Fatal Frame is the first game of the Fatal Frame series, introducing the franchise's unique premise of fighting ghosts with a special camera.
Fatal Frame was the first to introduce the innovative use of an old-style camera as the primary weapon. In addition to navigating the main characters around the mansion grounds, players are able to enter Viewfinder Mode, where the camera is raised and the view changes to that of the camera's frame. In viewfinder mode the player is able to snap photographs of ghosts, both violent and benign, which is the main method of progressing through the game. Items are also available, some being consumable and most being key items needed to unlock doors, complete tasks or solve puzzles. Puzzles are encountered frequently in the game, some being based on the same concept but becoming progressively more difficult. The varying difficulty settings of the game (Easy, Normal, Hard, Nightmare, or Fatal (Xbox only)) determine the amount of consumable items scattered throughout the mansion and how formidable the enemies are.
The main horror aspect of the game is, undoubtedly, the ghosts. The mechanics programmed for the ghosts allow them to float ethereally through the air, walls and floors, and even teleport, allowing them many ways to attack the player. The ghosts' appearances are usually inspired by their deaths or by Japanese stigmas of horror, which, some argue, are particularily chilling.
The game, depending on which console it is played on, offers two endings. Upon completion of the game, a ranking is given based on total time taken, points accumulated and other categories. The player is also given rewards and unlockables, such as alternate costumes and camera functions, depending on what difficulty was beaten, how much of the Ghost List was completed and other criteria. Beating the game also unlocks Battle Mode, where the player is faced with fighting specific ghosts, and is rewarded with points towards purchasing unlockables. An option is also given where the game can be replayed with all equipment, upgrades and unlockables carried over.
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Its hard for me not to compare this to Fatal Frame 2, which I'm realizing might be one of my favorite PS2 games. Its less scary than 2, the gameplay and models aren't quite as polished, and it doesn't have the same fondness for leaving things unspoken. But when you throw all that away, its still just a really engaging horror game. Its easy to get sucked into playing, moving from location to location, learning about the various tragedies that have plagued this mansion. Learning what happened to Yae after Fatal Frame 2 is CRUSHING but it also just adds even more depth and nuance to this world. I don't know if the games are all that good at dialogue- the papers you read kind of blend together. But the imagery and storytelling is second-to-none. God I wish these were playable on modern consoles.
This game has solid atmosphere and a neat concept but is riddled with annoyances. Ridiculous amounts of backtracking combined with slow movement speed and same-y rooms and hallways. Fixed camera angles but without tank controls so re-directing yourself every time the camera angle changes (which is a lot) is a constant annoyance. Every time you make a little bit of progress you get blocked by a seal or something and have to go backtrack halfway across the mansion to undo it. I personally didn't like the combat at all but I might just be bad at it, I don't know. It was just a lot of taking a picture, running 5 steps, turning around and taking another picture over and over again. The story also wasn't really gripping and the voice acting was generally bad.