Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water
Developer/Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Fatal Frame will always have a special place in video game history. The first entry released in 2001, and since then, the series has always been in a dominant force in Japanese horror games. Unfortunately, the last 15 years hasn’t been great to the series in the West. Since Fatal Frame III, the West hasn’t gotten a single mainline Fatal Frame game. That changed in 2015 when Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water released in the Americas. Unfortunately, the game was a Wii U exclusively, ensuring that no one would play it. That is all changing now, with Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water now on every console. Is it 6 years too late though?
For those who aren’t familiar with the franchise, the Fatal Frame series, it’s a series of mostly standalone games connected by a few threads. The most noteworthy one is the camera obscura, an old camera that can exorcise ghosts. In each game, the players will find themselves in some haunted Japanese spot where the only way to defend themselves is to take pictures of the ghosts. This mechanic continues in Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water.
The mechanic is still sound all of these later, but Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water in particular feels a bit dated. The character movement is painfully slow as players trudge through water and other spooky environments. The game doesn’t have classic horror-level tank controls, but it still doesn’t feel good to move in Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water.
When players encounter ghosts and apparitions, they will need to use their camera. The game switches to first person perspective, making players face their fears head on. It’s a great mechanic that keeps players on their toes, especially with the enemies often in the players’ face. Exorcising the demons feels like a first person shooter with a little more flair. Players can earn points based on the quality of their photos. Catching the enemy when they are close or in the middle of an attack animation. It’s frantic and all throughout the game, taking pictures is thrilling.
The points that I mentioned are used for upgrading the camera to give players the advantage. The only problem with this upgrade system is that the game isn’t difficult. It’s a little too easy on the difficult mode to play on. While the ghosts and cutscenes are certainly scary, the overpowered players certainly takes away some of the thrill. Beating the game gives players a harder difficulty, but by that point it’s hard to be scary when players know what’s coming.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water‘s story is solid, but the cutscenes leave a lot to be desired due to the lack of facial expressions from the characters. Even when a terrifying ghost is right in the face of the protagonist, she merely looks inconvenient. The content of the game is scary, but the lack of fear in the character’s eyes just sucks some of the horror out.
If it weren’t for the poor animations and clunky controls, Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water would be a gem. The mountain setting that the game takes place on has some beautiful sights, while the ghost designs are sensational. The main antagonist is a force that’s always threatening when she appears too. Spotting ghosts in the corner of the screen and catching it before it fades away is always satisfying. There are so many neat little pieces in Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water that it’s frustrating that the game just feels aged. With better controls and updated facial animations, the next entry can be one of the best modern horror games.
The remastered version of Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water does bring some nice additions, but nothing worth double dipping for. The new photo mode allowed for players to capture the beauty of that the game has to offer. There are also tons of new costumes and skins for players to dress their characters in. Some are silly and others are just for fanservice, but its nice having more variety for those that want it.
It’s not perfect, but Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water is a fine yet campy horror game. The camera is genuinely fun to play with, and there are plenty of scares along the way. It’s shortcomings make it a game that isn’t for the hardcore crowd, but Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water is worth checking out for fans of the genre.
Maiden of Black Water