Riding high on the success of the recent remaster of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, Japanese studio Koei Tecmo is giving another instalment in this often overlooked series the remaster treatment. Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, which was again a Wii exclusive, as well as a Japanese only release back in 2008; and is the fourth instalment in the Fatal Frame series. This is a really smart move by Koei Tecmo as they are striking while there is still a bit of buzz around the series, thanks to last year’s Maiden of Black Water remaster, and God knows this series deserves more love, as it’s often snubbed for the Resident Evil’s and Silent Hill’s of the world.
The story this time around is set on the fictional Rougetsu Island, and it focuses round Ruka Minazuki mainly – who is one of a group of five girls, held captive on the island for “unknown reasons” during their youth. Fast forward a few years after the girls are rescued and Ruka is suffering from amnesia and two of the girls have died under unexplained circumstances. So Ruka, along with the remaining surviving girls, return to the island to seek out the truth as well as looking to find out what happened to their memories. If you’re a fan of the series you’ll know what you’re getting into here – a bleak tale that is slowly revealed as you play and an overall tale to piece together by finding nuggets of info by exploring the world. Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a gripping tale at times, though far from ground breaking if we are honest. It does engage with the series’ sinister and depressing tone it is well known for.
On the gameplay front Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse sees you playing as a number of different characters across its run time, keeping things fresh – although they are linked strongly to the tale, so no spoilers here. Series iconic “weapon” the Camera Obscura is also back and will have your back while you explore the island. As you work your way through ruined houses to a hospital that was turned to into a hotel, each location is filled with the right level of creepy. You’ll come across a number of spirits and wraiths you’ll have to dispatch with your Camera Obscura, which is as much fun as it’s always been hunting down the spooks trying to hold your nerve to get the most damage from each picture taken.
Things come a bit unstuck in Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse though when you start moving around, as you are extremely slow even when you are “running” and the overall controls are just a bit to clunky. Especially using your flashlight, as it’s a key tool to finding items, but 9 times out of 10, you end up wrestling with the controls because the torch is mapped to your right stick, yet so is controlling the camera. This may all be to do with the fact the original controls where built around the Wii Motion controls. So something may have got lost in translation, which is a real shame as this is a remaster – so you would expect the controls to be nailed day one. This Wii legacy also bleeds into the games visuals, which are upgraded no question about it though it’s very easy to see it’s a 15 year old title, with a noticeable drop in quality compared to last year’s Maiden of Black Water remaster.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has had work done to it, but a bit more polish and TLC would have been welcome. For fans it’s a chance to get hands on with an all but forgotten chapter in the series. Yes, it’s flawed at times and feels its age in more ways than one, but its core is still strong: tense gameplay, an atmospheric world, dark and foreboding story.
An Xbox review copy of Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was provided by Koei Tecmo’s PR team, and it’s out now on Xbox, PC, Switch and PlayStation for around £50 depending on platform.
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