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Friday, July 23, 2010
HORROR WEEKEND: Game 1 Review: FATAL FRAME
All my life I’ve grown up reading stories about haunted houses, or murders and rituals. Up to the point where I’m seriously considering that when I purchase a house, I want to find one that some poor shmuck once lived in before getting a hatchet to the head, or BAAAWWD so much that he committed self-pwnage.
Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “How are you gonna tie what you just said to your experience with this game?” Well I won’t, because this game did NOT quench my thirst for the paranormal--in fact, it did quite the opposite.
The opening of the game you’re introduced to Mafuyu Hinasaki, who wanders his way into Himuro Mansion to look for his mentor Junsei Takamine and others after his disappearance while visiting the same mansion for his research. During his brief search, Mafuyu finds an old imaging device called the “Camera Obscura” (we'll just call it a camera from now on) which has exorcism abilities. At this point, you learn the basics of the game, such as how to use said camera and other items. Along the way, you watch the ghosts of the research group lead you deeper and deeper into the mansion, while teaching you about what has happened.
Combat in the game is a bit difficult to get used to at first, but it’s not to the point where it’ll take hours to understand. Whenever a ghost randomly gets pissed off enough, it will show up. So, you whip out your camera. The game switches perspective from 3rd person to 1st person as you use your camera to aim at one of the visible-invisibles. But, instead of shooting right away, you keep your camera focused on them manually to gather enough power to shoot out are large blast, knocking them back or causing damage to them.Combat doesn’t go unrewarded, however. During fights you earn points which help you with upgrading different parts of the camera, like range, energy gathering speed, etc.
Now the unfair bit of the battling system is that most of the ghosts in this game take out at least half of your health bar, if not more. Luckily, in this game you can find either “Herbal Medicine” to heal about a quarter of your health, or “Stone Mirrors,” where if you lose all of your health it will completely regenerate. The only downside to the Stone Mirror is that you can only carry one in your inventory continuously. So, if you’re in the middle of a battle and lose your refill of health without finding another Stone Mirror, you’re basically fucked.
While searching the mansion for those healing items, you may find upgrades for the camera. Besides those previously mentioned, you can get upgrades such as Slow, which lets you slow how fast a ghost acts for about 10 seconds, or Pressure which pushes ghosts away if they get too close.
The overall gameplay is that of a scavenger hunt. Your camera is used as a way to snap pictures of strange paranormal energy things (that’s really the only way to describe it), which usually shows you an image of some place where you need to go, or an item you need to get in a previous place you’ve been. After you find the item, you’re rewarded with more of the story. In other words, there is a LOT of backtracking. This isn’t helpful in my case, since I tend to have a very bad attention span and memory.
After learning and going through the intro basics, you get to watch a cutscene of a ghost sneaking up on Mafuyu before getting to play as his sister, Miku. During the entire game, you’re basically chasing after ghost images of her brother while learning more and more about the rituals of the mansion and it’s haunted past.
Now, before I talk about the rumored origins of this game, I have to explain something. When this game was released in the US and Europe, the tagline “Based on a True Story” was added to the end of the title. According to the producer and others who made this game, the story is based on urban legends surrounding the real Himuro Mansion.
According to the IRL legend, the mansion was witness to the murder of a family after a ritual went wrong. The Himuro families were participants in a practice called the “The Strangling Ritual” to stop bad karma from wreaking havoc all over Earth. A maiden is chosen at birth to the master of the household, and is isolated from everything on the outside to prevent any ties from causing the ritual to be ineffective.
The day the ritual is performed, the maiden gets ropes tied to her ankles, wrists, and neck, while the other ends are tied to oxen. The oxen are forced to pull away in all directions, until the limbs get ripped off. Then the ropes are covered in the maiden’s blood and placed over the gateway portal. However, the last recorded ritual saidthe maiden fell in love with a man, which gave her a tie to the outside world. The master found out about her falling in love and with sword in hand, murdered everyone in the family before killing himself.
The story in the game is basically the same, except you learn that someone strongly resembling Mafuyu was the one whom the maiden fell in love with. The maiden in turn kidnapped him. After Miku rescues her brother, he stays behind to help the maiden so she won’t be alone again. The entire underground ritual site begins to collapse, Miku escapes, and all of the spirits that couldn’t leave before are able to now.
The sound in this game is perfect. Plenty of unsettling silence, and the occasional eerie noises that come from either the dead, or nearby objects really help the dark ambiance of the (nearly) empty mansion. The location and scenery throughout the game is beautiful, though dark and creepy. I’d kill for that mansion.
The only negatives I have about this game are the ghosts taking out a large chunk of your health when they touch you, and the ending. It had a stereotypical Japanese horror movie ending. The brother stayed behind because the shrine maiden was lonely. THE BITCH FUCKING KIDNAPPED YOU AND YOU STILL STAY BEHIND? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? Not to mention the fact that if it was her falling in love that caused all of this shit to fuck up, and the master to kill everyone, THEN WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU STAY BEHIND?! IT’LL CAUSE THE SAME SHIT TO HAPPEN AGAIN!!!
Overall, the gaming experience was good. Even though it is filled with jump scares, the hairs on the back of your neck still stand up from the ghosts you don’t notice--until the last second out of the corner of your eye, which really gets your blood pumping! Still, honestly, the stereotypical ending killed it for me. I couldn’t stand it.
So, if you still haven’t played this game yet, I highly suggest you do. Just get ready for a lot of backtracking.