Facing Horror Straight On
Being armed with nothing but a camera was a stroke of genius, whilst later games tell you to look away from the horror lest it envelop you, Fatal Frame tells you to stare right at it and snap a few shots... lest it envelop you.
Walking through a dark, dilapidated & certainly haunted mansion for a brother that should logically either be dead or home with you by now is so tried and true one of the Mario brothers did it. Set in the 1980's before mobile phones were a thing protagonist Miku becomes trapped within the Himuro Mansion and embroiled with generations of phantoms. The backstory is a bit confusing to pick up on unless you find the right diary entries, but it seems to boil down to the usual rituals and so on that have trapped many others since the original family that lived in the mansion.
The atmosphere of the game is pretty excellent with the soundtrack being this ritualistic chanting of distorted voices and wailing, the darkened corridors have residual ghosts in them you can snap for bonus points which always leaves you feeling like you're being watched and the cutscenes do a great job of setting the mood for things. But best of all, a lot of the gameplay is purely nerve wracking, whilst many of the ghosts are scripted and part of the story there's a load that'll appear out of nowhere which can be pretty terrifying, dealing with the ghosts themselves can sometimes be frustrating as they disappear through walls and can come straight through them and attack you, but most of the time the "combat" is you desperately trying to snap a picture of something as it crawls or floats towards you and not every picture you take will get the required result. Face shots work well so you cant just hold the camera in roughly the right direction and hope for a result you need to work for it. I think the camera obscura is possibly one of the best mechanics in the horror genre, the ghosts themselves aren't particularly frightening but the damage they deal and their erratic movement patterns makes dealing with them kind of terrifying, when they suddenly vanish and you're twisting the camera to stare at the walls to see where they went and they appear behind you... It's very well done.
The game is broken into nights with different spooky events taking place and more story, new ghosts and flashbacks accessed per night, it does get pretty tricky as the game progresses if you don't level up your camera with points, this is the only part of the game i'm a bit uncertain with, it feels kinda arcade-y with you snapping ghosts to earn points to upgrade your camera to snap more ghosts. This really isn't a major problem with the game whatsoever and you can ignore me here but I think it would be better to pick up camera attachments and be able to use them to upgrade the camera and it's abilities as the story progressed rather than resulting to points.
I think Fatal Frame to be a great experience and I personally find this game more frightening than it's sequel., you can argue that a lot of what this game set up was perfected in Crimson butterfly but if you're a true connoisseur of the horror then it's worth giving a go.