There are many ways to really scare a player but possibly the most effective strategy was used by Fatal Frame. When Resident Evil had us fighting against waves of foes with limited ammo and Silent Hill was trying to get in our heads with disturbing imagery, Fatal Frame was forcing players to really get up close and personal with their foes.
Some of the scariest moments I’ve had in a game came from my time with Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly, my favorite game in the series. This game took what its predecessor did and made it better in every conceivable way: the story and the characters (ghosts) you meet are memorable, the fights intense, and the world was incredibly creepy. This is my look back at one of the most terrifying franchises of all time: Fatal Frame. Crimson Butterfly introduced me to the series and because I enjoyed it so much I went back and played the first as well. I was so used to fighting with guns, pipes, or anything else I could find that having to defend myself against hordes of angry spirits with nothing but a camera made Fatal Frame an excruciatingly intense game to play. But the real genius came when I discovered the only way to maximize the damage caused by the camera was to wait for the ghost to get deep into my personal bubble so I could cause a Fatal Frame and possibly instantly kill the creature.
Unlike Resident Evil, the enemies here have backstories that you get to know before (or while) you fight them. Sometimes their stories are sad, other times they only make your desire to vanquish them even stronger. Story-wise, the Fatal Frame series is possibly the best of the genre as every game in the series (with the possible exception of the most recent game, which I’ve never played) and the characters are actually people you care about. In Crimson Butterfly, I wanted to help Mio find her twin sister Mayu, and that made the experience exponentially more potent.
The atmosphere, one of the most important elements in a horror game, has always been phenomenally eerie and foreboding. Fatal Frame II’s long lost ancient village or the original’s Himuro Mansion are easily two of the most haunting locations I’ve explored in a video game to date, rivaling even the foggy town of Silent Hill.
The only sad thing about the series is its unavailability outside of Japan (and on the Wii, no less). With the fourth installment being exclusive to the Land of the Rising Sun and the possibility of the fifth following the same path I’m afraid this franchise might fade away.
So, assuming you’ve played one of the Fatal Frame games; what’s your most memorable moment? Mine would probably be the fight with the woman with the broken neck. I’ll never forget making it to the bottom of that large winding staircase only to hear a loud scream followed by the body of a woman falling to the floor in front of me. That practically caused me to shit out my spine.
In case you missed the rest of the series, here’s a quick recap:
Day 1, A Resident Evil Retrospective
Day 2, A Silent Hill Retrospective
Day 3, What Do You Fear?
Day 4, The Four Scariest Kids in Gaming