Review by Aena Yuzuki

Reviewed: 08/22/03

One Of The Creepiest Games Ever!

In 2001, Fatal Frame: Based On A True Story was released in North America by Tecmo for the PlayStation 2 platform. Since its release, it has become quite a well-known survival horror game for that console. But, as if it needed the extra boost, it was ported to the Xbox console in late 2002. I am not sure if it is as well-known with Xbox players as it was with PS2 players, but I do know one thing for sure - even though I have beaten the PS2 game time and time again, with the release of the Xbox version I have fallen in love with this great game all over again.

Story: 10/10
My most favorite part of the game by far is the story. It starts out simple enough - Miku Hinasaki goes in search of her brother Mafuyu after he disappears into Himuro Mansion while in search of his mentor, novelist Junsei Takamine. When she arrives at the mansion, her sixth sense tells her that there is something unearthly going on in the mansion, and, with only her special sense and a camera, she sets out to unravel the mysteries of the mansion. At first, I was skeptical; it was your normal family-member-goes-missing-hero/heroine-goes-to-rescue type game. But, once you get into Night Two: Demon Tag, the tale of the mansion's horrid past with strange Shinto rituals begins to reveal itself, then you learn more disturbing things on Night Three: The Calamity, and by Final Night: Kirie, as you're sitting there watching the ending FMV, you're left saying, ''Whoa, that was so unexpected.'' I absolutely fell in love with this game's story, though the original ending is a bit disappointing.
The 'Based on a True Story' bit is a little misleading. There are certain elements that inspired bits of the storyline that are based on Japanese ghost stories that I won't take the time of going in to.

Gameplay: 8/10
The gameplay and controls are very simple for this game. In explore mode, the left analog moves Miku, the right your flashlight. The B button brings up your camera, A is your command button (picks up items and such), X is the run (jog, really) button, and Y brings up your menu. In camera mode, the right analog moves your viewfinder, the left your character. Both A and the left trigger snap photos, Y turns your character around, and X moves your finder quicker. The controls are very simple and easy to use.

Graphics: 8/10
Not the best Xbox graphics by far, but compared to its PlayStation 2 counterpart, these graphics totally rock. These graphics are sharper than the PS2 game, if you really pay attention, and a lot of little details were enhanced that you only notice if you really pay attention, like me. For instnace, you can clearly see child Kirie's eyes (which are rather creepy-looking) in some of the FMV shots, and you can mostly always see the bandage over Blinded's eyes. And the lighting in the game has also been improved upon.

Sound: 10/10
The sounds in this game are excellent, but to hear a lot of them you have to be in an absolutely silent room with the sound turned up pretty high, if you want to catch all of the creepy cries and moans and whispers you hear often when you enter a room. The background music sends tingles down your spine and fits the atmosphere perfectly, and those little cries and moans I mentioned also add a sense of tension - you freeze for a moment when you hear it, not sure if it was just the game messing with you, or if there's a ghost lurking in the wall.

Creep Factor: 9/10
The only thing keeping me from giving this section a perfect ten is the fact that after you play through the game once, you pretty much know what ghost is coming out where (unless you mess around a lot and trigger a bunch of randoms), so mainly after the first run-through it isn't as freaky. This game does a good job of keeping you tense, wondering when the next ghost will strike. Unlike other survival-horror games, you never know when something will just fly out of the wall at you, and three-fourths of the time you encounter a spirit, if you try to run from it, guess what? It follows you. Yep, it comes right through the wall / door after you. Or, if it's a boss, you can't even leave the room you're in - the ghost seals the door with its power. For keeping you tense and jumpy about whether or not that bump was a ghost or just a creaky board, I give this a nine-out-of-ten.

Replay Factor: 9/10
Yes! This game has decent replay value. You have to play it several times to unlock all of the different extras, such as al of the costumes, the other two difficulty levels (Nightmare and Fatal), Battle Mode, completion of the Ghost List.. all that good stuff. So, I'd say this game has a pretty good replay value, although the story does get boring after the third or fourth replay, no matter what the difficulty level is.

Overall: 10/10
Overall, I give this game a perfect ten. I highly recommend it to any survival-horror fan who is tired of the normal SH and RE type of gaming. If you want something besides zombies that you blast or bludgeon to death, Fatal Frame is for you. Fatal gives you a tense and creepy atmosphere, along with excellent background sounds and music, an excellent story that doesn't loose or confuse you (if you pay attention), and it has well replay factor. Who says you need a lot of blood and gore in a horror game to make it good? And don't think that this game won't deliver you that disturbing feeling, either. It delivers it just as good or better as/than SH any day.

Rating: 10

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