Review: “Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse”

High-stakes photography on a haunted island, whatever could go wrong.

Image of “Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse” by Gabriel Flynn/RooNews.

Gabriel Flynn, Staff Writer

  “Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse” is one of the most uncomfortable yet amazing horror games I have played. While there are many games made by indie teams, most big-name horror series’ have gone either high action or lots of hiding.

  Fatal Frame lacks traditional action, and you have no chance to hide. Instead, you are given a camera and told to take pictures of the ghosts attacking you. Running away is useless as you’ll be sealed into a room, and even if you get into another room the ghosts can walk through the walls.

  The first two chapters of this game handle isolation masterfully. With the hopeless ending of the prologue leading into it, you really get the impression that these girls can’t really escape this cramped Sanitorium.

  In fact, cramped is probably the best way to describe this experience. While the picture above may look open and vast, most hallways barely have enough room to turn around, and the spirits just love floating in through walls to scare you.

Image of “Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse” by Gabriel Flynn/RooNews.

For a seemingly new game in 2023, you may be wondering why the graphics are so grainy. For those not familiar with the series, this is actually the fourth game of five.

It was never released overseas. While Nintendo held the license, they never published it outside of Japan. So for those of us who can’t understand Japanese, this is a brand-new game in the long-running series. 


  This game, however, acts as a fully disconnected prequel so you don’t need to worry about playing the previous three. Normally I encourage playing games in release order, but given the lack of any substantial connection and inaccessibility, I encourage people to start here.

  For those concerned about the graphics of playing what is essentially a Wii game from 2008, well it definitely looks the part. It has been touched up a bit but really the only improvements are in lighting and updated character models.

  The art direction is where the visual charm truly lies. Between the film grain and wonderfully broken down locations, it truly feels like everything has been abandoned for the last ten years.

  The game is fairly linear, and it’s hard to get lost. The main gameplay is rare puzzles and fighting off spirits with your camera.

  Using the camera typically consists of locking on a target, charging up a shot and trying to time it right for more points. These points can be exchanged for different film types, which essentially act as ammo for your camera and healing items.

  I played through the game on the normal difficulty and honestly never really needed anything beyond the base film, which is unlimited. I only started to take advantage of the other types towards the end because I had well over 100,000 points and figured I might as well.

  If you’re wanting a challenge I would set the difficulty as high as possible, but if you’re more interested in a good story or creepy atmosphere, I would recommend the easy mode. 

  Overall I’d recommend the game to someone who enjoys an eerie atmosphere with a well-built-up story. Those wanting the action of a “Resident Evil” game will not find it here, but for those looking for a nice haunted experience, “Fatal Frame” is a game that is well worth the price of admission.

Image of “Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse” by Gabriel Flynn/RooNews.

  For people who have already played the game or are just curious about the story I will be going in-depth below. I recommend starting the game with little context, so if you haven’t played yet, stop here and come back after.

  While the main character of the game is definitely meant to be Ruka, it felt like Misaki and Choushiro were the protagonists leading up to the final third of the story. I found their stories much more interesting. 

  The two of them kept bouncing back and forth, and it was interesting to piece together the story bits between them. I kept trying to figure out when Choushiro’s story took place.

  The last chapter in Misaki’s story was amazing, and Choushiro’s was enjoyable all the way through. In fact, Choushiro’s story was probably my favorite, and I look forward to piecing together all the clues to find the big reveal at the end.

  The reveal that the entire time Choushiro was living up to his last moments to his death was such an interesting twist. In a series where being dead doesn’t really mean you can’t do anything, it takes away the annoyance of the “you were dead the whole time” twist.

  What really sold the plot twist for me was the fact that the storyline finally made sense once it was discovered. Throughout his story you can clearly tell that it does take place ten years after he saves the five children from the island. However, it’s in a different building from Ruka and Misaki.

  I was taking little bits of information and kept switching between thinking what happened took place right before or right after. The moments with his recordings and the ghosts made me think it was before, but given the condition of the building and lack of people, I thought it must be after.

  Then the ending throws it out there, of course, the ghosts and environment feel older. Everything you see them do other than attack you is repeating the past.

  While it might seem like Haibara is taunting you or running away, he isn’t. You see what already happened, the game just tricks you into thinking that it might be new.

Image of “Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse” by Gabriel Flynn/RooNews.

  Of course, after this realization is when his story and Ruka’s meet up, and he finally gets the answers he wanted.  However, we never get to see what happened to Misaki or Madoka.

  Madoka is probably dead after what happened to her at the start of the game, but Misaki just disappears after getting her doll back.

  While that would be a beautiful ending to her story, the game isn’t just about her. Unfortunately, if you want to see the full ending you must beat the game on the nightmare difficulty which requires a second play-through and features a challenge fitting that name at times.

  One day I’ll play this game again at the highest difficulty, but unlocking what is essentially an extra 30 seconds of a cutscene behind a second play-through is frustrating. If you’re like me you may not want to do two play-throughs immediately. For those people, I recommend playing the previous games as the release remasters.

  Koei Tecmo has been remastering these games in reverse order. While confusing, maybe come back after you play those for a new perspective.

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