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Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Is the Fatal Frame series any good?

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Posted 07-29-2009 at 04:34 PM by December Man
Updated 05-05-2010 at 08:55 AM by December Man (Added a note about the games' setting)

Notes:

1. Fatal Frame is the US name of the game. The series is called Project Zero in Europe and Zero/Rei in Japan.
2. I haven't played the fourth one since it was released only in Japan and only on the Wii, a system I do not have.
3. The opinion is based on the PS2 versions of the games.


After several months of struggle I have finally got my hands on the copies of 3 FF games. They are known among survival horror enthusiasts as one of the holy trinity: Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, and thus one of the best of the best. I couldn't let that slip, now could I?

In case you didn't know, the main motif in each game is the Camera Obscura, a camera with which you take pictures of ghosts in order to deal damage and defeat them.

Let's cut to the chase. First what I DON'T like about each game.

FF1

-frustrating combat; the ghosts use some really cheap tricks and are really fast at times which makes the very slow running speed infuriating
-puzzles; at least half of them are either: solve 2 types of door puzzles to open said doors, or take a pic of a hidden ghost... to open a door(this aspect "take picture=open door" is used in the other games, but never in such quantity)

FF2

Oh dear, this is where I'm walking on thin ice, since this appears to be a fan favorite.

-ironically, very easy combat, borderline boring; this is the complete opposite to the first game
-the ghosts are slow, rarely do they teleport and the damage they deal is a lot lower
-boring, mind numbing backtracking coupled with the ridiculous "running" speed; there were times where Mio(the heroine) is supposed to backtrack to the other side of the village, during those times I was stopping for a few seconds to sigh for 5 seconds, before continuing
-find key, find Mayu(the heroine's sister), find key, find Mayu, find key :FLASHBACK:, find key; goddamn, does this girl have any kind of mind of her own?

And the worst of all...

:takes a deep breath:

This game isn't scary, at all! The scare moments are the most predictable I have probably ever seen anywhere ever. They're also full of cliches. Not that the other games don't have them, but not in such quantity. It went to a point where I was playing a game with myself: every time I expected a jump moment, I said "pikaboo". Most of the time I was right, the rest of the time nothing happened.

FF3:
-the Manor is a really complicated maze; even after 12 hours of playtime I was still getting lost in it.
-the game seems too long; there is some backtracking like in FF2, it's not so mind numbing, however over 13 hours first time through is 3 hours too long IMO; it just got boring near the end, albeit it was still very interesting.


Seems a bit harsh, especially about FF2. However, the games have huge potential, and do have that spark of genius in them. A spark present in my beloved Silent Hill series.



First of all, the storylines are complicated, mature, make you think about the cruelty of human beings, what love is and what a man is capable of if love for the other person is involved. Pretty much what Silent Hill is famous for, but done differently.

Secondly, originality. How many games have you seen where the enemies are ghosts? Very few. And how many have you seen where the only weapon that can defeat them is a camera? None. Except Fatal Frame. This alone gives a lot of opportunity for never before seen scares, tension and a unique combat system. Unfortunately, it was not until the third game where the developers got that right.

Thirdly, the setting. Every games' set in Japan with Japanese characters. The plot includes elements of Japanese folklore, legends and culture. This is extremely unique, considering that the other two great series, Resident Evil and Silent Hill, are based mostly around Americans and their culture and include motifs from American movies and books.

Fourthly, (almost)endless possibilities about the setting and story in the next games. Unlike Silent Hill, where it's all about the same town, its Otheworld etc. over and over, FF's only motifs are the mentioned camera and ghosts. The rest is up to the clever minds at Tecmo, the developer.


Overall, even though I started with a definite "don't touch these games" attitude, I think it's up to each player to decide if they like FF. The games, except the 3rd installment, just didn't "tick" for me. Fortunately, I see the said spark of genius in them, and all I can say is that if you're a survival horror fan, or even if you like to be scared from time to time, Fatal Frame/Project Zero/Zero/Rei is a definite must play.



:edit:
The first two games were released on the XBox bearing the name "Director's Cut". The only difference between the normal PS2 versions and the DC XBox versions are few more costumes, types of ghosts and 1 new ending per game which are "goody-goody-everyone-survived-let-us-have-a-party-lol".
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