I’ve talked before about Fatal Frame I and Fatal Frame II. The third installment on the franchise, Fatal Frame III barely makes the cut of my favorite PS2 horror games.
The story follows Rei Kurosawa, a photographer who has recently lost her fiancé in a car accident. During one of her jobs she believes she sees her dead lover, and afterwards she begins having nightmares of an old Japanese manor, and a mysterious tattooed ghost woman.
In the style of the previous two, the entire gameplay is based on you taking pictures of the ghosts in order to defeat them. The whole old Japanese setting is still as eerie as ever and serves to give you goosbumps all through the game, as does the modern one, for that matter. As you advance in the story both Miku and Mio (from Fatal Frames 1 and 2) make appearances – a very nice way to tie up all the stories.
So what is different from the first two?
Well, not much, if I’m honest. The camera controls are fairly similar to Fatal Frame 2, not having any notable improvement, unlike the changes made from 1 to 2 which greatly improved gameplay.
The most notable difference then is on the split timing of wake/dream. Unlike the other two, you’re not physically going into the house and getting lost, but dreaming about it. During the times Rei is awake and at her own home it’s spooky and has creepy sounds and happenings, but can be considered the “safe” time, while the times she dreams about being in the manor are most certainly not safe. Later in the story the lines of reality and dream get blurred, but the idea of having a safe time to explore and investigate was something I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, you never see much outside Rei’s home so it felt kind of boring in the end, and didn’t give as much freedom as it seemed to offer. For that matter, you never see much outside the (admittedly very large) manor, except for what’s considered it’s underground and surrounding areas. I do wish there had been plenty more to investigate during the time Rei is awake, and more proactive actions to take.
Another change to the game play was the addition of a gimmick; namely, candles. On the one hand, the idea was nice. On the other, I thoroughly hated it because it added a sense of rush that was not necessary on a game that to me should be slow, spooky exploration (as the first two were). This gimmick only comes into play after a certain point in the game, however, and it involves finding certain candles to prevent quite dangerous ghosts to appear around you at every turn. Should the candle run out these ghosts will appear to make your life impossible, until you find the next candle… or die in the process.
There are two endings to the game, which as usual is nice to have. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
All things considered Fatal Frame III is a beautiful third installment to the series, but I would highly recommend the second one over it.