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Fatal Frame  
I can see them...

PanuruFatal Frame is Tecmo's new survival horror series. Based on the mysterious murders happened in an abandoned mansion situated in the suburban area of Tokyo and inspired by Japanese traditional ghost stories, this game has been acclaimed for the novelties it brings to the survival horror genre, mainly ruled by zombies, monsters and gore. The main character of this adventure is not a member of the special forces, and is not a provocative woman in shorts. Nor it is the typical good old clumsy fellow. The actual star of the game is a young Japanese schoolgirl, Hinasaki Miku, aged 17. What makes Miku so special is her sixth sense, which allows her to feel supernatural presences, an ability shared with her mother Miyuki and her brother Mafuyu. It is to find her beloved brother Mafuyu, the only relative she has left after the death of her mother, that Miku begins her thrilling adventure in the sinister Himuro Mansion. Mafuyu, a journalist, went to the Mansion to look for a group made up of writer Takamine Jinsei, his editor Ogata Koji and his assistant Hirasaka Tomoe. Takamine's purpose was to gather interesting ghost stories for his next book, but he and the other two members of his group never came back from their trip to the Himuro Mansion. Mafuyu disappeared as well later, as if he was swallowed by the obscure depths of the Mansion. It's up to Miku, with her mother's camera as the only reliable weapon, to solve the enigma behind the Himuro family and its cruel and inhuman collection of rituals...

Compared to other survival horror titles, the terror in Fatal Frame remains on a more subtle level, and it works on the ambiguous opposition of seeing/not seeing, sensing/imagining, that now and then forces the player out of the passive act of witnessing. Thanks to the interaction with one of the most classical elements of folk tales, ghosts, he has to take action. Fatal Frame is quite a cinematic experience from many points of view. The player is a spectator, a voyeur, he can identify himself both with Miku and her camera and with the narrative instance, willing to rebuild the truth behind the story of the game, filling gaps and making connections. Mystery has always been part of the survival horror genre. In general, together with gore, the mystery, the inexplicable, is the most important element of these games. Lacking extreme gore, blood and other revolting aspects, Fatal Frame focuses more on the importance of vision. It's the way it's shown, not what is shown, that occupies the most relevant position in the architecture and structure of this very refreshing attempt to recreate the atmosphere of ancient folk tales stories in modern times.

Gameplay : 7.0

Let's get this straight: Fatal Frame is a game that could have been a lot better. The premises are very interesting and the uniqueness of setting and story in the panorama of survival horrors was enough to make the player want to play the game. Unfortunately, the game isn't much fun to play and this negatively influences its overall atmosphere. The best parts of Fatal Frame are exploration and puzzles, which is rather odd if we think this is a survival horror. There is some action, but it's not supposed to be the main element of the gameplay, probably with a reason. The game is divided into four nights. Miku, and the player with her, silently moves from room to room, she walks around gloomy corridors, where rotten wooden doors are waiting to be unlocked and seals to be broken. She collects evidence of her brother's presence and with the passing of time she finds herself more and more involved in the story of the ancient inhabitants of the house. She's forced to examine and unveil the secrets behind the bloody rituals of the Himuro family, hoping this will help her to save her brother. But apparently there is no escape, and she finds herself dragged into the same world where disturbing memories from the past emerge from the darkness of the Mansion's rooms and halls, where spirits keep on wandering behind worn out kimonos and ripped off windscreens, in eternal damnation.

The limits of Fatal Frame are represented by the interaction with environments and ghosts. This game has not true enemies, meaning you don't have to kill in order to proceed. In fact, ghosts, who are the only antagonistic presences in Fatal Frame, can't be defeated at all. You occasionally encounter them while passing through rooms, and the only thing you can do about them is take shots. By taking shots Miku can temporarily get rid of the ghosts, but they are never defeated once and for all: they can always come back. Same form, same face, and same movements: they won't let you go away! The camera is the only weapon that can help you saving your life (apart from the classic "turn your back & run away" tactic...). It is not very difficult to get used to controlling the camera but it is very important to pay much attention. First of all, you need to know the camera screen and its commands. Accessing the camera screen by pressing the X button you can take shots. The screen has a circle on its center. The ghosts must be framed inside that circle in order to damage them. A gauge on top of the screen will let you know the strength possessed by the ghost. The gauge representing Japanese symbols at the bottom of the screen will determine the power of your shot: the greater the number of symbols that will glow, the higher the damage dealt to the ghost. There are many shots you can perform. The Zero Shot is the best among all, and it's done when you perfectly frame the ghost inside the circle (which will become orange), from a close distance, when the charge gauge is full. There are also Special Shots, Core Shots, Double and Triple Shots (done by shooting two or three ghosts at the same time), etcetera. Other indicators in your camera screen will show how many shots left you have and the type of loaded film. But it must be said: forget all strong characters of other survival horror games: Miku is very weak and cannot resist to many ghosts attacks. You absolutely need to be precise, quick and to avoid attacks when possible. Unfortunately the character's movements aren't so precise and quick, and sometimes you'll probably have a very hard time trying to escape from ghosts shooting them at the same time. Miku is not like Resident Evil's easy-to-control characters. She's slow, even when she runs, and you don't have full control over her movements. When Miku is walking, if a ghost is nearby, the indicator on the right bottom of the screen, which is also present in the camera screen, will alert you by becoming orange. If the same indicator is blue, it means a spirit is sealing a door or that it is locked away in some hidden place. By taking a photo of these peculiar spirits you will earn points or you'll find some evidence that will lead the solution of a puzzle. By recovering objects and shooting ghosts, you can earn the opportunity to level up the camera and acquire new features and abilities. Basically the higher the number photos you get, the more your camera will increase its spiritual powers, thus becoming more effective against new ghosts. Herbs, potions and different kinds of films can be found around the Mansion too. But here comes another issue of the game: it sorely lacks balance. There are moments in which you will meet only few weak ghosts, and you'll get the impression the game will be like that from the beginning to the end. Wrong. If at the beginning ghosts are so weak that fighting them almost becomes boring, from the end of the second night the situation dramatically changes. They will become more frequent and resistant. I don't recommend using all your best films during the first and second night. Better treasuring them, because the creators of this game were so mean that you can easily run out of strong films or meds to cure Miku, fooled by the easy pace of the first nights. If that happens, the game becomes very tough and incredibly frustrating.

Page 2: Graphics, Sound, Replay Value, and Overall Opinion

Replay Value
Overall Score

Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Release Date
North America
March 5th, 2002
December 13th, 2001
August 30th, 2002

Miku, the young heroine of Fatal Frame.

This game can be very, very scary.

One of the ghosts...
More screenshots of Fatal Frame

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