Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse: Review

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Platform: Switch, PS4, Xbox, Steam

Fatal Frame has always come off as the more niche series in regards to the survival horror genre, while a series about barely legal schoolgirls defeating ghosts with a mystical camera isn’t going to see the sales of other cohorts like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, there have been some stand out moments with the series like Crimson Butterfly back in 2003 but probably the most significant title in the series lately would be the 4th installment, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse in 2008. The title sticks out for several reasons, it was the first game released on a Nintendo console and the first title not to be handled by the original development team with this one being undertaken by Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda 51

But the biggest stand out with this title is that it is the only game in the series that never saw an official localization outside of Japan, upon its original release the game was riddled with bugs, with the game freezing, collision issues and most importantly the in-game ghost list wouldn’t register properly meaning certain spirits didn’t get listed even after being photographed, making a complete list, which was needed to unlock a certain ability, completely impossible. Unfortunately, neither Tecmo nor Nintendo, who was publishing the game, were willing to fork up the cash to get the issues ironed out. Neither company was willing to take responsibility for it when it came to a US or Europe release either so the game would stay in Japan.

There would be a fan translation released in 2010 for fans willing to mod their Wii but for most people this game would just be another one gated off to them. 15 years later and we are finally seeing an international release on all platforms, but was it worth the wait? Each Fatal Frame game is self-contained and independent from one another with this one centered around 3 girls exploring Rogetsu Island, the home to an abandoned sanatorium where the girls were victims of a kidnapping as children which has left them without their memories. As they explore the building, they uncover the fabled Camera Obscura which helps defeat wayward spirits.

While the design has vastly improved from the Wii days I honestly believe that is a point against it as HD graphics give everything more clarity, while the original version’s low-resolution design just gave the game just that extra sense of dread over what was around the next corner, Although some assets look like they were just plucked straight from the original game. Because the game isn’t restricted to the Wii anymore, the game has adopted a more conventional twin stick style but something went wrong during the transition as the right stick can feel incredibly stiff at times which is a real set back from the controls in Maiden of Black Water. While the Switch version does support gyro’s sadly it is only when aiming the Camera, it’s a shame especially after playing the remastered Metroid Prime that a Wiimote-style control isn’t available, especially when using the flashlight or fending off enemies.

You may notice that the movement of the characters is incredibly slow, where even holding down the run button has them go at a slightly brisk pace, while some may see this as an annoyance, I feel it goes very well with the pacing of it all, especially with the slow reaching of items. Throughout the game your torch will shimmer on objects of interest which you can cautiously reach out for, there is a reason for this as ghost arms can jump out at the last minute and grab onto you. Although we did find it difficult at times to be in the right place to pick items up, even when we were right over them. In the original game you were met with numerous specters that you had to photograph for that list, while there was certainly the issue with the glitches, it felt like the game gave you the shortest window to snap then before they faded away, with this new version it feels like the span is a bit longer allowing you more time to take the photo.

Speaking of photos, the main combat of Fatal Frame has you pulling out the camera and focusing on ghosts approaching you and snapping at the right time to deliver the most damage, you can even perform an actual fatal frame by taking the photo at the last second before the ghost attacks. But as we were playing through the version on Switch, we noticed some issues when performing attacks including a slight delay when the attack actually hits, to the fatal frame symbol not showing up in time and even attacks straight up not registering, it can also be quite picky with registering specters as actually caught. As ecstatic as I am that this game is finally seeing a proper international release, even after 15 years this game is still cursed with problems, lets’s just hope there isn’t squabbling on who has to fix it this time.

Review copy provided by publisher, played on Switch

Reader Rating0 Votes
Finally being able to play this lost in translation title
Specters are easier to photograph
A lot of low res textures remain from the Wii version
Attacks not registering properly
Seriously Tecmo, jiggle physics again?!