Fatal Frame (known as Zero in Japan) is a survival horror game for the PS2 and the Xbox. This game gave me nightmares and made me vow to stay as far away as possible from all abandoned Japanese mansions outside of metropolitan Tokyo.
Story (4 out of 5)
You play as Miku Hinasaki who goes to find her brother Mafuyu (who went to find his mentor, the novelist Takamine) in the Himuro Mansion. The mansion has a pretty bad reputation as the entire family, servants and all, were horrifically murdered by the master of the house around the turn of the century. Oh, and apparently they were also performing some mysterious Shinto rituals. Of course, Miku can’t wait to rush in and find her brother, even from a mansion with such a bloody past where are least four other people have already gone missing. And, of course, Miku goes alone and at night. That’s a horror survival game for you.
The main baddie is a ghost named Kirie who tries to kill Miku several different times (as do most of the ghosts). Miku must free all the spirits in the mansion of the evil malice that permeates the grounds in order to escape.
The story is actually really interesting and watching it unfold through scraps of paper and audio recordings is fun (and scary!). While it may be a bit out there (not as far out as Silent Hill) it was creepy enough to make me jump (a lot).
Graphics (4 out of 5)
Everything is gray and dark and dingy (besides the blood), but it sets a mood. The lighting is purposefully bad. While the graphics don’t stun, they don’t distract either. They are on par with other PS2 (and Xbox) games.
Game Play (4 out of 5)
Finally, a game that realizes the controls in Silent Hill and Resident Evil were bad! Fatal Frame actually gives you options to control Miku. This makes the whole game play experience better since you can actually control the character in a way in which you are comfortable.
Weapon wise, Miku only has a camera. Taking photos of the ghosts who attack you (or just ghosts you see) is a must throughout the game. However, there are several different types of film (with different powers) and the film is limited. In order to make the most of your film supply you must take zero shots of attacking ghosts (wait for them to get close enough to Miku that the circle around them changes color). Zero shots damage the ghosts a lot, and believe me, you need to be able to do it to pass the game.
Also, there are special extras you can collect by beating the game on different modes or collecting certain photos of ghosts.
Fun, er, Scary (5 out of 5)
I’m not sure if survival horror games are supposed to be fun. Scary? Yes! The first night I played this game I couldn’t sleep afterward. It’s that scary! But it is an atmospheric kind of scary, not a being chased around the woods by a chain saw wielding lunatic kind of scary. The mansion and grounds on which the game takes place are totally foreign to most players in the US and that adds to the fear. There is an otherworldly wrongness to the whole game that makes the experience truly terrifying.
Okay, I’m gonna say it: Fatal Frame is the scariest game of all time. It still scares me to this day (and I’ve beaten it several times!). That has to mean something. If you want to scream like a girl (whether you are a girl or not) check it out.