Here at Push Square it's site policy that we don't believe in the supernatural. Vampires, werewolves, and Frankensteins? Poppycock, hogwash, and flannel, we say. Having never believed in ghosts we've never considered what we'd do should we ever come face to face with one. We can plan for World War 3 or Covid 2 or bumping into someone we don't want to stop and talk to in Tesco. If a ghost popped up and started getting shirty we would probably end up running, hoping that we could get away while the spirit was busy murdering someone else.
Ghosts are the big bad in Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, a remaster of the fourth game in the long-running survival horror franchise, originally released exclusively on Wii, and exclusively in Japan. This is the first chance for Western Fatal Frame fans to play the game on a real console and in shiny HD, and it's about a bunch of people who all come face to face with ghosts and opt to fight, not run. And it's a good job, too, because they're the slowest runners we've ever seen.
For the uninitiated, the game is set on an island in Southern Japan, where a decade prior a handful of young girls went missing. Eventually they were discovered, alive and kinda-well by a dutiful detective, and in the subsequent years two of those girls have died under mysterious circumstances. Now in the present day two more of the girls are going back to the island to do some amateur investigation but they really haven't thought any of this through.
One of the girls is apparently so confident that she'll have the whole thing wrapped up by tea time that she's turned up to the investigation wearing a mini-skirt and high heels, presumably so they can stop for celebration cocktails on the way home. Now, we're not exactly up to date with current fashion trends, and it's years since we wore heels, but unless they've made some tremendous strides in high heel technology that we're not privy to this seems like a wildly impractical footwear choice. It might go some way to explaining why she's so damned slow, though. We cannot stress enough how slow this game is.
The walking pace of the characters we play as - and we play as a few - is absurd. They all walk about like they're on a romantic stroll through the park. The game tells you that you can hold L2 to run but all we got was a light jog. We haven't been to a gym outside of a Pokémon game in twenty years, but you better believe if there was a ghost after us we'd move faster than this. At one point we had to run from one side of the building to the other and by the time we got there we needed another shave.
The excruciating pace of the game isn't restricted to just running either. In order to find items in the world as you explore, you need to shine a torch in their general direction and then a glowing marker will appear and only then can you pick it up. This takes forever and the detection is hit and miss, with items appearing, sometimes, the second or third time you check an area. This means you're never really sure if you've fully explored an area or not until you've checked everywhere over multiple times.
The controls in the game are what we'd diplomatically refer to as classic survival horror, in the same way that some people might refer to Def Leppard as classic rock — not good, just old. What was rubbish back then is still rubbish now. We're mocking, but in all honesty we do find the clunkiness of the controls quite charming and nostalgic as fans of old survival horror games. If you're a fan too then you'll likely get more out of this game than younger players, or people new to the genre.
Movement in Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a struggle, and the camera doesn't help at all. It follows behind you automatically as you run, it can't really be manipulated by the right stick as you might expect, and it constantly ends up in unhelpful positions during hectic encounters.
Early into the game the aforementioned ghosts start going on the murder and unless you want to end up as a ghost yourself you've got to fight. You quickly find a magical camera that can kill ghosts when you take pictures of them, which is convenient but welcome. When an evil ghost arrives and gets up in your face, tapping triangle moves you to first person view and then you have to keep an eye on it while the camera charges before taking a snap when it's ready. If you're feeling risky, you can wait until a ghost is just about to attack before you take your picture, resulting in bonus damage.
These ghost battles are tense, and at first we really enjoyed them. The ghosts float about unnervingly, and the controls are just sketchy enough that we never felt safe. The problem is that there's barely any variety in the ghosts you'll face, and even at a lean ten to twelve hours running time we thought the combat had worn out its welcome by the halfway point. The final stretch of the game is particularly grim, featuring one section where you fight the same boss three or four times in a row and it wasn't even very good the first time.
The game is most effective when you're simply wandering, slowly, around spooky locales. It's not what we'd call scary, but it's definitely creepy, and being entirely voiced in Japanese with subtitles means that it avoids any of the cheesiness found in its contemporary titles, at least until the guitar solo kicks off during the ending. The sound design generally works well, blaring and grating in all the right places.
On the plus side, too, for a remaster of a fifteen year old game we think Mask of the Lunar Eclipse looks pretty good. They've done some shrewd work with the lighting and a camera filter to hide a multitude of sins. Close-ups of character faces or hair make it obvious that you're looking at a game from a couple of generations ago, but in the moment-to-moment gameplay we'd say Koei Tecmo's done stellar work updating the experience, which is sure to please franchise fans who've been wishing for a localisation of the title for over a decade.
Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is an old school survival horror game for better and worse. It's charmingly old school, and for people who grew up on a healthy diet of Resident Evil and Silent Hill back on the original PlayStation like we did, there'll be something nostalgic to the control foibles and camera issues. But there's no getting away from the fact that this is a game that feels older than it is, and the leaden pace will be off-putting to many.
Absolutely can't wait to pick this up on Steam.
All those "cons" are what fans of classic survival horror and the FF/PZ franchise want.
Definitely picking this one up. Sure the episode feel of Maiden of Blackwater sucked, however these Project Zero games when wearing a good headset are the only modern horror games that can scare me a little.
"We haven't been to a gym outside of a Pokémon game in twenty years, but you better believe if there was a ghost after us we'd move faster than this." Brilliant.
@jrt87 This was a tough one to review because of that. There's a lot of problems with the game, but as someone who loves old school survival horror games I also found the game to be nostalgic and fun. It's hard to balance that with what is obviously a bad camera and rubbish controls. So what I'll say is, if you love old Resident Evil etc. before all the explosions, back when it had tank controls, and you miss those days, you're going to like this game probably.
I still can't believe this miracle has actually happened that countdown on my PS5 is driving me crazy I can't wait ^__^ hopefully if this sells well they'll port the original trilogy
I played all the originals for the first time on PS2 in 2019 and then bought a Wii U just to play MoBW (first thing I did was turn off the motion controls so it played like its predecessors). Don't think many years have gone by since the late 90s when I haven't played/replayed a classic style survivor horror game.
@johncalmc Question, is the game 60FPS or 30?
@jFug Pretty sure it was locked 60. No frame drops or other technical problems.
Inappropriate attire seems to be a hallmark of these games. It’s like they went out and had a spur of the moment idea to go explore a scary island. Like, dressed to the nines, and then after the club, “I remember this spooky place, let’s go right now.”
If I can stand Silent Hill, I can stand this. Even so, I'll probably only end up buying it in 3 years.
I think Fatal Frame / Project Zero 2 was a hightpoint of the series for me, the first game is also good and I've not played the 3rd one as I owned an Xbox at the time. I was really anticipating this one on the Wii as I thought the 2nd game was outstanding within the genre, but of course it never came to Europe. Oddly, the Wii did recieve a third person remake of Fatal Frame 2 in Europe which I did play and which was styled more like this game, but it wasn't as good as the original version with its 'fixed' RE style camera angles for exploration.
Am interested to finally play this one, though may wait for a sale. I think I actually prefer the 'fixed' camera of the early games for exploration, to the broadly third person view which follows your character, and the controls inplemented in this release and thereafter.
Good review. Seem like its in the same boat as the last western released one. So good enough for me at least!
NL - 6
PX - 6
PS - 6
It's a fairly authentic old-school survival horror experience, but I guess that doesn't review as well as it used to back in the day.
For my money, though, for horror games, nothing beats this style of game design. Super hyped to finally play this tomorrow!
The cons of the game being slow or clunky never bothered me in these games. It adds to the tension. The stories have always been deep and intertwined with other games in the series but still stand strong on their own. Already preordered and looking forward to playing it.
@Scooby-Doo Same plan here, I'll be waiting for a dirt cheap sale.
I might pick this up. I've never really played any FF games so if I like this i'll get Maiden of Black Water too.
@NeonPizza I own both.
Maiden of Black Water is a more visually attractive game overall, whereas this one is broadly agreed to have a better story. Beyond that, I'd need to play deeper into this to make a stronger recommendation.
Both games feature motion controls, so probably best not to play the Xbox versions.
Def Leppard, not good??... guys, Hysteria is a superb album
@EvilSilentFrame That's what I thought as well. Never made sense to me.
@Nepp67 I know it’s not a series for everybody. I understand that not everybody likes the slower paced games and that’s alright. I’m not a fan of the guns blazing games like CoD. We all have what we like. I personally LOVE the Project Zero/Fatal Frame games. Waited such a long time to play this one and loving every second of it.
@jrt87 I’ve been a fan of horror games most of my life and I certainly don’t want clunky, slow movement and tedious combat. Puritans are weird..
@EvilSilentFrame If it’s by design actually improves the game, sure. Otherwise it’s just annoying lazy game design at this point. RE2 Remake is slow paced and didn’t need to be clunky, slow or tedious.
@Arnna there’s a huge difference between those two games. RE2 remake was made from the ground up. They made it modern to fit in with today’s games and it was a brilliant remake. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a remaster. A coat of paint to make it look nicer, but it’s still very much a 2008 game. You can’t really compare the two, they are 11 years apart and the hardware has changed so much since then. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was slow due to the system is was on. Had to give the Wii time to load the next room. Believe me, I know it’s not for everybody. There’s a lot of gamers out there that try this series and hate it. I can respect that, but I personally love it. I love the RE series and I love the PZ/FF series. Both so different from each other. For me, this series is much deeper when it comes to the story. The rituals, characters, locations, spirits, camera are all so carefully crafted. The series is much creepier than RE. When I’m in the mood for something a little faster, I’m with ya, I love the RE 2 remake. If I want something creepy, though I love RE, it doesn’t cut it like PZFF.
@EvilSilentFrame Yeah I wasn’t saying they should be directly compared. I just meant that clunkiness, tedious combat and slow movement are not positive attributes. Not at all. They add nothing expect fodder for insufferable purists to whine about.
I love RE4 (Original) but I would never try to argue it’s clunkiness is something that elevates it above later games. It’s just not logical.
In the case of Fatal Frame, those attributes mentioned are negatives not positives.
@Arnna and that’s okay. You don’t have to like it and again I respect that. The old RE games were slow and clunky as well and I still love those.
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