Back in 2008, Mast of the Lunar Eclipse was not only exclusive to the Nintendo Wii, but it was also only made for Japan exclusively. While the reasons for this decision were far too many for us to go into in this review, KOEI TECMO has now brought this obscure title to the West similar to the remaster of Maiden of Black Water. With a few quality-of-life changes, the game is still true to its roots and offers an authentic horror experience that fans will not soon forget to save in their photo albums. In our Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review we take a look at what this title offers in 2023.
Story and Characters
The story acts as a prequel to the original trilogy that was released on the PS2. This is the ideal jumping point for fans who have never played any of the previous entries and want to experience a true horror game similar to the Silent Hill series back from the same console generation.
You play as two of a five-girl group who survived a horrific series of events on the fictional island of Rogestu Island. As you progress through the story, other characters join you on the journey too as playable characters.
As you control each of the characters in the story, you must find out the truth about their distorted past. They are unable to recollect and uncover the gruesome and horrific ways their friends befell a fate straight from a horror movie, and how to avoid being the next victims.
The story is layered, and intricate, and is told through the game’s various collectibles. These are in the form of notes, diaries, audio recordings, photos, and more. The game is rich in lore, and stories to pick apart. If you are an avid explorer like me, the title will easily capture your interest while you navigate its tight and narrow corridors in your journey to uncovering the grizzly truth.
Great Jumping Point
If you are a newcomer to the series, this is the perfect place to start your Fatal Frame journey. There is no pretext or previous game knowledge you need to give you context for what’s happening. The characters themselves are very interesting and contribute a lot to the game.
Unfortunately, the game only has its original Japanese voice acting with no option for English dialogue. It’s understandable as this is a mid-point between a remake and a remaster. As such, you will have to do a fair bit of reading along the subtitles, but it’s well worth it!
The game was originally released for the Wii back in 2008 and that alone should tell you what to expect from the visuals. The original titles presentation also helped with selling the atmosphere similar to Ju-on: The Ring on the same console. If you were worried about the improved visuals ruining the experience, you will be glad to know that the dark, menacing, and foreboding environments of this game are absolutely splendid to explore.
While the visuals are nothing to write home about, the title offers a lot of upgraded beauty. The game runs at a constant 60FPS and feels very smooth to play. It has a lot of improved visuals, sharp textures, and details to the environment and improve lighting. All of this is delivered while maintaining the abandoned building aesthetic and dread from the original title.
The title is as scary as I remember when I did play it back in the day. The improved visuals really did help me appreciate the beauty of the game even more when you consider the various rooms and places you will go during your playthrough.
I can’t really say much more about the presentation without becoming redundant. Whether you are playing this on the PC, or consoles, you will not be disappointed with your experience.
There is also a photo mode you can use to take some creative shots of their time on the island. It also allows you to play with the ghosts you are fighting to give you additional control of your shots. This however does not help with combat but is a nice touch to help appeal to people who like the feature in games.
If you are unfamiliar with the Fatal Frame formula, and honestly, it would be hard to blame you since the title hasn’t had a prominent new entry in over a decade for the Western audience, the game revolves around a unique take on combat. Where other horror games leverage melee or other combat weapons like handguns or otherwise, Fatal Frame offers players a unique way of taking on the horrors that await them on Rogetsu island – a vintage camera.
Known as the Camera Obscura, the camera has the capability of not only seeing the ghosts better, but you have to maintain their presence in the frame in order to deal the most amount of damage possible. However, this also makes you a stationary target as you can only move slowly against a constantly moving ghost.
You must leverage your photography abilities to capture photos of these demons. This lets you banish them to the world of spirit film. There are a number of different film types that players can gather along the playthrough. You can also upgrade the camera and the torch to improve the time it takes between shots, lock in on the ghost, and more.
In addition to the camera, players are also given the Spirit torch. If you are not one for taking photos, the spirit torch is a flashlight that is embued with the power of the moon. This makes your damaging capabilities against approaching threats even more dangerous. However, similar to the flashlight mechanic in Alan Wake, increased usage of the flashlight also drains it. Once depleted will mean you will have to switch to the camera.
One aspect I did and did not like however was the lack of a checkpoint system. When you die in the game, you are taken to your last save point. A death caused by a boss fight or being overwhelmed by ghosts can mean you lose a lot of progress.
This can be punishing in a game like this where if you stop playing and forget where you go, you can lose your rhythm.
Aside from the combat, the game offers a lot of exploration with a 2-D map akin to Silent Hill 2. This is paired with some very tricky puzzles that will inevitably be a way of halting your progress until you figure it out.
The camera is super tight and at times can be difficult to control. This is paired with a meter that glows at the bottom right of your screen. This meter helps you find items in the environment. These can range from items you need to progress the story to film or consumables. The camera is controlled by the right analog stick and takes some getting used to, but it’s also one of my favorite aspects of the entry.
Modern tweaks such as improved movement control and using the gyroscope on the PS5 to control the camera are also very neat touches. There are plenty of these minor quality-of-life features that modernize the experience.
Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is one of the most underrated entries in the series. Acting as a prequel to the original trilogy on the PS2, the game has come leaps and bounds since its original 2008 release on the Nintendo Wii.
The game caters to modern-day and old-school gamers alike, with unique combat capabilities, a good story, and a great cast of characters. The improved visuals, controls, and other changes in this remaster/remake hybrid make this a worthy purchase for classic horror fans.
My only real gripe is the checkpoint system. While it does contradict the style of gameplay I do enjoy in present games, I understand that the game is looking to be as authentic as possible to the original source. There are only a few hairs I can pick with this title, which I will otherwise celebrate as a great achievement.
If you are an ardent fan of classic horror games, this game should be right up your alley. Even if you’ve played it before, it deserves another replay, if not more. We can only hope that the series does return, but until then, this is a faithful depiction of horror games at their finest.
What did you think of our Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This review is based on the PS5 version of Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. The key was provided by KOEI TECMO.