Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a survival horror game developed by Koei Tecmo, originally released in 2008 on the Wii. This remaster has improved visuals, a photo mode, and additional costumes. The visuals are a noticeable improvement, especially character models. Though not all of the textures have such a renovation.
You play as three characters exploring the ruins of Rogetsu Island. Each arrives separately for their own reasons, and all of them have a connection to the island.
The story has engaging ideas with rich, twisted mythology for the island. However, the disjointed way it tells the story through flashbacks, written notes, and ghost interactions makes it hard to follow and undercut the emotional impact of reveals and narrative connections.
Gameplay consists of exploring the facilities on the island, collecting items, light puzzle solving, and fighting ghosts. Exploring narrow halls and tight rooms can be tense, since there’s always room for ghosts to come from any angle to deliver a fright. Collecting items requires a mini-game of reaching for it and retracting your hand if a ghost reaches for you, adding a bit of tension every time you pick up a box of film or a key.
Combat involves taking pictures of ghosts to exorcise them. You have to hold the ghost in the center of the frame; the longer you keep the ghost in the frame, the more damage the photo deals. Higher film grades do more damage, but you have an infinite amount of your lowest-grade film, so you’re never completely defenseless. Upgrades to the camera as well as finding and equipping lenses give you more options and help in tougher fights. However, every ghost was so slow, making most combat encounters a staring contest as you wait for your camera to power up.
Predictability kills tension, and unfortunately, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse quickly shows the patterns it uses to try and scare the player. The formula of learning about an item you need, traveling to the item, and then a ghost appearing after picking it up happened so often, I was prepping my camera before the ghost could manifest. The limited mobility in the tight rooms becomes another sign of an incoming ghost attack since it loves forcing you to fight ghosts in rooms without much room to evade. The sound design either reuses the same sounds too often or uses sounds that are too similar, making the audioscape seem like a short loop of creepy noises. Some sounds were also incorrectly timed, like door hinges squeaking before the character turned the knob.
The most egregious tension killer for me was the game’s lack of direction. Often, I’d find myself finishing a task or starting a level with no clues on where to go or what to do next. It seems like the game wants you to explore until you stumble onto a ghost or check every room for new encounters or changes. Also, the map doesn’t distinguish between locked doors, unlocked doors, and doors you can’t currently interact with. So if you have an unlabeled key, you may have to try literally every door on a map to know which it goes to.
Ultimately, its collection of small issues slowly killed my interest long before the game was through with me.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is available now for $49.99 on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.