As the title suggests, this game is hard to platinum and get an ‘S’ rank. I flunked this old-school survival horror game. I cleared the game with a ‘D’ rank! I still don’t know how the grading works, but boo hoo, I have no shame in sharing my score because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about life is that we become better through failing: All babies learn how to crawl before they even learn how to walk. It’s this childlike optimism of mine that keeps me going because this game is no walk in the park, but I sure love the challenge.
As a horror fan, there’s no surprise that I am a fan of this franchise. I still remember those youthful days when my younger brother and I bought Fatal Frame on the whim simply based on the cover and because it’s a survival horror game. We played up to the third installment but did not get to play the 4th installment for obvious reasons. North America did not get its release. Like most survival horror fans, I tried to find ways to play the game but gave up on it many years ago. Glad I did not spoil myself because I enjoy playing the remastered edition, released on March 8th 2023 for the first time. It reminds me of the PlayStation 2/Nintendo Wii era. It feels like a Wii game with trophies. I am not sure if that is a good thing. Sometimes wanting to do many things in one playthrough can get overwhelming as I found with most PlayStation 3 games.
Because I like to play games I enjoy at least twice, I started with Normal Mode but then went quickly back to Easy Mode. I know several people selected Normal Mode because they don’t want the game to be too easy, but the wiser decision is to play on Easy Mode to experience the story. Plus, when you are starting out, defeating enemies can be difficult since the Camera Obscura (your weapon) is at its basic. I found that playing on Easy Mode on my first playthrough was harder than playing on Normal Mode. The second time around, defeating ghosts becomes a breeze when items are no longer scarce since upgrades and items are transferrable over from the first playthrough. You can also trade in your spirit points by defeating ghosts for items that can aid you by accessing the Save Point menu in the game.
Speaking from my own experience, I can only speculate that the 2nd playthrough is when the player knows how to play the game. So, completing Ghost List which consists of taking pictures of Wraiths, Specters, Revenants and Hozuki Dolls was just an additional fun gameplay factor. I am not sure if the Ghost List was originally part of the game or whether it is a new addition to the game. All I know it’s a good way to make players play the game multiple times. So far, I completed the Hozuki Dolls. There are 79 of them by the way and they are not easy to find. If you ask me, I enjoy the hunt and the thought process. Some of the doll hiding places are purposely hard to locate and can be quite funny too.
On the downside, modern gamers might find the controls quite frustrating. The controls sometimes are not very responsive. But then again, with a little practice, it is possible! Yes, you need to learn how to do a quick turn (press L3 and R on the PS5 controller) to avoid ghosts in battle and snap good pictures, which can be a terrifying experience for those who are easily spooked out, but for me not so much. When I am in “hunting mode”, trying to defeat ghosts by taking pictures becomes less scary since I have some form of control over my environment unlike in films where I am a passive observer. But that’s beside the point of what I am trying to make. The controls can be quite annoying. I failed to snap a good picture of the specter several times for it to show up in the Ghost List, which is part of a trophy. In order to capture the picture, you have to take the picture at a certain angle so that the blue circle lights up in the frame shot. I found myself attempting to reload saved points over and over until I get the perfect shot! One of them took me an hour!
Then there is the part where the item meter glows but there’s no item to be found until you swing your flashlight back and forth until something eventually lit up. Talk about a great way to kill time. I believe all of these factors contribute to my low score. As I mentioned, the game is no walk in the park. It is, after all, a horror game. Did people expect it to be an Animal Crossing experience? So, I am not too harsh on the controls and the slow movement of the characters. But I do recommend playing the game on Easy Mode on the first try for a seamless gaming experience.
Despite my frustration with the gaming mechanics, I am getting better at snapping pictures. I found that it’s easier to defeat ghosts on my 2nd playthrough on Normal Mode than Easy Mode. That should say a lot about the game. Players are encouraged to play multiple times. As a result, progressively, the player will get better. Now I am on my 3rd playthrough. The entire game can be finished in 11 hours or less (The most time-consuming part is trying to complete the Ghost List). Each phase (chapters) is not too long are drawn out. So, finishing a phase feels manageable. There are 4 characters total that you can play, but I will go more into that in my second game review (in essay format) which I will cover the story and its prominent metaphor, the moon.
For what it’s worth, players will get a lot from this game: good story, good soundtrack, attractive characters (great selling point for me because I like dolls). Overall good pacing. It’s a shame I don’t have a hard copy to add to my small horror video games collection. At the same time, just being able to experience it is more than a dream come true so I can’t complain too much. Like its song, this game is going to linger with me for a very long time.