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‘Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water’ Review: A Spooky Yet Shallow Remake

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‘Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water’ Review: A Spooky Yet Shallow Remake

The remake of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, benefitting from a lick of paint, a new photo mode and a release for brand new platforms, is definitely for the fans of the original who have been longing for a return to the unique survival horror series.

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Check out the trailer below!

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Originally a Wii U game, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is set on the Hikami Mountain. Hypnotically beautiful and the site of ancient religious rituals, the mountain has many springs that were said to connect the worlds of the living and the dead together. The shrine maidens continued this practice of purification of the water and assisting spirits on their way to the other side until a sudden tragedy saw all of the residents of Hikami brutally killed. 

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This disturbing legend filled the minds of all who investigated the mountain and Hikami Mountain became notorious as a place where visitors would take their lives. Though the roads to the peak were closed and a fence prevented passersby from stumbling into the forest, people still go missing every year, which is where the story starts. 

Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo
Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo

Yuri Kozukata is tasked with finding Haruka Momose, a young girl who was spirited away to the mountain after an accident took the lives of all but one of her friends. Yuri is one of the three playable characters and she possesses abilities to interact with ghosts following the death of her family when she was very young. Inheriting the Camera Obscura from her mentor Hisoka, she embarks on a journey to the treacherous shrines of Hikami to stop the curse of the Black Water claiming anyone else. 

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First things first, the visuals of this remake are absolutely amazing. Playing on a PlayStation 5, the gloomy natural environments of the mountain are darkly bewitching. Interiors confine Yuri in tight corridors and tiny rooms, the beam of her torch sweeping over the surroundings and casting enormous shadows that claw across the walls. The atmosphere is a slow burn of suspense, where you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something sinister to leap out. 

Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo
Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo

The found footage and vision sections, distinct in their jitter and absence of colour, were very tense too with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments of abject shock and bridging the third-person and first-person perspectives that the game hops between. Also, I’m not 100% sure how these gorgeous visuals will fare on the Nintendo Switch, which isn’t on the same level as the other consoles. 

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To collect beneficial items, the player must hold down the assigned button to reach out for it, leaving the character vulnerable to attacks from ghosts. While this got me a few times, using the DualSense’s gyro aiming to snap photos of the malevolent spirit was very fun. 

With each photo taken by the Camera Obscura, the ghost is dealt damage depending on different factors like proximity, tilt, how much of the ghost is captured in the photo, and others. Ghostly reihen orbs of the ghost’s face swirl around the spirit and if Yuri can snap a photo of several of these orbs then the ghost will be dealt even more damage. The player can also bait an attack from the ghost and take a photo just before they grab the hero to do a lot of stun damage, but they must pull off a timed dodge to avoid being harmed themselves. 

Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo
Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo
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As they are the remnants of the people who had been lured to their death on the mountain, their hair is slick against their skulls, eyes sunken and hollow and they wail with a gaping mouth. Again, the upgraded visuals really hammer home the sadness and revulsion of these souls. Even with the tragic tone that the game strikes, Yuri and company’s extremely slow pace from point to point wound me up some. 

While there’s an argument to be made for the measured approach to the gameplay and narrative, that it draws out the unknown and creates that aforementioned cloying atmosphere, the slowness is incongruous with the modern look of the new Maiden of Black Water. Like, it would be brilliant to underscore the horror of these vindictive ghosts pulling Yuri to a watery grave by letting me, I don’t know, actually run away from their grasp. It would also contrast with the sections where she’s walking in waist-high water — that would make sense to be slower then and heighten the feeling of panic. 

Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo
Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo

When sprinting, which increases the character’s speed marginally, the hero tilted in a different direction to the way I wanted to go. I’m already moving super slowly and you’ve got the gall to spin me round so I retrace my steps. To be honest, it might be quicker for the ghost to possess and spirit me down the river like an ethereal Uber service to return to Hikami’s village at the end of a level. 

There’s the game’s wetness meter, too, to consider. This measures how wet the character becomes from the pools of water, rain and attacks from ghosts. While this makes the Camera Obscura more powerful, it also attracts ghosts and their attacks deal more damage to the protagonist. It also turns the white shirt in Yuri’s outfit transparent and her blouse clings to her body. You can see where I’m going with this, and these points were made for the original release, so I won’t spend too much time talking about how weird this is. 

Unlockable costumes like swimwear and lingerie don’t do a whole lot for the horror of Maiden of Black Water. In fact, I’d say they don’t do anything at all. The bath scene, which sees the Black Water submerge Yuri and almost drown her, shouldn’t really have me rolling my eyes in annoyance. 

Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo
Fatal Frame: Maiden Of Black Water / Credit: Koei Tecmo

Look, if you liked the original, then this mesmeric remake is gorgeous and suspenseful, and I imagine it’s ideal after the Fatal Frame series has lain dormant for so long. On the other hand, if your palette for horror has been spoiled with more modern hits in the genre, Maiden of Black Water’s atmosphere rises to the surface while its other dated aspects pull it back down. 

Pros: Battles with the Camera Obscura, amazing new look

Cons: Very slow, jittery controls, why does the hero have to be sexy when she’s running for her life

For fans of: Fatal Frame, Silent Hill

5/10: Average 

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is available October 28 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch. Reviewed on PlayStation 5 with code supplied by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Koei Tecmo

Topics: PlayStation 5, Reviews

Imogen Donovan
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