|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Grasshopper / Tecmo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
August 18, 2008 - The Fatal Frame series has long been a cult classic of sorts among survival horror fans. It has had several previous iterations on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, which have met with modest success. But the Fatal Frame series has never quite reached the blockbuster status earned by the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series. But it did develop a very small but strong fan following, and it has been earning a reputation of delivering all the screams horror fans want, with none of the gunplay.
The central mechanic used in the Fatal Frame series is the use of a special camera that is able to capture the souls of any sub-human attacker. This camera is referred to as the Camera Obscura. Its origins are unknown, but it works like a charm. The camera not only neutralizes the ghost's paranormal form, but also seals it with in the camera film itself. So, don't get those prints developed!
The plot in Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is separate from those in the previous titles and revolves around a group of young girls who were kidnapped in their childhood and brought to an evil mansion. The girls survived their kidnapping, but several years after the incident, two of the girls died under mysterious circumstances. The surviving girls return to the mansion to try and uncover the reason behind the victims' untimely demise. And, of course, what they find is that there is a supernatural presence pulling the strings in this very evil house.
You will be able to play as several different characters, each wandering alone and, of course, capturing ghostly figures. Early sources have said that there will be a total of six different playable characters. None of the characters have any obvious strengths or weaknesses and it is unknown how or why character switches take place. Although, I would be willing to wager this is probably due to some important plot points, which is fine with me.
As you might expect from a Wii game, there are some fairly interesting control mechanisms employed in this title. Motion controls are used, but probably not in the way you would think. When this title was announced almost a year ago, I expected to utilize the Wii-mote as an on-screen pointer that would allow for precise photography. But this title is going for a more vintage and traditional style, as it will use the Nunchuk's thumbstick to move and aim the camera left or right, and players are able to move it vertically by moving the Wii-mote up and down. You can also use the motion controls if you come into contact with an unsavory ghost and need to dodge their attacks. This is done via a quick shake of the Wii-mote.
Although the controls are unexpected, one thing that is even more exciting is how this game looks. Gameplay videos from the Japanese version look very polished and have some of the best graphics for the system so far. Cinema scenes and in-game graphics are essentially identical, and the game takes full advantage of the Wii's capabilities. Everything looks very detailed, including characters, ghosts, and backgrounds.
The style of the game is also quite noteworthy. The color palate is very dark, but characters shine with a very eerie fluorescence. This is the element that really stands out is the ghost design, which looks incredibly spooky. The ghosts' overall design features some signature Japanese elements, including dark, bloodied eyes and faces, as well as the trademark jerk-walk that we've come to expect from J-horror staples like The Ring and The Grudge. The overall look of the game is really modern, and it feels miles away from the over-used rotten corpses of the Resident Evil series.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has already seen a fairly successful Japanese release, and it looks poised to have a good run in America. The gameplay is reminiscent of the recent PSN title Siren: Blood Curse in the fact that it takes the gunplay out of the equation and substitutes it with more mundane means of defense. Your character is utterly defenseless, except for her camera, and this results in many more terrifying moments. Instead of going for cheap thrills, games like Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse go for real scares, and that is something I think many horror fans have been waiting for.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor