Shin

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented

AKA- Why i only play games with the lights on now

Console: Playstation 2
Game type: Horror/Mystery/Puzzle
Developer: Tecmo
Number of players: 1
Languages: English dubbed Sad

Presentation:
80/100

Introduction/Demonstration
75
I suppose a game based around a central supernatural mystery and suspense has reason to not give much away…but still a lil something would be nice.
Instead you are treated to the SAME exact CGI of the begining of the game. It sets the theme/background for the story. It is a rather nice rendition…but just kinda blaise. Just skip it, and start the game…so you can see the same thing again before you get the controls.

Menu
85
Direct, nothing shabby but nothing spectacular either.

Visuals:
95/100

Detail
100
In a game where the entire focus hangs on pivotal edge of your seat moments, detail is your bread and butter. And it is had in spades. From the first time you see a shadow or something else skitter just out of yoru vision, to the hundreth time you stare down a violent ghost mere inches from your camera/viewfiner the details will surprise you. Everything bleeds(no pun intended) dark, creepy atmosphere. You wont find a fault here.

Animation
90
Top notch work, but since you spend most of your time with a camera warding off the vengeful souls of the dead you will rarely notice character interaction(unless its the ghosts). However there are lil things that keep it from a perfect score. Enemy units animation cycles(mostly attacks i notice) are off slightly. You can often “cheat” a ghost of an attack if you manage to just slightly avoid the first second or so of its animation. You can then step right on through that zone of threat. However this is where another feature hits ya(which i admit can be more of a gameplay than animation feature). Attacks with the camera sometimes are completely ignored/cancelled out during the breaking of said cycles.
Its not often enough to be a major problem, but its an annoyance.

Frame Rate
100
No stuttering at all, no worriesome load times. The game is a visual feast and the developers im sure realize the neccesity of smooth gameplay since it is a game of fast moments and much stillness otherwise. Smooth at all times, if you find yourself cursing at a ghost or puzzle you will have to find another scapegoat.

Audio:
90/100
Harping back on the details, the game does more than provid lil visual stunts. Like any true horror film, it relys heavily on sound for great effect and emphasis.
Creepy atmosphere music will set you on edge, but its the moments when you hear a lil girl giggling in a not so distant corner that really get ya.
The music itself is fitting. I pass any major judgement on a certain themsong, and defer to it simply as “another random sad/pop japanese theme” that seems to be all the damn rage in game endings.
The only other major stumbling block is the english. While passable or even pleasant in some cases(the ghosts are very well done), the main characters except for Kei(the man) seem flat, hollow, emotionless. The main character is a bad offender but her roomate Miku is the worst yet. With no options or other features in that department sadly you just suffer through it.

Playability:
90/100

Controls
95/100
A simple setup, the only mar to it being your own stupidity and the games tendency to give you one time notices on new devices in your setup. I had to go through the menu a number of times and dig through the “files” you collect to find the random features of some new gadget for your camera and how to activate it. Other than that, the game is straightforward and deceptively simple in its use.

Single-Player
100
What better way to accentuate any horror than by being alone. So get used to it. That isnt to say its a hindrance in any way, nor that it is solo gameplay style. Personally i only played this game with my wife in the room and my teddybear clutched to my chest. Save the hate mail till after you get that first fright moment out of your own head. The games main story gives you PLENTY to work through. It is divided into “nights” with each venture into the “night” giving you a new goal or objective to search for. The main story should keep you occupied for at least 12 hours minimum(easy mode with a previous expereince with the games), but can easily expand into the 20-30 hour range.

Multi-Player(Extras)
There is no multiplayer here, but there is a nice addendum of enough extras to warrant its own lil look. This factors directly into the singleplayer score already.
Preminent among the extras is the much touted and much loved “Mission Mode” Taken as a staple from all previous installments is the feature which cuts out all that scary walking around and focuses on the truly evil stuff. Getting down and dirty with the ghosts. You are given pre-set conditions, a character and a objective. The object is to score the most points, be this in a single shot, or cumulative in defeating a ghost.
The purpose of mission mode, aside from expanding your swearing vocabulary and testing your skill to the extreme is to earn points.
This combined with the points earned in the regular game will let you “purchase” various items. These range from the popular stayover of character costumes, to new and powerful parts for your camera.

Loadtime
Minimal. The only “annoying” load is if you edit albums of your photos. This requires a seperate savestate and tends to be the slowest process as you access the album, play with your photos and then save it.

Lastability:
100/100

Concept
100
In a gaming world slowly coming to repeat itself, the innovation of this series will be sadly missed. While there are many survival/horror games that spawned from the late 90’s onwards, none have had the same effect as Fatal Frame. This game series moves away from the extreme graphic violence of aforementioned games to focus on the REALLY scary stuff. The subtletys of horror are the true stuff of afficionados of the culture. A game where the focus is almost more on the underlying horror and mystery than your actual survival will draw far more out of you than you would think. Here in the third iteration Tecmo gives us a proper ending to the series, but lets not hope this “type” of gaming experience.

Story
100
Leave it to japan to produce the truly freaky amongst a modern background. The Tormented takes an overiding theme of “Survivors guilt” and combines it with twisted folklore and urban legends to create a truly succesful end to a trilogy of games. Though you originally start with lil ties to the previous games, you are slowly pulled in to the threads of ALL of their workings. It is done with such skill and storytelling that no fan of past games will be dissapointed. The focus is on Rei. She is a photographer trying to come to terms with her own life just a short time after she survives an automobile crash which takes the life of her fiancee Yuu. Working at a supposed “haunted” site to take some pictures, she is quickly drawn into the darkest of mysterys when she sees Yuu in the mansion.
What follows is her own dark descent into self-pity and pain as well as a supernatural horror.

Addiction
100
The game series is a cult phenomenon. While the games have been very succesful, the audience reached is still rather comparatively small. And yet this fervent fan base is dedicated, a result of the wonderful game series. Its story is tragic, but its theme universal. Supernatural in nature, but not quite out of the realm of belief. Combined with excellent gameplay, beautiful visuals, and extras galore makes this a very hard to put down game.

Secrets
100
Perhaps im biased, but anytime a game has enough guts to give you multiple endings im in love. In a age where many games seem to “play” like a movie, games with real interaction and secrets are a joy. The unlockable xtras are nice. The other hidden secrets are just as addictive.
A “Ghost list”, which is a collection of photos of hidden passive ghosts througout the game is a great example of this. Hidden links to the previous games in the form of journals/books/etc scattered around are also great.
A game where you get all of this but still work to unlock them(as opposed to being given them) makes it feel worth it all the more.

Total: 90(ish)/100

Final verdict:
This is one of the best endings to a trilogy around. Any previous fan of the series will be seriously harming themself by not picking this up. Any newcomers will be sorely mistaken to not give this “final” of the series a shot as well. I can think of many games/movies series where the end is always held with high hopes…then fumbled badly leaving a sour taste in your mouth.
Fatal Frame is NOT that series. It brings together everything that was loved previously, adds enough new to keep it on the edge AND brings to conclusion a virtual world of story and thought. A solid end to a solid series, this is sure to please most fans and hopefully encourage any newcomers into seeking out the past games.
Do yourself a favor and rent this game. When your rental runs out(and you still havnt beaten it) go buy the game and welcome a excellent game to your library.

DZ0’s thoughts and spoilers:

Spooky…but oh so good. I for one loved the somewhat slower and frantic spin into this game. The previous incarnations tend to get down to ghostly business quick enough, but in this game a slow descent fits it all too well. The terror becomes that more real to your mind when you go from terrible nightmares, to quick visions in the daytime. From a “normal” routine of nightmares breaking to the day, to a constantly shifting world of nightmares both real, imagined and otherwise in all aspects of your life.
I especially liked some of the lil touches in Rei’s home. The stain on one wall in your house which slowly forms itself into a scream pained visage of a man is QUITE a spooky but unneccesary touch.(and if your wondering, the person is according to my own thoughts and my wifes, the Kusabi from the second game). I forced myself to play with the lights out. Thats not entirely true. MY WIFE forced me to. She is even worse of a fan than i am(i can be a lil objective on its faults and such), but is completely unable to deal with its scare factor.
I loved it, and while i disliked the first ending a bit(what the fuck? Kei turned to ash…), it does open and then close a nice lil story link in the other ending you can then earn.

By Darknight Z0

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

AKA- The wonder twins go to hell

Console: Playstation 2/X-box
Game type: Horror/Mystery/Puzzle
Developer: Tecmo
Number of players: 1
Languages: English dubbed Sad

Presentation:
80/100

Introduction/Demonstration
75
Spooky introduction that sets the begining theme and layout for the games story. Nothing spectacular, but some pleasing eye candy.
Menu
85
Direct, nothing shabby but nothing spectacular either.

Visuals:
95/100

Detail
100
Fatal Frame as a series hangs on the details. While you are indeed in a broader more deeper imagrey, its the details that make or break the experience. Crimson Butterfly is more traditionally themed than the other versions of the series. That is its backdrop of course. The eye for lil things in the way ghosts appear, the clothing, dialouge. All of it lends to your gaming experience very well. Fatal Frame never fails to deliver in this regard.

Animation
90
Good eyecandy. For a mid generation game to hit the console you can definately see an improvement over the first of the series. And yet it is clearly not pushing all of the consoles buttons(considering its time in the market this is not a big harm though). The game runs smoothly, no major stuttering in the animations of moves or ghosts that somewhat marred the first game.

Frame Rate
100
A speedy improvement over the original(which only suffered very little in extreme encounters or animations). All in all perfect, the only stuttering frames you will see are those intended as storytelling devices.

Audio:
90/100
Not forgetting the game comes from its core horror roots, it has a ear for the same. Dramatic and tense moments punctuated by the appropriate sounds turn what could be just another “ghost fight #100” into a frightening fight or flee one. The english is par for the course. It actually shines in some moments between Mio and Mayu, but otherwise is just humdrum. In a series where you spend a good deal of time reading or looking for visual clues onscreen and in your menus i never understand why an option for subtitles and japanese wasnt included.

Playability:
90/100

Controls
95/100
A simple setup, anyone familar with the first game will know. Your menu will become a familar face as you peice together evidence and clues to find out whats going on as you progress. The battles are simple affairs, and the powerup system is identical to its incarnation in the first game with lil new.

Single-Player
100
Alone and in a strange village. You peice together the going on’s of the former inhabitats(who in most cases are now not so peacefully resting spirits you will face), and your twin sister. She pulled you into this mystery and then began to act even stranger, pulling you farther along into the game. The main story will not keep your occupied forever. However multiple endings and settings will keep you returning and retreading the familar paths of the All-gods Village.

Multi-Player(Extras)
No multiplayer, but enough extras to keep one happy and content in your purchase. The familar mission mode returns, as well as the usual “extra” parts to your camera. Earned through your “Ghost list” completion, Mission earnings or defeating the game in “nightmare mode” will keep you occupied for some time.

Loadtime
Minimal loadtime accounting for mostly album/ghost list work and the occasional door to a new area.

Lastability:
100/100

Concept
100
An original and thrilling concept of a series that rings true in its second incarnation, just as well as it did in its first. Enough said

Story
100
Crimson Butterfly takes the continued idea of superstitions and folklore to a new setting. The story actually takes place before the events of the original game(explaining why the twins have/use the Camera Obscura since it was “destroyed” at the end of the first game). You play the role of twins, who share a similar pyschic bond/gift as did the brother and sister of the first game. While out in the forest the twin Mio follows a crimson butterfly on a whim as it leads her deeper into the greenery. Following her out of a sense of guilt(you were partly responsible for an accident years earlier which has left Mio partly lame), you soon find yourself in a village that seems misplaced out of time. The story quickly escalates into confrontation and exploration of the spirit world which seems overly prevalent here. As the horror of what happened in the village starts to mirror the horror of what is happening now you are faced with a crisis…

Addiction
100
Just as wonderful and addictive as the first game. Its testament to being a sequal is enough.

Secrets
100
Unlockables, multiple endings. Whats not to like? How bout throwing in key plot points and other small tidbits which begins to link/clarify the happenings of the first game…and you have a winner.

Total: 90/100

Final verdict:
Take the success of the first cult hit, and crank up the creepy factor a bit. The game takes all the tried and true bits of the first game and makes it scream in glorious horror. Expanded ghost list, improved graphics and a truly gripping and disturbing plotline. Crimson butterfly has all the workings of a great game. Some could argue it as a pretty retread of the original with new graphics…but then again Final Fantasy as a series has followed that for how many years with how much commercial success?
This game is a sure buy. Its best aspect is its availabilty. While the original Fatal Frame was somewhat hard to aqcuire(and has only done better through a X-Box port), the 2nd in the series made enough of a bigtime splash to make finding it much easier than getting the freaky images out of your head from the game itself.

DZ0’s thoughts and spoilers:
While im a huge fan of the first game, and clamored a bit more for a male lead(men are seemingly thrown in as “macho” with no spiritual sense or powers it seems) i couldnt have enjoyed this game more with the twins. Though of course there was many…offcolor comments made about the relationship(wont say what, but i will say there is ACTUAL pornography “starring” these twins/game setting….), it was very fitting. The plottwists and turns were beautiful, and it was really really creepy to think that the “good” ending involves you killing your own sister…
All in all, a great game in a great series.

By Darknight Z0

Fatal Frame

AKA-Not so cool as to have its own subtitle since its the first in the series Frame

Console: Playstation 2
Game type: Horror/Mystery/Puzzle
Developer: Tecmo
Number of players: 1
Languages: English dubbed

Presentation:
75/100

Introduction/Demonstration
75
Nothing special. Your typical horror fare that does not really shine into what you will be seeing/experiencing.

Menu
80
Direct, nothing shabby but nothing spectacular either.

Visuals:
90/100

Detail
100
If the game could only work in one place well, the small things is where it counts the most. The game will draw you in with the smallest of details and keep you enthralled throughout. To keep the freaky factor up just pay attention to the small things. Pause the game and walk away…you’ll return to find your screen being slowly covered by small bloody handprints of children with accompyning creepy noise…(and thats all it took for my wife to turn it off and hand it over to me to play, she couldnt take it).

Animation
85
Good, and it has aged well. However its roughness shows in few things. Animations for moving up and down ladders comes readily to mind. It is both frustrating with alignment to actually USE them, combined with the slowest possible ever use of them. For someone being chased by ghosts you would expect something more than a slow oldman with arthritis, fully automated up/down a ladder/rope. There are the occasional clipping issues with ghosts during a fight, but otherwise its a very nice game. Even nicer considering its a second/third gen on the platform. It has yet to take real advantage of the consoles specs.

Frame Rate
90
An occasional slowdown during a animation in a ghost fight, or slight lag between being hit/damaged and jumping out of camera view. Otherwise fine.

Audio:
90/100
While using the established setting of horror to pull its cues from, it actually relates far more to more action/survival games than what it will invovle into as a series. This approach is the “less is more” feeling. You will find that there is almost no majo “noise” or “music” to drive you alone. Indeed, the special effects are given the forefront here and honestly done well. While a true horror movie soundtrack, and a more expanded soundtrack would have helped, it did not hinder in this case at all.

Playability:
85/100

Controls
95/100
A setup that is both easy to grasp, but difficult to master and use efficiently. The focus of the game revovles around “combatting” the hostile ghosts you will meet with a strange mystical camera. The Camera Obscura. Using the camera will alter your view, switching to a first person perspective as you get down and dirty with the ghosts. Simple to grasp(essentially you pull out your camera with one button, and then take “photos” with another, these photos damage the ghosts and eventually will banish/seal them away), it is difficult to master. You have a “spirit meter” which works as a warning beacon to you against the ghosts. It also indicates seals, other hidden ghosts and most importantly…your chance for a “Fatal Frame” on a ghost. This move is done by timing your shots just at the moment of a ghosts attack. The timing is different for every ghost but the effect is the same. The attack deals more damage, earns you more points, and opens up the ghost to “comboing”. If you score a fatal frame, and then retag the ghost again very quickly as indicated by another “fatal frame” chance, you can “combo” the ghost, essentially sending it reeling, dealing a good amount of damage and scoring you some tasty points. Kudos to Tecmo for pulling out a system that is so easy to grasp, and yet has so much to offer to those who put in the effort.

Single-Player
100
Dont expect your typical Resident Evil fare here. Though billed and “sold” as a survival horror, the game truly takes massive steps from the much copied “RE” into a right(and i think) better direction. The story picks up with Miku, a young woman who is searching for her lost brother. He was investigating the dissapearance of his mentor(a journalist, famous for exploring old folklore, etc) when he too vanished. You track him to the infamous “Himuro Mansion” and soon find yourself caught up in a horror that seemingly has no end while you try to get to your brother. The game was billed on the “Based on a true story” aspect, something that brought a lot of flak. True or not, it is a great experience and entry into the market.

Multi-Player(Extras)
So there is no co-op, but you unlock a number of missions to while away your time once youve beaten the game. There is also a “ghost list”, a tracking measure of specific ghosts you acquire as you go along. The ghost list itself almost becomes the game moreso than the story at times, especially faced with a particular difficult shot. Two great examples come to mind. One is a woman who commits suicide by swandiving off the roof. You have a fraction of a second to catch her in just the right spot as she falls through the air at your feet. There is also a small child who is playing a game of hide and seek with you. You enter a room blocked by hanging laundry and have not only half a second at best to grab his shot…but a tiniest of windows for a shot between the hanging laundry gaps.
Needless to say the game pulls out enough extras and unlockables to keep you returning to Himuro, long after you leave its halls.

Loadtime:
75/100
Call it growing pains. Much like the rest of its brethren in early PS2 games, it has loading issues. Slow. The game also has moments of sheer annoyance when you go to open a door…and the character and game both take a nice long 3 second pause to decide if they really want to or not.

Lastability:
100/100

Concept
100
Coming fresh off a camp of gamers who have enjoyed every incarnation of “Resident Evil” thrown at them, Fatal Frame hits a new kind of horror button. No longer fending off the undead with guns and wits, now you personally step into the horror and unravel its darkest secrets. Your armament, a sole camera and some slight spiritual power. The game pushed a new type of “horror” game to the market, one that focused on something truly scary and not just shock factors like flesh eating dogs.

Story
100
Take some simple ideas. A mystery, a dark mansion. Then add in some really twisted and dark traditions and folklore to make it really shine. What starts as a simple excursion to find your brother quickly turns into something far more darker. With its based on a true story schtick working for it, the games story pulled in a large number of people with a new setting and idea. No longer just a spooky house or graveyard, now theres foreign concepts. Shrines, vengeful ghosts, dated folklore, an air of general spookiness that only could have come from someplace like Japan. A nation both on the cutting edge of the modern, mixed with the traditions of the old.

Addiction
100
The game is very hard to put down once started. Wether it is the ghost list, missions, or simply getting the “best shot”, you will find yourself walking the halls of Himuro for a long time. Getting the multiple endings alone will keep you coming back.

Secrets
90
Great. Multiple endings, addictive gameplay. Whats not to love. Well, perhaps some things are a bit TOO simple for their own good. Balance seems to be a key issue. While there are some secrets that outright smack you in the face, there are others so obscure or fleeting that you could very well spend your many hours wondering what the hell you did wrong.
Still they had a good idea, and though the implementation was a bit off, it only can get better as the series goes along.

Total: 85/100

Final verdict: A great game, and a genre busting introduction at that. While more subtle games and mysterys of this calibur are no new thing to the japanese market(or indeed the PC gamers who had Alone in the Dark for many years), it helped create a healthy growth in the other markets in which it hit. A solidly spooky story, good eye candy and addictive gameplay were all the ingrediants for a hit.
Its faults are almost more of a blessing than anything else. For if the game was so good in its first incarnation, the bar would have been too high for its later installations.(IE- The Matrix trilogy). Do yourself a favor and buy it. Its a game that will make repeat performances on your PS2 and remind you what you did(or could have) played during those early launch days when so much of the market was retreaded crap.

DZ0’s thoughts and spoilers:
I recall almost all my favorite moments on the same level as my most hated. In fact they are inseperable. The time spent swearing/screaming/shouting/crying at a certain point in the game(be it a ghost capture or a difficult puzzle), was linked intimately to the moment of triumph when you overcome it. The first time i got the picture of “Broken Neck”(the ghost who commits suicide in front of you before attacking) i was so joyous and exclaiming in that joy that i then died and had to do it again. The game is just solid all around. Fans of japanese horror will find a lot to sink their teeth into, and any gamer will enjoy the mix that this game brings. I found it more annoying than anything else, but X-Box players have a extra ending not included in the original.(X-box version was a much later re-port with improved graphics and a new “good” ending). Still its nothing to make you want one over the other, as the “offical” storyline follows with the good ending(where your brother stays at the gates of hell to share the burden and sends you out of the house). The X-Box “good” ending has you escape with your brother, and a ghostly image of her one true love comes to comfort the priestess at the gates to hell…(which i think is stupid since Mikus brother is a reincarnation/bloodline kinda thing anyway). Buy the game, end of story.

By Darknight Z0

Work in progress... not home!
Trying to get all/most of the new code working before I start on the eyecandy.