FATAL FRAME: Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse REVIEW (PS5)
''Say cheese and die''
Developed: Koei Tecmo
Published: Koei Tecmo
Genre: Survivor Horror
Release Date: March 9th, 2033
Platforms: PC/PS5/PS4/NSW/Xbox family
*Review copy provided to me by Koei Tecmo*
Fatal Frame: Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse is the 4th entry into the Fatal Frame franchise and is developed and published by Koei Tecmo. After coming off the semi successful remaster of Maiden Of Black Water, Koei Tecmo now decides to give the rest of the world outside of Japan their own taste of horror by finally localizing this title. But was it worth the wait all these years? or should it have just stayed stuck and lost forever on our Nintendo Wii's? Only one way to find out, so lets get spooky!
A group of children mysteriously disappeared during a festival on Rogetsu Isle. Although they were found, they had lost their memories. Now they have returned to the island as teenagers. The girls rely on the Camera Obscura, a camera with the power to capture and seal away unthinkable
''Out here, no one can hear you poot''
Fatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse as stated before, is a localization of the once Japan exclusive title made by Koei Tecmo, that was originally released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2008. Man, it took that freaking long for us to get this title? what were you all doing this entire time?. It sorta reminds me of how much we had to beg Nintendo in order for them to bring over titles with Operation Rainfall in order to even play games like Last Story, Pandora's Tower and even Xenoblade Chronicles. You know, that now widely successful series of Xenoblade we got continuing on now? yeah, we weren't even going to get that. Talk about a total brain fart - almost nearly as big of a brain fart as me saving my game in whatever game I'm playing, then literally two seconds after I did it, I wonder ''hang on, did I... save my game?''. So out of paranoia with one side of my brain saying to me ''you stupid idiot, yes you did save it'', but the other half is like ''Press X to doubt''. Then of course, I have to re-save again. So yes Nintendo and even in this case, Koei Tecmo, you guys have my level of brain fart, sorry. With each game taking place in various locations from shrines, mountains, dungeons, abandoned villages and the like, Fatal Frame 4 sees itself set on Rogetsu Island, an isolated island off the coast of Japan, which has a history of occult rituals and supernatural occurrences. I mean, of course it does, you really think this would end up a carefree Hawaiian get away or a trip to puerto rico for a beach vacation? yeah, no, that spot is reserved for the Lakers and Lebron James in a few months. Oooo. Ok I'm sorry about that to any Lakers fans, I didn't mean it. I mean my Phoenix Suns will probably be there before you guys anyways since were masters at choking away our seasons. But were way off topic, my bad guys.
In this title, you, the player, take on the role of Ruka Minazuki, a young woman who has been invited to the island to participate in a traditional festival. Upon arriving on the island, Ruka begins to experience strange visions and encounters supernatural entities. Diving deeper into Japanese folklore as you progress through the main narrative, you will see that it seems to revolve around the Moon Princess, a legendary figure from Japanese mythology. Good thing its Moon Princess and not Moon Children, otherwise, we would all lose our eyes, and I do not wish to go through that trauma again that was brought onto us all by Ben. Uh Oh, talking about that creepy boy again is what made him come back last time, perhaps.. I shouldn't have done that. The gameplay of Fatal Frame, of course, like all previous entries, centers around the use of a special camera, known as the Camera Obscura, which is capable of capturing the spirits of the dead and weakening them, allowing the player to defeat them. Utilizing this camera, you're also able to take pictures of Specters, the non lethal ghosts, in order to gain a boost of points or more hints as to where you should head next to further the narrative or purchase health herbs, film types and even new costumes. However, simply snapping a photo and being done with it isn't as clear cut and cry either because the more you progress as you solve puzzles, number riddles, press Triangle to hold camera up and R2 to get a quick snap shot, right stick to do a quick spin around to move around quicker or engage a threat easier, reach to grab for items that may be key to the story or items that you need such as herbal medicines to restore health - yes, even with those as part of the gameplay mechanics.. you still have to utilize film types. Much like in Maiden Of Black Water, if you've played it recently, you may switch out not only film types that vary in the amount of damage they do, but also being able to use them for points that can be picked up from picture taking or defeating enemies. With each enemy defeated or photographed, you will be able to utilize those points, alongside blue and red crystal shards, to upgrade your Camera Obscura. This includes add ons for quick burst shots for higher damage, ability to stun enemies, push upgrade that knocks ghosts backwards after a successful snapshot or special Fatal Frame shot that will instant kill. Oh ya, there's a ton that goes into the mechanics. Granted, that's about all there is to it. if I'm going to be honest and fair, it does give you more in variety than a lot of other horror games out there. I'm looking at you, Fantastic Dizzy.
''Flash lights, spirits and hauntings, oh my!''
While the gameplay mechanics are great and can be pretty engaging, the true hero of this remaster is the games graphics. Remastered from the previous Wii version from way over a decade ago, it keeps up its uniquely creepy and haunting atmosphere by using everything in its sack of tricks, from new lighting, the use of dark and shadowy environments, sounds and music playing over intercoms to disorient you, ghosts outside windows as you pass by, sounds from behind locked doors of figures you cant see, and even ringing phones that send chills down your spine as you shake with nerves as you answer it and ask ''Hello... this is Chicky's Meat Bistro, where we don't got a problem with you, only hunger - what's your beef?'' Oh no, not you, GO AWAY, GO AWAY. Sorry, I really hate phone calls from that guy, he's everywhere. I'm not even sure how he got this number anyways, were literally out in the middle of nowhere on an island in Japan.. but enough of him. As I was saying, this game sets its tone really well with how creepy it can be, whether you're trying to dodge two to three spirits at the same time and hastily trying to get off a snapshot, or using your flash light to also combat against ghosts when you do not have access to a camera via your third playable character as you try to discover the mystery surrounding this island. Granted, I still find Fatal Frame 2 and Maiden of Black Water a bit creepier at the end of the day, but because of the newly designed cutscenes that tells the story in both real time events going on with the characters, as well as flashbacks to show how they got there, why they're mentally messed up from having witnessed things that should not be seen, such as deaths and horrors of friends, it still holds its own and remains true to the core fabric of what makes Fatal Frame a mainstay in the horror genre. In regards to the games length and the amount of time you will stay spooked, you will be looking to go through multiple chapters, or in this case, phases, you know as in phases of the moon? get it, lunar eclipse... moon.. eclipse.. yeah you get it, you aren't as dumb as me walking out of a room in this game, then two seconds later, turning around and going right back into it because I'm terrible with my remembering capability and directions. I know what you're thinking and no, don't you say it, don't you dare. So going through the roughly dozen Phases, you're looking at a good 13 to 15 hour romp of a horror fest that will leave you... what? sorry hang on a second. Hello? holy crap bro, I said no already, for the last time, STOP CALLING HERE. Ugh. I swear that dude just won't quit. However.. some people playing this title.. just might quit, sadly.
Why do I say people will quit? well it could be due to a few factors, some that are a core gameplay element and others maybe because they, the player, get lost too much and lose interest in even continuing because it takes them too long to figure out what to do and wander around aimlessly for hours. These are valid concerns, alongside the way your character controls. If you played Maiden Of Black Water first, you're immediately going to notice the difference in movement between both games. Black Water feels smooth and responsive and reactionary to your every button press, alongside having a decently paced running and jogging speed to pick up the pace. However in Lunar Eclipse, running is no more quicker than your average walk speed. This can make traversal back and forth through your venue with its multiple floors, basements, dungeons, passages - very very tedious. Sure that might sound tedious by itself in general, but add into the fact that you're nearly moving at a snails pace around narrow hallways as you navigate your maze of a map trying to figure out just what the heck you're supposed to do next. It can make solving a 10 minute puzzle go to one that takes an hour, big yikes. Another issue is a mixture of multiple gameplay mechanics that can hinder the player, one that mixes player movement, the environment, and turning mechanics all together. While you walk through very very narrow hallways with no proper way to move back and forth other than using right sticks spin motion, you will be attacked anywhere from one to three spirits at a time, all of who can phase through walls, come out of another area from the side of you, in front of you, or behind you, as indicated on your danger meter on top of your screen. The problem I have with this and why many others will too, is because you have to Press Triangle to pick up your camera, D-Pad to switch film types, R2 to snap a photo, then release Triangle to go back to stationary position, then press right stick to try to spin your character around to run in order to get distance from your enemies. But did you catch the problem with that? you're in a narrow hallway and the enemy types move faster than you. By the time you snap a picture to hit one enemy, the other is already on you or close, so putting camera down, spinning and moving to run away faster makes you run into a wall or into the arms of another ghost because there's no where to move, and on top of that, your character is too slow to react and move at the same speed and fluidity of your button presses like you are able to do in titles like Maiden Of Black Water. It feels frustrating and disjointed, and with the majority of the game taking place in these types of atmospheres, it wears out its welcome rather quickly, no matter which character you play as. You know who never outstays their welcome though? Gator Face. Unless they get blasted by an idiot who doesn't know how to holster their damn weapon!
''Close your mouth, smells like road kill''
At the end of the day, Fatal Frame Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse does bring back elements from the series that keeps it in line with why people love these games, however at the same time, brings headaches this time around that aren't really as prevalant in the previous entries as they are here. Sure the game has a spooky atmosphere, fun flash light mechanic usage at times for a solid mix up of pace from using a camera, updated graphics that look great and add to the immersion, a really good mystery and hunting for answers type of narrative story, that's all great. But it falls short with its slow walking mechanic, clunky use of camera and moving mechanics, too many narrow hallways that hinders your movement, along with the cameras movement that obscures your vision, which can cause you to die, tedious and back forth investigating due to character not being able to spin, run or move as quickly as you would like, frame rate dips upon entering the 3rd floor, etc. Again, this isn't a bad title and it does what it needs to do to prove its worth as a Zero, Project Zero and Fatal Frame title, but honestly, while I enjoyed it for what it is, the maneuvering through hallways with shoddy camera work and turning speed, just irritated me more than they entertained me a lot of the time, and that's a real bummer. Having now finished this entry, the 4th in the series, I can now say I've played every single entry in the series, and if I'm going to have to keep it real, out of all the entries, this is definitely the weakest one. So with all this having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says WAIT.