Why I like Fatal Frame
1) As I confessed during the Haunted Mansion post, I'm actually a gigantic chicken. I'm drawn to horror because it has a powerful impact on me, but I like the experience to be vicarious. Video games are about as close as I can come to getting directly involved with anything scary.
2) I got into all the big horror games when they started coming out for the Playstation. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Parasite Eve, I played them all. The only one that was almost too much for me was Fatal Frame.
3) Video games are almost all power fantasies. You're usually a Space Marine or a SAS officer or an indomitable yellow eating machine or something like that. You're almost never a skinny teenage girl trapped in a haunted house looking for her missing brother. The only weapon you have to defend yourself with is the Camera Obscura, an old-style box camera that can capture the dead.
4) "Ropes! There are more ropes this time!"
5) Fatal Frame scared the bejeezus out of me. The game is one of my most intensely atmospheric horror scenarios I've ever played in my life. The ghosts you meet, the dark halls that you wander down, the horrific recordings you find, all create an unrelenting world of terror. I used to rush from save point to save point so I could take regular breaks.
6) The ghosts are also the scariest ghosts I've ever seen in horror fiction. They're the restless spirits of the people who died following the disaster of the failed strangling ritual, and they wear their torments on their bodies. It's hard to pick which one is the worst, but I'm torn between the woman whose hanging went wrong and the woman who wore the blinding mask and is condemned to wander the halls of the Himuro mansion with blood-soaked bandages over her gouged eyes.
7) I used to lose entire days playing this game. I'd play it broad daylight, with the windowshades open and plenty of people in the house. If I really lost my nerve, I'd mute the game and blare the Wu-Tang Clan through my stereo. I liked imagining the Ghostface Killah materializing before Miku Hinasaki like he did for Huey Freeman in that episode of The Boondocks, helping herto be strong and walk righteous.
8) The gist of the story, from what I can tell, is about sacrifice. As abominable as the strangling ritual is, the consequences would be much worse if it was never performed. We feel bad for the poor shrine maiden, but sacrificing her keeps the world whole. The game's theme asks us to examine the horrible cost of duty.
Conclusion: Fatal Frame is one of the things that sparked my love for Asian horror. It's atmospheric and emotionally rich in a way that western horror often can't compete with. The game is genuinely, relentlessly scary. I'm kind of sad that the newest game seems to have a focus on fan service, because Fatal Frame was the best survival horror franchise in video games.