No matter if playing a video game or watching a movie, we enjoy being scared. In honor of Halloween, we will be reviewing some great horror games throughout the week in a segment we’re calling the Reviews from the Crypt. Previous years we had covered Fatal Frame 2, Saw, Splatterhouse, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and House of the Dead. To kick things off we’re reviewing the sequel to one of our favorite horror games listed above.
Fatal Frame 3: The Tormented takes place 2 years after the events of the original Fatal Frame, and 2 months after the events of The Crimson Butterflies. The story focuses on 23-year old freelance photographer Rei Kurosawa who is mourning the death of her fiance, Yuu, in a car accident caused by her reckless driving. After an assignment in the Kuze Mansion (The same mansion from the first Fatal Frame game,) Rei finds a ghostly image on one of the pictures that looks exactly like Yuu. She then start getting horrible nightmare of a old Japanese Manor house called the Manor of Sleep, and is attacked by a Tattooed Ghost. After the ghost touches her shoulder, she wakes from the pain only to find a mysterious bruise where she was touched, this Tattoo continues to spread after each encounter with the Manor of Sleep.
As Rei begins to piece the pieces together she find that her assistant Miku Hinasaki (fans will recognize her as the main protagonist in Fatal Frame) and Kei Amakura, a friend of Yuu’s and the brother to Fatal Frame 2’s main siblings Mio and Maya, who have been experiencing the same curse. The three of them attempt to solve the mystery of the Manor of Sleep before the curse ends up killing them all.
Following the same gameplay of the Fatal Frame Series, players can take control of Rei, Miku and Kei as they journey through the Manor of Sleep, solving puzzles and defending themselves from spirits by using Fatal Frame’s signature weapon, the Camera Obscura. Like most great survival horror games, the focus of exploration and creating extremely tense moments with ghost walking by mirrors and windows, these moments come from the game’s fix cameras. Surprisingly unlike other fixed camera horror games, you still know where your going thanks to a well made map system and the fact that movement controls never actually change.
Combat is focused in First person mode in the viewfinder of the Camera Obscura, an old time camera that has the ability to see spirits and capture them. While just taking pictures of the ghosts will cause some damage to the the spirit, bonuses are given to attack power for Close calls (taking pictures while being attacked) and Fatal Frames which require you have the ghost in the frame for some time to charge up it’s power. Ghost tend to have different strategies to attacking you as well, some perform quick strikes while sliding through walls, while other prefer to choke the life out of you (a common theme around the game.)
As a Late PS2 game released in 2005, the graphics still hold up fairly well by today’s standards, this is probably due to the well done use of film grain, static and other tricks inspired by Japanese ghost movies like The Grunge and Ringu. However the Audio is what take a major hit in this game, with Voices sounding as if they filmed in a tube or a room with no sound padding and volumes seem to rise and fall at random.
While Fatal Frame 3 has the intensity of it’s predecessor, it doesn’t seem to have that emotional connection and character building that Crimson Butterflies had, and while Fatal Frame’s Deus Ex Machina item, the Camera Obscura itself, is never really explained why it appears where it does, it makes no sense why it would appear in the manor of sleep and why it still have it’s powers. That being said, the game’s story is still extremely good, and the twists can keep you guessing.
I recommend playing through Fatal Frame 1 and 2 before diving into the 3rd entry as it is the one Fatal Frame game that is focused on the previous events of the series. PS3 owners can get the entire series of Fatal Frame on the Playstation Network at $9.99 a piece (Fatal Frame 1 and 2 will be on sale this week only for $3.99 each or $2 for PSPlus members.) Horror fans should definitely take a look at the entire series.