I’ve been playing Fatal Frame 3 lately, and I’m enjoying it quite a lot. It’s not a big departure from the previous games in the series, but it does offer the ability to play as multiple characters and the progression is made more interesting by the addition of dream sequences. Most of the “regular” Fatal Frame gameplay (running around in an old Japanese mansion fighting ghosts with an old camera) takes place in the dreams of the main character. During the day, you can control this character in her home as she tries to piece clues from her dreams together from actual research her late boyfriend was performing. I like the switching between day and night because it gives the player a chance to progress the story and save without complicating the design of the haunted mansion. I can also see how the scariness of the game may be increased if the ghosts start to appear to the protagonist when she is awake.
One thing that is interesting about Fatal Frame 3 is that it is very obviously influenced by recent Japanese horror film. There is imagery and entire scenes that have been lifted almost verbatim from films like Juon and Pulse. It’s interesting to see the influence so strongly in this game, and I take it as a sign that the developers are trying very hard to create a game that is scary.
Fortunately, they’ve been pretty successful. The dilapidated Japanese mansion setting continues to be extremely unsettling, and as in the previous Fatal Frame games, the visuals are astounding. Also deserving note is the audio, which is still among the best in the genre as far as I am concerned. The guys at Tecmo have tried very hard to make the experience as complete and as unrelenting as possible.
The game still has the same sorts of flaws that its predecessors had. The control scheme is a little dated, the enemy movement can be annoying, and there are occasional spikes in difficulty. One thing I don’t like is that the camera–which you must spend points to power up–is different for each character. Even though you have to share your points amongst the three characters that you can play, powering the camera up for one character doesn’t seem to affect the others. Another thing that bothers me is that the ghost AI seem to have reverted to the original Fatal Frame tactic of “being very annoying.” They’ll often disappear and then reappear right behind you, something that they avoided in Fatal Frame 2. The other thing that is annoying is that sometimes the enemies will not attack, which means you can’t actually hurt them. The Fatal Frame combat system requires that enemies get close and attack before you can really hurt them, so if a ghost decides to just hang out and make creepy sounds at you from afar, you just have to wait for a while. The other thing that struck me as different about this game compared to the other two is that after five or six hours of play, I’ve suddenly run out of film. I’m completely out, which has never happened to me before, and without film I seem to be completely screwed. Not only can I not fight guys or take shots of non-violent ghosts for points, I can’t even shoot the clue areas to progress.
But overall I am having a good time with this game. It’s a solid entry from Tecmo and the series remains one of the best in the genre.