hold down Square you can run, you will be doing this a lot to run away from ghosts and to get better angles with which to photograph them. When holding the camera you can zoom in and out using L2 and R2, when you zoom out you get a better field of view as to where the ghost is, this is very helpful since they can disappear and sneak up on you.
Fatal Frame is one of the better survival horror games out there, even though it seems like it is constantly forgotten. Tecmo hasn’t opened this franchise box for some time, there was a game overseas for the Wii and the download-only game for the Wii U; but those didn’t garner any attention. Hopefully, Tecmo sees some promise with the Switch and utilized the gamepad for the camera control; but I think that’s just wishful thinking.
No one seems to be clamoring for a new entry in this series and it is doubtful we will ever see one. Thankfully there are three really good ones awaiting us; they are difficult to find on the PS2 and Xbox but if you have a PS3 you can download them and play them to your heart’s content, or terror. If you’re a fan of the survival horror genre and have never given these games the time of day, you should. The Camera Obscura is waiting for you to delve into the untold horror of Himuro Mansion.