Feel like getting scared? I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite video games, a Japanese horror game series called Fatal Frame.

I love getting scared. I love hearing my own screams. So when my cousin told me about a scary ps2 game called Fatal Frame, I had to satisfy my curiosity. The game did not just satisfy, I bought the rest of the series and have played all of them multiple times (except Fatal Frame 4, which I’ll get into later).

This game is definitely not for everyone. I know this because when I hand the controller to one of my friends, they usually throw it back at me and/or play until a ghost pops up and then throw the controller at me. The game is not for people who do not get any enjoyment from being scared, and the mechanics aren’t for every gamer.

The Fatal Frame series consists of 4 games. I have things to say about each one. I’ll start with the first Fatal Frame I played that left me with a huge impression…Fatal Frame 2, Crimson Butterfly.

From what I’ve heard in the gaming community, it is Fatal Frame 2 that is the most popular in the series. You play as these two twin school girls, Mio and Mayu, who get spirited away to All Gods Village. You find the weapon that makes Fatal Frame well…Fatal Frame! Your weapon to defend yourself is a camera, the Camera of Obscura. And what are you going to be fighting? You are fighting ghosts.

I think out of all the things the world can throw at me to be scared of, I’m scared of ghosts and spirits. Murderers, insane clowns, zombies, and anything physical doesn’t really get to me. Things like those are just too human in mind and/or limitations. But put me in a room with the Grudge and I’m going to be flipping shits. Ghosts give me all the shits.

Fatal Frame 2 gave me countless scares. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve paused the game because something freaked the hell out of me. The atmosphere is creepy, dark, and horribly quiet. You eventually learn to expect anything to happen at any moment you enter a new room. From the screaming ghost of a woman to tumble down the stairs, to a box shaking as you walk past it, to hearing the patter of feet running in the darkness, I was in heaven with how scared I was. The simple action of a doll falling off the shelf at the opposite end of the room made me and my friends scream and flinch because of the whole atmosphere the game gave.

Scares are not the only thing that make a game for me of course. What makes Fatal Frame different from all other horror games to me is the characters and story. Most horror games I’ve played…they’re stories never touched me, made me feel anything more than well…more fear. It’s like the horror game industry only wants to give fear to it’s audience. I guess that makes sense, but why not have more than that? The makers of Fatal Frame didn’t just make a horror game series, they create amazing stories and I actually get an odd attachment to the characters…and most of them are the ghosts I’m taking pictures of! As you explore, you learn more and more about why these people died, why you have spirited away here, and you learn their stories.

I’ll get into what specifically makes Fatal Frame 2 special out of the series. First thing is…the boss. Sae Kurasawa. Just watch this video of the first time you meet her in the game.

Sae’s laughter can haunt me at the worst times when I’m alone in a dark place. Her blood spattered white kimono, her obsessive clingy attitude towards you (she thinks your her sister that abandoned her). There are unforgettable ghosts you meet in the series, and Sae is definitely one of them, and she isn’t just a ghost…she’s the reason the entire village dead and is slowly possessing your twin sister!

Mio and Mayu

Another things that makes Fatal Frame 2 special is that you have a sister that follows you around. In all the other Fatal Frame games you are alone. If you ask me, “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” I’ll tell you, “Your sister is a bad thing.” I mean…she can be useful in distracting ghosts while you take pictures, but she is another incredibly scary factor in this game. She is your sister who is slowly getting possessed BY SAE. Think about it.

Itsuki

A rare and beautiful thing in Fatal Frame games…is a friendly ghost. The Fatal Frame 2 character Itsuki is one of those such rare things. When I say friendly, I mean he does not do you any harm. Best of all, he actually talks to you! Unfortunately he doesn’t know he’s dead…and he’s rather depressing…but I enjoyed having one friendly thing to look at! His sister, Chitose, is also one of the most scary ghosts in the game. A little blind girl with a bell tied to her wrists, running around in the dark….has a habit of hiding in closets.

Chitose

If you have a problem with dolls, you don’t want to play Fatal Frame 2 (or the series in general but DEFIANTLY not Fatal Frame 2). There is a house you go through that is entirely dedicated to dolls. I’ll never forget when I walked into the first room…and saw three dolls hanging at their necks from the ceiling.

Let you tell you about combat in this game since it’s pretty special. You look through the camera when fighting ghosts (adding to the scary factor since you are in 1st person view). You use film and can find more as you explore. There is weak film and there is strong film, zero being the strongest (I always save those for the last battle). You may ask, “What happens if you run out of film?” and I’ll say, “That would suck but luckily the weakest film is unlimited so you never have NO film. Unless you’re playing Fatal Frame 1 but I’ll get into that later.”

Mio holding the Camera Obscura

You find spirit orbs as well as you battle ghosts and explore and with those you can power up certain powers on the camera such as Blast, Slow, and all those fun effects you can do to ghosts.

I think the camera is original and works. Most of my friends are too freaked out by ghosts and miss the photograph though. You see, the best thing in this game is that you HAVE to wait for the ghost to get close enough, face to face with the camera, for your picture to actually do any damage to it. Because of that you can’t run, you have to stand your ground and let the ghost come to you. Best horror game idea, so simple too!

Now the first Fatal Frame, when I played it I was horrified to see that if I ran out of film…I actually ran out of film. I did have problems with that.

Miku

In the first Fatal Frame you play a girl named Miku. You’re looking for your adorable older brother brother Mafuyu who wandered into a haunted mansion looking for his tutor and the tutor brought some editor and AH IT’S A WHOLE LINE OF PEOPLE LOOKING FOR EACH OTHER.

I could see why Fatal Frame 2 was more popular when I played Fatal Frame 1. I think in Fatal Frame 1 the creators were just testing the waters of possibility. The game is still freaking incredible though. I’d say the characters and ghosts are not as memorable as Fatal Frame 2, but that didn’t make the story any less amazing and easy to get invested in.

Do not get me wrong. This game is scary. To prove it, here is a video of Brad from 4playerprodcast playing the 1st Fatal Frame getting scared 3 times in just 1 minute.

This is what Fatal Frame is like when it comes to scaring you. Things pop out at you, little things like doors slamming as you walk up to them…all that fun stuff.

Since it’s the bosses that make the game. Kirie is known as the rope maiden and she…is not as freaky as Sae. But still pretty freaky!

Kirie before she became scary. The man is someone she loved…and he looks exactly like Mafuyu

I’d say out of all the Fatal Frame ghosts, the main boss in Fatal Frame 1 is one of the ghosts that I felt most sympathetic for. The ending to this Fatal Frame is also my favorite ending out of all the Fatal Frames. Most endings kind of have a dark feel to them, but the one for this game felt sweet, a little sad, and hopeful.

Fatal Frame 3, The Tormented is when stories start getting really complicated. You play three different characters. Miku, from the first game! Kei, who is actually Mio and Mayu’s uncle! And Rei, whose fiance just died in a car crash.

The reason Fatal Frame 3 is so complicated isn’t because you play as three different people…but I still don’t quite understand everything about the plot and characters in the place you get spirited away to.

You don’t exactly get spirited away…rather…you go to this mansion in your dreams. Yep, Rei goes to sleep and wakes up in this creepy Fatal Frame mansion with ghosts and rooms to explore like that other games. The big difference this creates is that…you can wake up.

Your room in your house after you wake up.

This was very creative on the scare factor in this game. Your house seems like a nice happy place, modern, there is a cat, TV, nothing like the haunted mansion you explore in your dreams. Safe from being scared right? You would be dead wrong. The further in the game you get…the more your dreams start manifesting in the real world.

You wake up and a ghost is by your side on the bed. You see ghosts watching you through your windows. You open your closet to see a little girl ghost sitting inside! IT’S FREAKING TERRIFYING. The worst scare when once when you look at your mirror in your bathroom and it’s smeared with blood…and you walk up to it…AND OH GOD THE MEMORIES.

Kei

Negative parts of the 3rd Fatal Frame is that I actually think there is too much going on at once. Everyone, Miku, Kei, and Rei go to the Mansion of Sleep, Dreams, or whatever and it’s complicated. Kei looks like the bosses lover…he’s looking for Mio from Fatal Frame 2 who is dying from the dreams. Miku is looking for her brother. Rei is looking for her fiance. Oh look, it’s another big scramble of people trying to find each other.

The boss of Fatal Frame 3, is Reika, also known as the Tattooed Priestess.

Reika

Oh yeah, the dreams eventually kill you. If the boss, Reika, touches you , then you wake up with a tattoo that eventually takes over and turns you to ash. What spirits away people to the mansion of sleep? Well…survivors guilt. I am still unclear why. I am still unclear about a lot of things in Fatal Frame 3. But unforgettable ghosts, scares, I loved it.

Fatal Frame 4, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse isn’t sold in the United States. I do not know why but after getting so invested in the series I had to have it. I mean, LOOK AT THE AMAZING TRAILER!

Also…Fatal Frame 4 is for Wii while all the others are for ps2. But you know what? I still got it. A friend of mine went to Japan and owned a Wii. We downloaded subtitles and the game, like all the others, is AMAZING.

Unfortunately we still have the same complication of stuff going on like we did in Fatal Frame 3. You play as three different characters, a detective Choushiro (who uses a flashlight…to take pictures), a girl looking for her lost memories from when she was kidnapped named Ruka, another girl who is in the same situation as Ruka named Misaki. You play another girl named Madoka in the beginning but she doesn’t last very long.

Choushiro with the flashlight

Okay, the flashlight camera weapon was the coolest thing ever. Created by the same man who created the Camera Obscura, Dr. Asou. Every time you take a picture with your flashlight, it sounds like a gunshot and there is a bright light and it’s awesome.

I hate the Wii, that is why I don’t own a Wii. The controls made certain things really hard for me. Like playing the piano at the end. At the end of the game, at the final fight…you beat the boss and then play a tune on the piano. If you fail at playing the piano tune then the boss comes back and you have to beat her again! I had to beat her so many more times than necessary because of the Wii controls with that piano tune.

The game is more beautiful than any of the past Fatal Frames and more western. It actually takes place in an insane asylum where there are doorknobs and carpets rather than tatami floors and sliding doors.

There are unforgettable places and ghosts just like the other Fatal Frames. Ayako was a demon child who scared the shit out of me. No, what scared me the most was this woman ghost who wore a Victorian mourning dress and walked around rolling a crimson wheelchair with a human-sized doll sitting in it. When I saw that bright red wheelchair suddenly appear behind me, I freaked out.

Sakuya

The boss ghost is a woman named Sakuya, she doesn’t have a face as a ghost. We do have flashbacks where we see her real face. But there is something really strange. Everyone who lived in the asylum had a disease called Luna Sudata syndrome and that this thing called budding, them blooming. When people bloom, they don’t have a face and…it’s just confusing. There is a chance it was just bad subtitles but I think it’s like Fatal Frame 3, where too much was going on for everything to make complete sense.

You Haibara

Also Fatal Frame does not usually have a villain but that changes in the 4th game. The villain is You Haibara, the man who kidnapped Ruka, Misaki, and Madoka, and some other girls when they were little and used them for a ritual. What I love is that…you actually start to wonder if the man is freaking dead or not! When you play as Choushiro, the detective, You appears and does things that Fatal Frame ghosts don’t normally do. He taunts you and runs, he had this horrible sly smile while getting away too!

Anyway, now that the four games have been summarized…what do they all have in common?

I made a list of rules in the Fatal Frame Universe. Here they are.

1. All the bosses are women.

2. No Fatal Frame man survives.

3. You will feel sympathetic for the boss by the end of the game.

4. EVERYONE IS DEAD BECAUSE A RITUAL FAILED AND HELL BROKE THROUGH

The fourth rule of the Fatal Frame universe is actually really fascinating. The rituals made up for these games are unforgettable, disturbing, and are a large basis for the back story of most of the ghosts in Fatal Frame.

Every single Fatal Frame, the reason there are ghosts is because of the fourth rule.

In Fatal Frame 1, a girl is sacrificed by having her ankles, neck, and wrists bound in rope and pulled until her body breaks apart. Then those ropes are used for sealing a gate to Hell.

In Fatal Frame 2, one twin is forced to strangle the other in a ritual. The one that is killed gets thrown into a pit to Hell to pacify it.

In Fatal Frame 3, a Reika is tattooed and nailed down into a shrine to stop Hell that seemed to just be across a body of water. (we never see what’s on the other side of the mysterious shores).

In Fatal Frame 4, a Sakuya is forced to wear a mask that takes over your mind and dance to satisfy Hell, which by the way we see as A VORTEX PORTAL IN THE OCEAN.

These are only the main rituals of Fatal Frame, there are many many many. But the ones I just listed are the ones that failed and the ones that create Fatal Frame rules 1 and 3, the bosses are all female and you will feel sorry for them. Usually the reason the ritual fails is because of how the women felt as they died. Sae had too much anger and sorrow. Kirie was in love and was not ready to die. Reika also fell in love and was not invested in her “destiny”. Sakuya failed due to her fear and confusion and “blooming” (I still don’t completely understand blooming). It’s all really powerful stuff when you play the games.

Yes, NO MAN survives Fatal Frame. I won’t get into detail about that.

I’ve played all these games many times because the replay value is high. When you beat the game on certain difficulties, you unlock costumes and different endings. Also there are “passive” ghosts that you can collect on a ghost list. GOTTA CATCH THEM ALL.

Anyway, Fatal Frame has left a huge impression on me. Beautiful in every aspect, story, characters, atmosphere, and still can haunt me at night. Give it a try.

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