Fatal Frame III Is An Adequate Installment For Fans Of The Series
Fatal Frame has always been one of my favourite horror franchises, both the first and second game told a good spooky story with unique combat and extremely fear-inducing ghosts. Fatal Frame 3 picks up the pieces from the earlier games in the franchise by being set directly after the events of the first two games, throwing in new and old characters, a new story of rituals gone wrong and a multitude of new camera functions. Unfortunately not every aspect of the game delivers.
Story wise Fatal Frame 3 is a bit of a mess, it see's you filling the shoes of three characters:- new lead Rei Kurosawa, Miku Hinisaka from the first game and Kei Amakura (who is the cousin of the twins from the second game) working together to stop a curse lurking in peoples dreams including their own. When the characters sleep they enter a nightmare world they must progress through and solve certain objectives to wake up, all the while getting deeper into the curse (which is shown by a black tattoo spreading on their bodies) and risking their own lives. Not to spoil things too much but the cast are all searching for a lost loved one, and the theme of the story very much focusses on loving those we love and the misery surrounding that. There is of course the obligatory creepy rituals, hell being unleashed on an unsuspecting household and doomed folklorists from previous titles. The issues in the story lay purely in that it isn't told as well as it should be, in previous games notes scattered around the mansion and cut scenes painted the unfolding plot about before you expertly but here they fail to make sense and your often left clueless as to what is going on. It's not that the plot is "bad", it's just not told to a satisfactory level and thus is left with massive holes. That said fans of the series should still enjoy to some degree.
For those not in the know Fatal Frame see's players wielding a phantom zapping camera in combat. Taking photos of ghosts causes you to damage hostile ones, and special close range shots as the ghosts lunge at you (know as zero shots) cause increased damage. The camera can also be upgraded to be more powerful and there are lenses that cause special attacks and combo's to be inflicted on your enemies. The combat in Fatal Frame 3 is essentially the same as the earlier games, albeit more. There are more lenses, more attacks, three characters all wielding different cameras that must be upgraded independently as well as character specific abilities that can alter combat. Unfortunately in their eagerness to add so much to the game the flaws appear. There are far too many functions to bother with most of them in your first play through, it's frustrating to have three cameras some starting significantly weaker than others and some of the cameras new functions are just utterly pointless when you can defeat a lot of ghosts with ease in the conventional way you tackled them in previous games. That said however, the combat can also be frustrating, the game will throw you into far more difficult fights to previous games and even when you do try and utilise new abilities thinking these skills will help in harder battles they prove to be of little help in scenarios where the game clearly intends you to suffer. For an example at later points in the game players must fight 3 or so fast moving ghosts at once, in very enclosed environments where the ghosts hide in the walls and leap out on you from multiple directions. Not fun at all.
The core part of Fatal Frame 3 see's you traipsing around the Manor of Sleep solving puzzles, picking up items and getting into battles. The key exploring mechanic of the game works well as ever, with lots of areas in the mansion including revisits to areas from the first two games and lots of hidden places to eventually open up and explore. the usual items all return too along with some clever yet logical puzzles that while challenging are not too frustrating. The only downfall is sometimes it is hard to tell where you need to go and cut scenes only give slight clues so unless your alert and paying attention you may have to explore for a while, but as you gradually get used to the mansion this isn't too difficult and to find all the hidden ghosts exploring off the beaten track is necessary anyway. The games length does become a slight issue towards the final few nights as it drags out and you will find yourself in the same areas as different characters a bit too much to the degree you may get bored, but per-serve as the final few areas you discover are well worth the wait, especially the gloriously epic final boss battle.
Overall Fatal Frame 3 adds flaws to a series that lacked these flaws in the first few games which is sadly a bad thing, yet at the same time the atmosphere and core game structure remain entertaining and well crafted enough to be good for fans of the franchise. You just wish as a fan of the series that the developer would have realised less is sometimes more.