- For fans of the horror genre, there are few games that can stack up to the intensity and mood created in Tecmo's Fatal Frame franchise. Even if you've never played Fatal Frame before, however, there's reason to start paying attention now, as the franchise's fourth incarnation is heading exclusively to Wii.
First details on the game were unveiled earlier today, and while sparse, they paint a great story for Wii owners and survival horror fans. Fatal Frame 4: The Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (tentative translation) has been announced exclusively for Nintendo's console with such key players as Shibata Makoto as director, Keisuke Kikuchi (longtime series producer), and even Suda 51 – best known for Killer 7 and No More Heroes – serving as a second director for the game. In addition, the game is a full-on partnership between Tecmo and Nintendo, and will be published with the Nintendo name headlining the product. As an interesting note, rumors have stated that the Big N has purchased the Fatal Frame name, and it looks like one of the industry's top horror franchises could now be a Nintendo exclusive from now on. This is exactly the kind of announcement hardcore gamers have been waiting for on Wii.
If you don't know the Fatal Frame series yet, it's time to brush up on what is hands-down one of the most intense and horrifying game franchises out there. Based in Japan, each Fatal Frame game has worked within its own self-containing story, always focusing on some sort of haunted house or village, and usually centered around some basic Japanese horror mythology. In fact, the first game, released first on PS2 and later on Xbox, is actually based on a real haunted mansion outside of Tokyo, Japan. This haunted mansion has reportedly seen seven confirmed murders, and strange tunnels lead from the mansion itself to a few neighboring houses as well. Even now, people are scared to go onto the estate, as constant ghost sightings and peculiar events continue to happen on the premises. The following two games were based on other areas (one a ghost town of sorts, rather than the token "haunted mansion" design), but always kept the same core design.
Since you're constantly running from ghosts, and since ghosts aren't exactly scared of melee or projectile weapons, Fatal Frame – as the name suggests – equips you with a unique soul-capturing camera. Known as the Camera Obscura, Fatal Frame's only weapon forces you to risk life and limb to get the perfect shot of advancing ghosts. While the main game is done primarily in third person view, you'll need to bring the aging camera up into first-person mode, and then focus in your shots face-to-face with the ghouls themselves. Based on how well the shot is executed (size of ghost, position of ghost in the frame, and action the ghost is doing at the time), a certain amount of damage is done. Put yourself out on the line even further, and capture a "Fatal Frame" shot seconds before the enemy attacks. Think of it like Pokemon Snap, if Pikachu could corrupt your mind and send you directly to hell itself.
So why should you, a newcomer to the series and happy Wii owner, care about Fatal Frame. Well for one, a well made Fatal Frame on Nintendo's system could mean the scariest horror game of this generation is now on what is considered to be a "casuals only" console. The game is out to scare you, and as such there are tons of horrific images, extremely uncomfortable scenarios, and extremely moody worlds. It'll be a "Mature" rated game without question. Fatal Frame will also bring a level of depth and maturity we don't normally see on Wii, as the stories are usually about double the length of a standard Resident Evil game, and feature tons of upgrade items, side quests, and backstory for those looking for a fully realized world.
Likewise, Fatal Frame has found its home on PS2 for three iterations now, and each one has had a beautiful (though very haunting) graphical presentation. As long as Suda and the gang put as much effort into Fatal Frame 4 as they did its predecessors, you'll be playing one of the best looking games on the system to date. Oh, and we shouldn't even have to mention how big of a win this is for Nintendo, as this franchise has always been a PS2 product, with Xbox joining the exclusive invite list over the last few years. It's now Wii, and from what it looks like, Wii only.
Fatal Frame 4 raises some questions as well though. For starters, how will the game control this time around? The core experience is done with a blend of both third and first person control, but relied on dual analog for the FPS moments. Will we see a IR-controlled camera this time around inspired by games like Metroid Prime 3 and Medal of Honor Heroes 2? Another consideration is that, like one of the extra modes on Fatal Frame 2 for Xbox, Wii may have a fully first-person mode to play in, which was extremely scary and claustrophobic during our playthrough with Crimson Butterfly on Microsft's system. And finally, how will the game be received on Wii? Will we see new Wii-only advances in gameplay, such as photo sharing via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, or a Wii-mote flashlight? Will Nintendo's support and Suda's direction help usher in yet another must-have Fatal Frame experience, this time exclusive to Wii, and are Wii owners ready to put down Wii Sports and embrace the darkness?
Only time will tell.