Video Game Review: Fatal Frame [Playstation 2, 2002]

Fatal Frame [Playstation 2, 2002]

Fatal Frame
System: Playstation 2 (also on Xbox)
Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Tecmo
Developer: Tecmo
Release Date: March 4, 2002

When the scariest video games of all time are discussed, it never takes long for Tecmo’s Fatal Frame series to get brought up. This is a series that thrives on its haunting atmosphere, with mostly helpless protagonists faced against an endless onslaught of ghosts and general creepiness.

The original Fatal Frame takes place in an abandoned Japanese mansion. You play as Miku Hinasaki, a young woman who ventures to the mansion to look for her older brother, Mafuyu, who has been missing for two weeks. When she arrives, she realizes that the place is actually haunted, as old folklore stated, and she starts to uncover startling secrets about the family who once inhabited the home. Tales of gruesome murder and torture are unearthed, and now the mansion is crawling with ghosts. Seriously, they are EVERYWHERE, often appearing in places you would not expect.

Fatal Frame [Playstation 2, 2002]

The only way that Miku can combat the ghosts is by using the Camera Obscura, an antique camera that possesses the ability to damage and capture spirits. When an attacking ghost appears, Miku must keep it within the camera’s shot while waiting as long as possible before taking the picture, as this will maximize the damage. Of course, this is easier said than done since this means Miku will be face to face with disturbing ghosts that are moaning and trying violently to grab her and cause harm. It’s pretty damn crazy.

The camera can be upgraded over time, but the enemies grow stronger as well. Throughout the entire campaign, there is a vast feeling of uneasiness. Fatal Frame excels at keeping you on edge, as you never know what to expect. Ghosts randomly spawn all throughout the mansion, even as you backtrack through previously explored areas. Sometimes they will pop out when you open a door, other times they will just randomly appear behind you. The tension can be almost unbearable at times.

Fatal Frame [PS2]

Unfortunately, as the ghosts grow stronger and become more plentiful, the game’s difficulty spikes drastically. By the time I reached the last chapter, I was ill-suited to deal with the powerful spirits that just so happened to be in damn near every room and hallway. Perhaps I had been using medical herbs and high-powered film too liberally in the first half of the game, but I had a hell of a time making my way through the last chapter. Exploring the house in each chapter usually reaps dividends in the form of bonus items, but it’s hard to actually get to these when there are hellacious ghosts around every corner. I felt the game could have been more balanced overall, as this was a major inconvenience for me.

The game’s controls also take some getting used to. They are in the vein of Resident Evil’s old school survival horror, and the game uses fixed camera angles set up in each area. This can cause moments of disorientation when the camera abruptly switches to a different angle. Once I got the hang of it, this didn’t bother me, but I can see how it would be an issue for some.

Problems aside, Fatal Frame is still a damn good horror game that is more than worthy of its “scariest game ever” label. This is a game that deserves to be played in the dark with the sound turned way up. Try not to wet yourself when the music slowly builds up while you hear ghosts moaning in the walls. You know there’s a ghost (or two, or three) lingering around, but you have no idea where. This is the essence of Fatal Frame.


8 thoughts on “Video Game Review: Fatal Frame [Playstation 2, 2002]

  1. Nostra says:

    I remember those scary games on the PS2, I tried Silent Hill once. But after there was this ghost of a little baby with a knife suddenly walking around that was it for me. I never played those type of games again.

    • Eric says:

      Haha! Yeah, that would be pretty disturbing to see. Unfortunately, I missed out on most of the early Silent Hill games (I only played the original PS1 title). I am looking forward to the HD collection coming out in the next few months.

  2. John says:

    I remember reading about this game before it came out and thought it was such a cool concept for a game. I have yet to play it though, something I’ll remedy one of these days.

  3. Max says:

    I was always interested in the Fatal Frame and Clock Tower series. I know they are different, but at least they are both horror. I love classic games, but I don’t have the time to even play the ones coming out this year right now. I hate how video game publishers just throw them all out in the span of two months.

    • Eric says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot all about the Clock Tower games. Good call – I have seen some of them ranked high on a few “all time scary game” lists.

      Totally agree about the smorgasbord of new games lately. It’s damn near impossible to keep up with them all, especially since I have so many older titles sitting in my backlog. There just isn’t enough time to play them all.

  4. Bubbawheat says:

    I know it’s an older review, but wanted to say that this is my wife’s favorite series. We never played the first one, but the 2nd and 3rd ones are really great. Another more obscure game that has a good amount of scary to it is D, for the Saturn I think.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Bubba, sorry for the late reply. That’s funny that you mention that, because this is my girlfriend’s favorite game series as well. I plan on playing through the two sequels sometime soon.

      I remember seeing D pop up in a bunch of “scary games” list, but I never got the chance to play it. It definitely sounds like something I would dig. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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