Fatal Frame: exorcist with a camera

Chris Miller, Reporter

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water isn’t just one of the best entries in the Fatal Frame franchise, and it’s also the creepiest and most challenging horror game of the year.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is the fifth game in the Fatal Frame series and is exclusive for the Nintendo WiiU.

For those unfamiliar with what a Fatal Frame game is, it’s a psychological horror game where the player uses an in-game camera called the Camera Obscura to take pictures of and exorcise ghosts. The concept might sound funny to those unfamiliar with the franchise, but the series has become famous for its picture-taking combat and has even influenced many knock-offs and copycat games over the years.

It’s not just the combat that makes the Fatal Frame games so famous. Fatal Frame is also famous for its creepy atmosphere, interesting and likable characters, and excellent, but complicated, story-telling.

Maiden of Black Water not only holds up to the high standards set by its predecessors; it’s the creepiest entry yet.

Mount Hikami, the game’s setting, has many varied areas to explore and each area is littered with a myriad of hostile ghosts that literally pop out of nowhere.

On top of the obviously scripted ghost encounters there for plot purposes, enemies will also appear unexpectedly throughout the game. These random ghost encounters are what really keep the player on his or her toes. Rooms that the player cleared previously and return to will sometimes have a completely different and random ghost that appears and attacks. This sense of never knowing when a ghost will show up make each experience different and encourages multiple playthroughs.

Fatal Frame games are challenging and Maiden of Black Water is no walk in the park. There are a plethora of different enemy ghosts to battle and each have their own unique attack patterns and difficulty. Maiden of Black Water also has the highest amount of different enemies to face than any of its predecessors. The final boss is especially challenging and unique.

To add to this challenge is a brand new game mechanic where the player will get covered more and more in this black water that increases the amount of damage taken from enemy hits. Luckily, there are items to “cleanse” the in-game character of this black water, but it’s a nice addition to the old gameplay formula and helps keep the player alert.

Water is the major theme for Maiden of Black Water. This theme doesn’t just translate into the gameplay but the story as well.

The story is experienced through three brand new Fatal Frame Characters, Yuri Kozukata, Ren Hojo, and Miu Hinasaki. Fans of the previous games may be excited to know that Miu Hinasaki is the daughter of the very first game’s protagonist, Miku Hinasaki. Each character is playable at varied points throughout the game and have slight gameplay differences with their Camera Obscuras.

In true Fatal Frame fashion, the fate of each character depends on the player’s actions throughout the game. The characters’ individual fates vary from a happily-ever-after ending to a depressing fate where they may end up dying, or worse. As always, the story and endings are as dark, yet heartwarming as previous installments.

The controls take a little getting used to. The default controls has the player holding up the WiiU gamepad to control the Camera Obscura and twisting it around to make the in-game camera turn as well. Thankfully, there’s an option to use the joysticks on the gamepad instead.

The sounds and music are eerie and help establish that creepy atmospheric mood Fatal Frame is so well-known for. Tsuki Amano, as expected, performs a brand new exclusive song during the credits.

The graphics are decent for WiiU standards but some of the character’s facial expressions look lazily designed and not very convincing at times. But enemy designs are super creepy and top-notch.

Other than a few frame rate drops when too many entities are on screen and a control scheme that takes a bit of time getting used to, there’s not a whole lot more Maiden of Black Water does wrong.

Maiden of Black Water has lots of replayability and reasons for players to come back and play the game again. Completionists especially will have fun going through the levels and trying to collect all of the items and ghost pictures they’ve missed in their initial playthrough.

The fact Ayane, a character from the fighting game Dead or Alive, has her own unlockable side missions after beating the main game is awesome and adds to the variety of content found in the game.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is an amazing horror experience for both Fatal Frame veterans and newcomers alike. Never before has virtual picture taking been so addicting.