It’s not all too often that Nintendo gets a horror game on one of its consoles, but when it does, they tend to be pretty darn good. The Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 4 are the best examples of this, but there are others, too, like ZombiU and Eternal Darkness. The latest title trying to join the club of solid Nintendo fright fests is Koei Tecmo’s Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, which drops on the Wii U eShop this coming Thursday, October 22. The title is being billed as “free to start,” with most of the first two chapters able to be completed before having to pay to unlock the full game. This is a pretty cool way of getting players onboard for what will be a new series to many Nintendo fans. Fatal Frame has been around for quite a while, though, and to help everyone understand why they should be psyched about Maiden of Black Water, we’ve put together a primer to get fans up to speed!
Fatal Frame Trilogy – PlayStation 2
Fatal Frame hit PS2 back in 2001. The game, developed by Tecmo and Grasshopper Manufacture, is a survival horror adventure that casts players as Miku Hinasaki, a young girl who is searching the mysterious, abandoned Himeru Mansion for her missing brother. Unlike many other survival horror games, there is no shooting and knifing in Fatal Frame. Instead, players use something called the Camera Obscura to battle spirits roaming the mansion.
It’s creepy. Crreeeeepppyyyy! The environments are lush with detail, which really sells the dilapidated, eerie atmosphere of the mansion. Keep in mind, it’s not like the mansion in Resident Evil; this is a traditional Japanese living space, with sliding screens and wooden floors. Something about the classical accommodations really lends itself well to the experience, almost transporting the player to another time, even though the games are taking place now and not in the past. This type of setting is seen across all three titles of the original trilogy.
The setting is a huge part of what defines the Fatal Frame series, as it doesn’t take place in nameless metropolises, but instead very distinctively asserts itself as being in Japan. It’s a fun, unique shift from the norm, and along with the use of the Camera Obscura to snap pictures of/defeat malevolent spirits, these three games really cemented themselves into the minds of fans. It’s not often that an established genre like survival horror can have genuinely new ideas injected into it, but that’s exactly what the Fatal Frame series did– and would continue to do.
The Missing Links – Wii
Fatal Frame made the jump to a Nintendo console for the first time with Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on Wii in 2008. The game introduced motion controls to the series, with the Camera Obscura and a special flashlight both aimed using the Wii Remote, and character control mapped to the Nunchuk. It was a perfect pairing, and Japanese gamers greatly enjoyed the fourth installment of the franchise. Unfortunately, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was purportedly expected to be localized for the west (at the very least Europe), but nothing ever came of it, and the game remains a Japan-only installment.
This trend would continue with the release of Fatal Frame II: Deep Crimson Butterfly. It’s a remake of the second Fatal Frame game, designed for Wii utilizing the game engine that was developed for Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. Fans and critics flipped for this one, with many declaring it the marquee horror experience on Wii. This title did see some release outside of Japan, landing in both Europe and Australia, but sadly North America got shafted once again, making Deep Crimson Butterfly the second Fatal Frame that fans would have to go without.
The Oddball – 3DS
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is an offshoot of the main series that dropped on 3DS in 2012. It’s such a shame that this one stumbled the way it did, as the Fatal Frame series seems like it would be a natural fit for the handheld, especially with its built-in cameras. The problem was twofold, however, as Spirit Camera came bundled with a special AR notebook that interacted with the game. While it was laudable of Koei Tecmo to take advantage of the underutilized technology within 3DS, its functionality left a lot to be desired. For one, playing a horror game in a brightly lit room so as to be able to use its AR functionality wasn’t the greatest idea, and it required being in a fairly open space in order to spin around and use the camera effectively. It also isn’t especially long, with its main campaign able to be completed in only a handful of hours. As far as the Fatal Frame series goes, this spin-off is one that likely won’t be returned to any time soon.
Still, Spirit Camera is the only black sheep in the family at this point; this is a franchise known for its quality. With Maiden of Black Water only days away, fans will finally be able to reconnect with the Fatal Frame series for the first time in years, or even discover it for the first time. Take advantage of the “free to start” offer that Nintendo is promoting for this one, and look to Nintendojo in the near future for our full review of the game. There are few better ways to get in the “spirit” (a pun!) of Halloween than a spooky game like Maiden of Black Water, so clear some space on your hard drive and get ready for Thursday!