Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse originally came out exclusively on the Wii back in 2008, and like Maiden of the Black Water, KOEI TECMO is releasing a remaster of the exclusive for modern hardware. I had a chance to play this remaster on PC, and in our Fatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Preview, I’ll share my experience with the horror title.
Mask of the Lunar Eclipse’s strongest aspect is easily its presentation. This dark, creepy, and claustrophobic horror game has managed to stand the test of time due to its clever lighting and general art direction. The remaster improves the character models, texture quality, and effects that, on the comparison, feel true to the source while also feeling modern.
There is no aliasing to speak of, and the animation quality is actually quite impressive even today. Some of the texture work feels a bit uneven, though, especially on the walls. It can be a bit jarring to see highly detailed characters next to some of these low-resolution textures, especially with the new style of lighting.
The ever-present soundtrack is creepy yet melodic, and I enjoyed being immersed in these tight corridors with my headphones on. Sound effects have this sudden and loud quality that can make you jump a little and keep you on your toes. I like how the camera pans in when you’re actually interacting with the world, bringing your view closer to increase tension.
Gameplay and Camera Obscura
Mask of the Lunar Eclipse’s general gameplay loop involves exploring different locations of Rogetsu Isle. You play as different characters, explore parts of this Island and examine environments to look for items that progress the story. These can be books, newspaper clippings, or other documents that fill the gaps in your memory and expand the lore of the Island itself.
It’s sort of like Resident Evil, but the main hook is the “Camera Obscura“, which is a camera tool that can essentially exorcise spirits when you take pictures with it.
As you explore these haunted locations, spirits of different types will show up in cutscenes and gameplay. Simply taking pictures isn’t enough because these spirits can phase through the environment, and at times, maintaining distance is more important to get the angle right while a meter fills up, indicating when can take the shot. It’s a fun gameplay loop, and the scoring system gives it a nice action-oriented feel, even though you’re just taking pictures.
It’s a tense experience, and the fact that your view is boxed up even more when you have to use the camera further increases that claustrophobic feeling. The spirits have a lot of variety too, and I liked their designs and outfits. Their placement never felt random and further added to the mystery of what happened to the inhabitants of the Island. Like, the Nurse spirit is in the Mental Ward, and she only shows up there.
This was originally a Wii release and made use of motion controls for most of its functions. This makes the experience a bit of a mixed bag because the controls can feel restrictive. For one, your character moves at an incredibly slow pace, and I don’t think sprinting does anything other than maybe increasing your animation speed slightly.
You need to press the analog sticks to quick turn, which is appreciated, but simply turning the camera around doesn’t feel as responsive. I still think the controls here are much better than the original Wii release that I briefly played, and simply using a controller to do everything is a godsend.
Overall, it’s a slow-paced title and probably won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a horror fan, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Story and Characters
I think the story is quite compelling so far, and the non-linear presentation elevates the mystery. It follows a group of girls that are compelled to come back to this Rogetsu Island because of gaps in their memory and to uncover events that transpired there when they were young. You play as different characters and do your best to piece together what tragedy struck this Island and what your role was in all of this.
There’s barely any dialogue during the actual gameplay, and most of it comes in cutscenes. Having silent characters, apart from the usual grunts, isn’t really a bad choice here and further increases the sense of isolation you feel as you explore all sorts of haunted locations without any actual people in sight.
Like Maiden of the Black Water, this remaster has a photo mode as well called the “snap mode”. You can expect all the usual features found in similar titles, with the ability to change filters, add borders, and even move characters around while also changing their expressions and poses.
It’s a neat little addition, and you can create some hilarious photos while posing with different vengeful spirits. There are some new costumes and accessories as well, which add to the customization aspect of the Fatal Frame series.
So far, having played a few chapters, I’m intrigued by the mystery of Rogetsu Isle. The remaster looks great for the most part, with excellent character models and animations, but some uneven texture work can be a bit jarring. The Camera Obscura is a fun tool, and exorcising spirits with your photography skills is a neat gameplay loop that’s tense and entertaining. It’s a creepy game, both in its presentation and story, that I’m looking forward to playing through fully.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is coming to PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, PC (via Steam), Xbox One, and Xbox Series S|X on March 9, 2023.
This preview is based on the PC version of Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. The key was provided by KOEI TECMO.