Preservation is becoming an increasingly important topic in the digital world. So many amazing experiences are inaccessible under normal means. This is especially bad for titles that never truly had the opportunity to shine, such as Nintendo’s Captain Rainbow, which never released in the west. Among the various Wii titles in a similar situation is Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. However, roughly 15 years later Koei Tecmo is correcting this issue and releasing it on a wide variety of new platforms. With such high expectations, is it a classic we should’ve got ages ago, or were better off before?
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse starts in the middle of an adventure through a defunct sanitarium. As you start looking for your friend Madoka, you slowly learn more about this place and the events that happened before. While you lack memories of your past, brief visions slowly start to reveal the horrific events that led up to this adventure.
Eh, a Wraith
It makes for an interesting journey, largely due to style. Several sections will have an artistic flare to them. Sometimes it will be haunting music, other scenes change the games filter/look, with some even showing an eerie vision of the past in grainy black and white. It all helps make things seem unsettling, allowing the location to really stand out. While some elements aged fairly well, I wouldn’t say the same about gameplay.
After so much time the graphics really show Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse‘s age. This was probably not the best looking Wii game to begin with, so seeing pixelated backgrounds, grainy images, and goofy ghouls diminishes the overall fright. It doesn’t help that a lot of scenes utilize close ups that further draw attention to these shortcomings.
Similar things apply to gameplay as well. Characters don’t move particularly fast, with the controls being a bit wonky. Combat is especially rough, as it isn’t precise as you’d expect. Characters move in a slow clumsy way that simply isn’t as fluid as recent releases. Even pulling out the camera to defeat a Wraith was a bit dodgy. Aiming feels sloppy, especially when trying to track intangible threats. Once mastered it isn’t so bad, it’s just the first couple of fights that feel off.
Even if combat isn’t the best, Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse does a good job of capturing the core survival horror elements. The aforementioned art direction does wonders to make every room a feel somewhat off. There are also several items to find/collect, plus good indicators of what you need to do. At times it can take away from the experience, though I rather know where my newly discovered key goes than having to try every door.
Creepy Settings Make Things Unsettling
All this being said, a lot of the experience will hinge on what gets to you. The jump scares have obvious build up, something that shouldn’t prevent them from scaring someone, though Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse often opts for an unsettling feeling instead. In some ways this works really well, as a lot of the fear is inside your head. Even I can see a room is empty, the subtle hints will leave me just a little cautious.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review Verdict
Enjoying Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse comes down to the horror experience you’re looking for. Those looking for a nail biting experience where death is behind every corner, you’ll probably be disappointed. However, if you want an engrossing narrative that leaves you just slightly creeped out you’ll probably enjoy the experience as a whole.
[Editor’s Note: Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]