It’s that time of the year where everybody wants to pull out their best horror and ghost stories, start playing creepy pranks on one another, and try to spook anybody they can think of. It’s also that time of the year when people want to find the scariest games they could find and play it throughout the month. A bunch of people think that if something has gore and jump scares, the thing is instantly scary; that’s not always true. Just stick to the basics and somebody will be terrified: a dark atmosphere with matching ambiance and music. Fatal Frame is one of those games that sticks to simple things like that.
Fatal Frame is a survival horror video game series released by Temco that debuted in 2001 on the Playstation 2 (the series is known as “Zero” in Japan and “Project Zero” in Europe.) The theme and plot of the series as a whole is each game has the protagonist trying to find a way to escape certain places before becoming a victim of some kind of ritual. In some games, the main reason why the characters are there is they’re looking for somebody who went missing, such as a loved one or a close friend. As the protagonist is going around solving puzzles and uncovering the mystery behind the ritual, they have survive and protect themselves against various types of ghosts, many of them possessing a special ability. Since the game is filled with ghosts, which can’t be physically harmed, the only tool protecting the player from death is a special camera that has a mysterious power. Called the “Camera Obscura”, this mystical camera can harm and vanquish ghosts by taking photos of them.
Adding to the fact that the player is constantly in fear of being ambushed by killer ghosts, the use of traditional Japanese instruments for the game soundtrack will put even the bravest of players on edge; one minute, the only sound is the character’s footsteps in a hallway, and then it suddenly changes to a slow build up of drums, bells and soon, the cry of a ghost begging for help. Even when reaching certain places along the map, such as long caves, darkened corridors and flooded basements, the music will make players be on constant alert. And then, when a ghost is in sight and prepare to attack, it vanishes and appears right behind the player.
Although Fatal Frame is overall a game of fiction, the first game in the series is actually based off of a rumored haunted mansion just outside of Toyko, Japan called the Himuro Mansion. With the tag line, “Based on a True Story,” the first Fatal Frame follows the legends of the Himuro Mansion, where an entire family was murdered while participating in “The Strangling Ritual.” Local inhabitants speak about “haunting” claims near the mansion, both at night and in broad daylight.
Now, combine these legends, create a dark atmosphere and put some eerie music to accompany it and this is how players would have to endure in Fatal Frame. Whether or not, if these legends are true, Fatal Frame is a must play if somebody wants a good scare and doesn’t mind possibly becoming a victim in “The Strangling Ritual.” If you see rope marks along your ankles, wrists, or neck, it may be too late. Good luck.
If you want to experience Fatal Frame but don’t have a Playstation 2, as most of the early titles were released for that system, check out “Fatal Frame: Maidens of Black Water” for Nintendo Wii U; it utilizes the game pad and its motion features, allowing players to move the game pad around as if it was an actual camera. Just because you use a camera as a weapon, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to enjoy a nice scare through your camera lens.