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[04/17/2008] Fatal Frame III: The Tormented


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Title: Fatal Frame III: The Tormented / Project Zero 3: The Tormented / Zero: Shisei no Koe (Voice of the Tattoo)

System: PlayStation 2 (PAL)

Developer: Tecmo (Project Zero)

Release Date: February 24, 2006

60Hz Mode: Yes

 

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A long time ago, I reviewed Project Zero 2 and was more or less blown away by its atmosphere and

production values. The series offers a new twist in the survival horror genre by making the player's only weapon an otherworldly camera that can exorcise spirits. The series also gets the basic story elements from Japanese folklore and horror tales. The third installment continues this excellent survival horror series, and while it works largely the same way as the previous installments in the series, Fatal Frame III still offers a few new concepts to the underlying game mechanics and storytelling.

 

Story

The game's main protagonist, Rei is a freelance photographer specializing in taking shots of old,

run-down mansions and sites of popular ghost stories. She also lost her fiancee Yuu in a car accident a few ears prior. During a routine job while taking shots in a dilapidated mansion, her camera's viewfinder catches a figure of a man that has an impeccable similarity to her late husband. Of course, the figure disappears around the corner and suddenly Rei is pulled in to a dreamlike monochrome world, with a huge mansion at its center. Rei snaps out of her trance shortly after and goes home.

However, she starts to have nightmares every night featuring this very same mansion, with a ghostly woman covered in tattoos prowling the hallways. Rei later finds the famed Camera Obscura while going through her husband's belongings and eventually starts to unravel the mystery of the "Manor of Sleep" and it's inhabitants.

 

 

Characters

Fatal Frame III breaks the original mold of the series by introducing two additional playable characters, one being Miku Hinasaki , Rei's assistant and housemate, and the other, Kei Amakura, a man conducting research into folklore and urban legends. Ardent fans of the series will recognize Miku from an earlier Fatal Frame game.

 

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Graphics

Not much has changed from Fatal Frame II in terms of graphics, and the graphics are indeed impressive. Excellent use of textures and lighting make for an intense experience all around. If I didn't know better, I'd say that the game engine is entirely the same as it was in Fatal Frame II with only minor, hardly noticeable additions and tweaks. This is certainly not a bad thing, as the previous game already looked like a million bucks. Even if the game do share the same engine, I think that the third game puts more effort into the tiny little details, such as intricate patterns on clothes.

 

Gameplay -For a more in-depth look at the gameplay mechanics, see my Fatal Frame II Review-

The basic gameplay in Fatal Frame III hasn't really changed that much. You still battle vengeful ghosts with the Camera Obscura and the same special shots, like the Fatal Frames, Core Shots and the like are unchanged. Same with the special lenses and the upgrade system. The most major change is the game world; the real world now plays an important part along with the tormented Manor of Sleep. Similar to the way Silent Hill 4 played with reality and the Otherworld, Fatal Frame III introduces

the real world as a safe haven of sorts, while dreaming and sleeping will fling the player into the nightmarish world of the Manor of Sleep. Similar to Silent Hill 4, eventually the nightmares and spirits start spilling over to the real world, bending the boundary between reality and dream.

 

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The second big change is the aforementioned use of three main characters, each with a special skill that will help them survive in the manor. Rei can use a bright flash from the camera, that momentarily stuns and pushes back all ghosts in the vicinity.The number of times the Flash can e used resets every time you wake up from the dream.

 

Miku has a slowdown gauge that can be used to slowdown the movement of all ghosts as long as the gauge isn't empty. Making successful shots increases the gauge.

Finally, Kei has the rather strange hide ability as well as being physically stronger than the two females, resulting in him being able to move certain objects such as chests. His hiding ability is mainly used to keep hidden from the antagonist, the tattooed woman. This puts Kei's sections in the category of hide-and seek, amongst the regular ghost photographing.

 

Minor new features include finally being able to switch films on the fly during shooting, effectively making the gameplay a lot less cumbersome, as you no longer have to visit the menu whenever you want to switch films.

 

Sound and Music

Like it's predecessors, Fatal Frame 3 does an awesome job with creating atmosphere through sounds. Each room and ghost has a specific tune, so you can tell with a little practice what you'll be facing when you enter a new room.

 

The soundtrack is a part of what makes playing the the game rather unnerving and scary, and coupled with the excellent sound effects, provides an enjoyable, hair-raising gaming experience. One of the more memorable moments in the sound department is when you'll start to hear the ghosts of dead children singing an ancient eerie lullaby that echoes through many rooms. Same thing with an unseen ghost of a woman who laments her sad fate with a whispering voice.

 

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Difficulty, AI and controls

Again, there are multiple difficulty levels to choose from and Normal offers a pretty good challenge as is. The difficulty level affects the amount of damage you take, and probably the item management aspect as well. As a nice though, your health is restored every time you wake up from the dream, and there are a couple sets main doors in the mansion that let's you "escape" back to the real world.

 

On the AI side of things, I don't really know what to say. Since you are battling ghosts, every ghost has a set movement and attack pattern, and they do not really exhibits any dodging moves, aside from disappearing and/or going through walls to attack you from another angle. Not say that the ghosts aren't without interesting and sometimes frustrating attack patterns; Some ghosts have projectiles, while others are accompanied by shadowy figures that cannot be damaged. Some disappear at random or disappear just as they're about to attack, leaving the player to frantically trying to relocate them before getting strangled. And then, some just have attacks with huge arcs and long reach, which makes fighting in tight spaces a real test of skill.

 

Controlling your character is still intentionally stiff and somewhat cumbersome, and running is still slow as ever. But hey, at least you can still outrun ghosts if need be. The buttons have been switched around a bit to make room for the character specific actions and quick keys to certain screens, but overall the control scheme works well.

 

Summary

Fatal Frame III is without a doubt a good sequel, even though it certainly doesn't even try to reinvent the wheel that much. The real world - dreamworld polarization is a nice touch, and the nature of this duality is explained bit by bit as the game progresses.The two prequels lacked a real antagonist until the very end of the games. Fatal Frame 3 in turn gives the player a very good view of the antagonist from the get-go. The scenes with the tattooed woman are the creepiest moments in the game, and rightly so, because the character in itself is interesting, both in terms of what you see and what her true meaning in the game is.

 

As somewhat of a side note, the tattooed woman is also half-nude, sporting the intricate tattoo all over her body, bringing a notion of sexuality into the game - something that hasn't really been seen in Fatal Frame before.

 

Overall, fans of Project Zero / Fatal Frame shouldn't pass this one up. You will definitely love it. For others, if your nerves can handle it, give it a shot - don't play this during the wee hours of the night. People with weak nerves shouldn't even try. Fatal Frame has never relied on the shock effect of blood and gore; what you can't see is far scarier that what you can see.

 

Pros:

+Excellent audiovisual presentation

+Camera Obscura

+More playable characters

+The tattooed woman

+Ghosts have personality

+Eat Fatal Frame Combo, ghosts!

+About as dark of a storyline as in the previous game

 

Cons:

-No outdoor areas nor alternate locations to speak of, save a couple of spots inside the Manor of Sleep and the real world (mainly Rei's apartment).

-There are chances that you might get stuck, not knowing where to go in order to proceed with the story.

 

 

Story: 8.5

Graphics: 10

Gameplay: 9

Music/sound: 10

Controls: 8

Feel: 10

 

Total: 9.2

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I love FF 1 & 2 (still stuck at 2 as I can't find the girl in red kimomo, where are you hiding?!?). The game relies heavily on the strength of its stories and scare factor in which they do excel.

 

And nude ghosts always do me in :D

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I love FF 1 & 2 (still stuck at 2 as I can't find the girl in red kimomo, where are you hiding?!?). The game relies heavily on the strength of its stories and scare factor in which they do excel.

 

And nude ghosts always do me in :D

You need to rummage through most of the closets in the mansion (both the regular big ones and the tiny ones near the floor) as she's playing Hide-and-Seek. She gives you one hell a hell of a scare most of the time that you manage to find her. The filament usually starts to react to her when you are close.

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In my opinion, II and III are far scarier. The first one was also a bit on the short side, and look considerably worse that its sequels. Well, all things considered, the first one was an still is a good series opener.

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