How Fatal Frame Still Holds up in Today’s Horror Genre

Fatal Frame, or as it is also known as Zero, and Project Zero, is a Japanese survival game released in 2001 and was originally for the PS2 and Xbox. There are five main games in total and one spin-off game, but we will be looking at the original trilogy and how they are still a leader in today’s horror genre, over twenty years later boasting a staggering 1.3 million sales to date and still rising.

Miku Hinasaki standing in a roped hallway, with a figure standing behind her.

Fatal Frame was released in 2001 and was unlike anything anyone had ever played before, steeped in culture, aesthetic, and suspense. Straight away the game draws you in with dark, dreary tones, and a chilling sound. You feel completely immersed and feel like it is you that is there and you are not just playing a game. Like any great horror game, there are plenty of puzzles, but they are not that difficult if you read the notes and diaries throughout the game. This also gives you an insight into the mystery of what is going on, as well as a look into some Japanese folklore. The main protagonist of this game is Miku Hinasaki, she arrives at Himuro mansion in search of her missing brother. Something that is of interest is that the original Fatal Frame was based loosely on a true story. There is an actual place called Himuro mansion that did perform grisly rituals, but there are no reported ghost sightings…that we know of. So, Miku goes in search of her brother, but instead of finding her brother, she finds her mother’s old camera, which she assumes her brother had taken with him. From here, we are taken on a frightening journey to find her brother, but along the way, we uncover the truth of what happened to Mafuyu Hinasaki and what truly happened behind closed doors. There will be no spoilers, but please do yourself a favor and play this for yourself.

Mio and Mayu Amakura holding hands and running away. There are several ghosts around them.

Fatal Frame 2 was released in 2003 and to cult followers is known as the greatest game, not only in the trilogy but the entire franchise (I have to disagree though). It is definitely a change of pace from the first one, whereas, in the original, it is based primarily inside the mansion and mansion grounds, and although you can still get lost it is easier to navigate than in the second game, the main premise of this game is that you play as two sisters: Mio and Mayu Amakura. They return to their old childhood village, one could only guess, to reminisce about the past, but instead of being welcomed to warm memories, a nightmare awaits them. Again, this will be a spoiler-free zone and you need to just experience this, the two sisters have to battle an onslaught of evil to uncover the mystery of the gruesome sacrifices that plague the now-lost village. Early on, they find the Camera Obscura, which is a constant in all the games, and they have to battle the main antagonist, another unwilling victim of the crazy village people. One thing that stuck out to me was the color contrast in the game. Like the original, it has a dark and hopeless tone, they have incorporated butterflies throughout, which help you. In the first game, Miku had a friendly child spirit which helped and guided her. Now, you still have a friendly spirit in this one, but the young man is trapped in a prison, but he sends out colorful butterflies to help guide you. This, to me, is an indication that no matter how bad things may get, there is always a light in the darkness, go guide and ground you. My advice for when you play this game is to stick it out and make sure you grab some tissues for the ending—you will need them.

Rei Kurosawa laying in water. A blue tattoo forms on her arm.

Fatal Frame 3 was released in 2005 and was released for PS2 only. This one happens to be my personal favorite. At one point, I replayed this game numerous times in a row. Yes, I started to see and hear things in my own house…spooky. So, this one follows Rei Kurosawa, a freelance photographer, who had a habit of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. This game takes the original concept and puts its own spin on it. Not only does it tie into the original games, but there is Miku from the first one, and they introduce the uncle of the sisters from the second one, but they are also playable characters with their own story intertwined into the third story. They also have two different worlds, where you play in reality and also in a dream world, where the ghosts are here, but they slowly start to seep into the real world. Once again, the Camera Obscura comes into play, but the nice thing about this is each character has their own camera from each game. Once again, it is a woman scorned by the evilness of rituals, and it all starts when Rei goes into the dream ghost mansion to follow her dead fiancé. Things never go to plan and as she follows him, he disappears and suddenly is approached by the main antagonist: the blue tattooed woman. The sounds this woman makes terrify me to this day. Now begins a dark and twisted story and race against the clock to not only uncover the truth behind this woman but to save her friends who are battling their own nightmares. This game is a genuinely scary experience and if that does not tempt you to play, there is a cat that you can pet in the game.

Camera Obscura from each of the games.

Let us talk about the rarity of these games. So, as stated, these games were originally for the PS2 and Xbox, until the third which was only PS2 and they eventually remaster Fatal Frame 2 for the Wii. In the United Kingdom, which this will be based, it is common for the PS2 versions of the game to sell at a much higher price than the Xbox versions. If you are looking at the preowned value of the games, at the time of writing this, you can expect to pay roughly £30 for Fatal Frame, £55 for Fatal Frame 2, and an eye-watering £72 for Fatal Frame 3. Now, even though the price is staggering, I genuinely believe these games are worth it. From what I have heard, only in the United States, you can get the three games on PS3 for roughly $9.99 each. These are more remastered versions of the game which include smoother graphics and gameplay, additional costumes, and a separate game similar to The Mercenaries from Resident Evil, in which you have to battle a ghost in an allotted time with limited resources. Finally, in the second one, they added a first-person mode for people who want to play more immersed.

This series has rightfully earned its place as one of the most terrifying games to date. With its in-depth folklore, bone-chilling sounds, and clean graphics, which for the time were very impressive, nothing can really come close to matching the scare factor and originality that the game oozed. Fatal Frame will always live on as a landmark in horror and will be for many more years to come.

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Written by Jade Sidle

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