Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Preview – The Nightmare That Almost Got Away
Among horror adventure fans, the Fatal Frame series is a bit divisive; either you love it, or you don’t. Alternatively, an added layer of, either you know about it, or you don’t, rings true for western gamers. The premise can be boiled down to “cute girls go ghost hunting,” but there’s a lot more to it that revolves around regional myths and legends surrounding the afterlife, still with cute girls on the frontline.
When it comes to Fatal Frame 4, the west may be a bit confused about which entry was being remastered, and that’s because it was an exclusive release on Wii in Japan. However, that all changes with the upcoming release of Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, a version hoping to bring all regions up to speed on the series.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse introduces an amnesiac girl named Ruka Minazuki, who is curious about her past and travels to Rogetsu Isle to find her lost memories and her lost friends. However, she discovers a nightmarish place that houses some dark secrets. Ruka isn’t the most daring or courageous protagonist, but her curiosity keeps her going. In the early moments of gameplay, she’s faced with pretty frightening encounters but presses on in hopes of finding what she’s lost.
The game doesn’t dump too much story on you, as exploration is one of the fundamental mechanics. Instead, you’ll read notes and collect items explaining the current situation. I appreciated the updated assets for the notes, given that they were rather rough on the Wii. However, the English text was easy to follow and provided clues and information about what I should do next. The map is also handy, but for some reason, it doesn’t show which doors are locked, but it does story important locked doors or which doors you have a key for.
Given that Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a remastered version of a Wii game, I feel like it could graphically stand toe-to-toe with the updated release of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. It has a nice environment of maze-like halls and claustrophobic areas making spirit encounters intense. To save the day is the Camera Obscura, which players use to snap a pic of a spirit and cause damage.
Aiming the camera at a spirit will charge up a shot to slow down the spirit, but you’ll deal the most damage by waiting for the spirit to attack and take a picture before they get too close. This will trigger a Fatal Frame, which depending on your film and lens, you can take down some baddies quickly. However, this risk-reward system has a layer of difficulty when considering multiple ghosts, limited movement, and resources. I don’t remember dying this much in Maiden of Black Water, but I appreciated the higher challenge in this release.
New elements to gameplay are sparse, as this release sticks pretty close to the original. The photo mode is tied to a hotkey which is cool in case you want to set up a horror scene. There are also new costumes, but other than that, this is comparable to the Wii release. Given that this game has never come west, it’s probably for the best that we finally get to experience it with improved graphics and mechanics.
One element of gameplay that I enjoy is the light puzzle design. It requires you to read the notes and understand the setting to get through some sections, which helps with immersion. My main concern moving forward repetitive design and encounters, something that a lot of survival horror games suffer from after playing for 9 hours. I’m hoping the scares keep coming.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is the missing piece of the puzzle for western fans. Die-hards would have found a way to play the fan translation, but getting an official release makes it accessible to everyone. I enjoyed the remastered graphics but found the challenge addictive as I hesitantly made my way through the game. And don’t worry; there is a difficulty option.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on March 9, 2023.
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