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Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water was the fifth and last release of the Fatal Frame series exclusive for the Wii U in 2014, so when a remaster was announced for 2021, Fatal Frame fans were bemused to say the least. Considered by many to be possibly the most middling title in the series (I save a special spot in my heart for how much I dislike Fatal Frame 3: Tormented Souls), Koei Tecmo promised remastered visuals, a photo mode, and most importantly take the Camera Obscura (Think a magic camera that hurts ghosts) from the Wii U gamepad acting as the camera to returning to basic controls.
Does Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water need a remaster? That’s something we are here to find out starting with…..
Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water follows three protagonists, Yuri Kozukata, Ren Hojo, and Miu Hinasaki, as they all travel to Hikami Mountain, a fictional location famous for suicides and ghosts. While their stories are basically separate, they all intertwine surrounding the main Shrine Maiden Osu, a Shrine Maiden who had a near-death experience, so it left her with a sixth sense and a connection to the creator of the series famous Camera Obscura.
The way the story unfolds in an almost episodic nature makes it easy to follow, but more importantly easy to pick up and play for a bit, put down, and easily come back to later. Along with this, you can replay episodes to get more Spirit points to use to unlock costumes and other upgrades.
The journey our three protagonists take is a dull and forgettable journey in which they leave the haunted mountain only to find reasons to keep returning, with a conclusion that is just unsatisfying partially due to characters that are bland and one-dimensional. To make matters worse, whenever our protagonists are face-to-face with a terrifying paranormal being, their reaction and expression is that of mild inconvenience at most.
The most frequent thing you’ll be doing in Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water is taking pictures of spirits with your Camera Obscura, and you will be doing a lot of it. It’s unfortunate that as the game goes on and Fatal Frame throws more and more “being the fifth main title in the Fatal Frame series”, it has a serious issue of quantity over quality.
Instead of crafting these incredibly tense moments of fighting a single evil presence, Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water decides to throw a lot of spirits at you at once and constantly. It’s repetitive to a fault, and by the time you come across your second group of spirits trying to overwhelm the protagonist, it’s already dull. While not touting to be a survival horror, the fact that you start with an abundance of items, more than needed for the entire game, points to there being an issue with the fact that nothing ever seems to put you in danger.
There is generally speaking always that moment closer to the end of the second third of horror games where the player character accepts their situation and is given some type of weapon or skill that turns the rest of the game into a more action-oriented title. Yes, there are exceptions to this, and I would even consider Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water to be an exception, but unfortunately, it’s a worst-case scenario where it hits that stride almost immediately.
That being said, when certain horror games go this route, it immediately becomes a lot less scary. What this means for Fatal Frame is that for its 13 hour run-time, it is just not that scary.
One thing that is absolutely terrifying in Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water are the camera controls. They are horrendously slow, and it really feels like moving the camera was an afterthought. That and the opening door animation which takes roughly 30 seconds each time you enter and exit a room, it grounds the gameplay to a halt. If only there was the ability to skip this animation.
Something that seemed out of place in 2014 still feels out of place now, and somehow even grosser, is that as the characters get wet, they are more susceptible to malevolence forces. That being said, with multiple interviews with people who worked on the game, the female protagonists were designed to be “sexy when wet “, which is apparent almost immediately after starting the game, and it comes off unnecessary and gross.
Where Fatal Frame: The Maiden in Black Water really hits its stride is in its sound design. The sound of impending doom as you skulk around the mountain area is amazing. The soundtrack and ambient noise make the player feel truly alone and isolated. With each area sounding desolate and unique, and the spirits that inhabit the game sound creepy and lend some real tension to the environments.
Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water is a weird choice for a remaster. A lot of it has not aged well, specifically its story and characters, and it also remains to be a middling-at-best example of the series.
With subtle but important connections to the other games in the Fatal Frame series, it’s strange Koei Tecmo decided to remaster this one. Hopefully this leads to either a new Fatal Frame or more re-releases of the other stronger titles in the series, like Fatal Frame 2: Broken Butterfly.
Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water Review provided by Nintendo Link
Review also found on OpenCritic
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: October 28th 2021
Price: $39.99, £32.99,
Game Size: 14.1 GB
Camera Controls feel better then they did on WiiU
Replayability is great if you enjoying unlocking new costumes
3 Different endings to achieve if the story grips you
The characters are truly dull
There are much better games in the franchise
The gameplay and story feel really repetitive