How to Survive a Fatal Frame Game without Peeing Your Pants
What is Fatal Frame?
Fatal Frame is a series of very scary horror survival video games developed by Tecmo and released in the early 2000s.The series consists of Fatal Frame for the Playstation 2 and Xbox, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly for the PS2, Xbox, and Wii, and Fatal Frame III: The Tormented for the PS2. There was also a 4th Fatal Frame game released only in Japan, called Fatal Frame IV: Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse aka Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen, but this Hub will deal exclusively with the North American releases (Fatal Frame I, II, and III). These games are some of my personal favorites! I've beat all 3 and gotten a few friends to do the same (so far, so good avoiding unfortunate underwear accidents).
NOTE: This Hub is spoiler-free.
Why Play Fatal Frame?
Fair enough. Why would you want to play a 10-year-old video game series in the first place? It's old. It's not famous like the Devil May Cry or Max Payne games. It's scary, and the graphics aren't as good as newer PS3 or Xbox 360 games. But the Fatal Frame games are classics of the horror genre. The series masters the art of subtlety, suspense, and frightening ambiance. The plots are complex and engaging, and the settings are beautifully designed. Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine called Fatal Frame the "scariest game ever."1 IGN names Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly #59 of the top 100 PS2 games of all time, and comments that "the survival horror genre had a few great games on the PS2, and one of the best was Fatal Frame II." 2 Fatal Frame III: The Tormented received positive reviews as well; the GameSpy review called it "horrifically captivating."3 Basically, the Fatal Frame series is to horror games what Alfred Hitchcock was to horror films. So, in short, you want to play Fatal Frame because you have taste. Congratulations.
Why Are the Fatal Frame Games so Scary?
The Premise: Each of the Fatal Frame games takes place at a haunted site with a dark past. In Fatal Frame, the site is an abandoned, haunted Japanese mansion known as the Himuro Mansion. In Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly, the site is a mysterious vanished ghost village. In Fatal Frame III: The Tormented, the setting is the Manor of Sleep, a haunted manor accessible only in the protagonist's sleep. Each setting was once the site of a horrible, violent tragedy, leaving its ghosts earthbound and angry.
The Setting: In each game, the protagonist is a different young woman who possesses the Camera Obscura, an antique camera with the power to exercise ghosts. She is always a regular girl with no special powers, fighting abilities, or previous experience with the supernatural whatsoever. She invariably becomes trapped in the haunted setting with nothing but a flashlight and the Camera Obscura. The player can easily imagine him/herself in the protagonist's place, trapped, frightened, and helpless but for their courage and a weird old camera. And yes. You can run out of film.
The Atmosphere: The layouts are perfectly crafted to elicit shudders and screams. Of course, the games are all set at night. The player can only see clearly in the range of the character's flashlight, leaving visibility severely limited. Terrifying, suggestive images appear throughout the haunted places such as piles of blankets with body-shaped indentations, ropes hanging from the rafters, and stains that may or may not be old blood. The main character must explore her new bone-chilling surroundings and search for clues (keys, old newspaper clippings, ceremonial objects, old diaries, etc) in order to solve the mysteries of the past and escape.
The Ghosts: Oh yes. The ghosts. Think The Ring but worse. Drowned women, evil little girls, crazed shrine priests looking for sacrificial victims; the Fatal Frame ghosts are some of the scariest around. You can hide, but when they find you, you have no choice but to capture them with your exorcism camera or run. And let me tell you, photographing ghosts is no picnic. Most of the ghosts can disappear for several seconds at a time, and some can hide inside the walls or floor. Scared yet?
So, How Do I Play Fatal Frame Without Wetting Myself?
Don't play in the dark. Keep the lights on, or play during the day with the drapes open. Playing in the dark makes the game seem much more real. With the lights on it's easier to detach yourself from what's going on in the game (and see that no ghosts are trying to sneak up on YOU).
Don't play alone. Having some friends over is a great way to diffuse the terror. If your friends enjoy video games, consider playing together and trading the controller back and forth when it gets too scary. Snuggling with your special boy or girl also works great, just like with horror films. With a snuggle buddy to keep you safe, you may even feel bold enough to play it in the dark!
Practice the controls. Take some time to practice and get familiar with the game's controls. Mastering the Camera Obscura will make you much more efficient at fighting off ghosts. If you feel comfortable with your abilities while playing, you're less likely to fumble around or get clumsy when a ghost appears, minimizing your risk. The extra confidence should allow you to face the ghosts with more courage: you can handle it!
Peek ahead. If you really want to play the game but find the suspense too much to handle, consider using a walkthrough or game guide. Read ahead so you'll know when and what to expect. You'll be exposed to spoilers this way, but you won't have to worry about any shocking surprises. Plus, with a little help, you'll finish the puzzles much more quickly, allowing you to spend less time wandering aimlessly through a haunted mansion.
- Mielke, James. Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine. 2001. Print.
- "Top 100 Playstation 2 Games." IGN. 2010. Website.
- Stratton, Bryan. "Fatal Frame III: The Tormented." GameSpy. 2005. Website.
Here are some good game guides that I've occasionally used myself. Using a game guide or walkthrough carries the risk of spoilers, but it's a good way to get through a scary, suspenseful game.