Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water – Video Review
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Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water – Video Review

October 27, 2019

It’s difficult to overstate just how much
of a sheer anomaly Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is. I mean, let’s consider the
facts: it’s the fifth game in a Japanese survival horror series where your only means
of defense is a camera, whose first three games were primarily released for the PlayStation
2 and Xbox and whose fourth game was a Wii exclusive that was never released outside
of Japan. This means that a wide swath of the Wii U’s Western audience has likely
never even heard of this series, let alone asked for it, which rightly led many fans
to assume that Maiden of Black Water would never make it out of Japan. We may never know what compelled the usually
risk-averse Nintendo of America to take a chance on this game, but Wii U owners should
be glad they did because even if it isn’t perfect, there simply isn’t anything else
quite like it on the Wii U or any other current-generation platform. Although Maiden of Black Water is technically
the fifth game in the series and does feature a couple of returning characters from previous
entries, the prior Fatal Frame games generally are not referenced and no knowledge of them
is needed to enjoy this game’s story to its fullest. There’s no high barrier of
entry for series newcomers here, and this is fortunate because Maiden of Black Water’s
tale is a compelling one that had me hooked almost from the get-go. Maiden of Black Water takes place in and around
Mt. Hikami, known to locals as a suicide hotspot that attracts those seeking to end their lives
in a dignified manner. The story follows three principal characters as they each get caught
up in a string of disappearances and deaths involving those who have been mysteriously
“spirited away” to the mountain. Naturally, each character has their own reasons
for investigating Mt. Hikami despite the supernaturally horrific dangers there and I found it impossible
not to get caught up in each of their individual plights as I got to know them and their motivations
better. The game’s events are separated into bite-sized chapters that feel almost
like episodes of a television series and keep things moving at a brisk pace. While the slightly dull prologue and unremarkable
first chapter failed to grab me and initially had me concerned that the story would drag,
the game takes off at a breakneck pace right after that and I found myself not wanting,
but needing to know what was going to happen next from the second chapter onward. The most important character in Maiden of
Black Water may well be Mt. Hikami itself. The sense that this is a sacred place steeped
in a history of death and the occult is always palpable as you explore its many varied environments,
including an ominous forest, an old shrine full of creepy Japanese dolls, a temple housing
the remains of shrine maidens sacrificed to appease ancient gods, decrepit cable car stations,
flooded graveyards, and more. As I progressed through the game, I wasn’t
just compelled to see what would happen to the human characters I had been following;
I was hungry to uncover more of the lore and history behind Mt. Hikami and learn why this
place was beset by so many supernatural horrors. Speaking of those supernatural horrors, there
are very real dangers out there in Mt. Hikami in the form of malevolent tortured spirits
looking to drag you into the Netherworld with them, and your only means of defense is the
Camera Obscura, a camera with the power to exorcise ghosts and make the invisible visible.
This is where the meat of Maiden of Black Water’s gameplay is found. Fatal Frame veterans
already know this, but there’s a lot more to handling the Camera Obscura effectively
than just pointing and shooting. Your ghostly assailants are constantly on
the move and are much more mobile than you are, able to warp and phase through walls
at will, so battles are almost always tense affairs where a ghost could disappear and
pop up right behind you any time, always keeping you on your toes. The key to fighting effectively is to stay
on the move and adjust your position so that you’re always fitting as many of a ghost’s
weak points in the frame as you can before taking a shot. In order to discourage you
from just going in and shooting blindly, even basic ghosts often have an oppressively large
amount of health that will only be reduced by mere slivers if you don’t take the time
to think about and line up your shots properly. Further encouraging smart play is the fact
that the game awards points for every shot you take, with the best shots naturally awarding
the most points. These points are then used for upgrading the Camera Obscura’s damage
output, shutter speed, attack distance, and more. In this way, the game directly rewards
mastery of its mechanics by allowing you to power up your camera more quickly. There are also other mechanics at play. Each
successful shot absorbs “spirit power” from a ghost, which you can use to perform
special attacks based on the camera lenses you have equipped. For instance, the Recover
lens restores a portion of your health based on the shot’s total damage, and the Stun
lens can forcibly stagger a ghost that’s about to grab you. These mechanics differ
slightly depending on the character you’re playing as, too. As it turns out, the Wii U GamePad adds a
distinct sense of tactile response to the Camera Obscura that simply wasn’t possible
in previous games. Maiden of Black Water uses the GamePad’s gyroscope to imitate the act
of turning a camera sideways in real life, allowing you to manually manipulate the Camera
Obscura at any time to get the best possible shot. If you’re fighting an especially tall ghost,
for example, it’s a good idea to turn the GamePad sideways and line your shot up vertically.
This kind of physical immersion, combined with the GamePad’s screen acting as the
camera’s viewfinder, adds a lot to the game and is a rare example of the GamePad enabling
a unique gameplay mechanic that simply can’t be replicated on a traditional controller.
It’s implemented remarkably well, and I never encountered any problems with the gyroscope’s
motion sensing. For those who would rather not use the GamePad’s
screen as the camera’s viewfinder, the game does include the option to display the camera’s
interface on the TV so that all the action takes place on the TV screen, making the gameplay
more similar to previous games. Both options are perfectly viable depending on your preferences.
Outside of battle, the GamePad’s screen functions as a handy, easy-to-read map that
gets filled in as you explore. The Camera Obscura also plays a significant
role outside of fighting ghosts. As you’re exploring Mt. Hikami, benign spirits will
occasionally appear and provide glimpses of what they were doing before they died, and
photographing them before they disappear will award you with extra points. You’re also
occasionally tasked with going on a “scavenger hunt” of sorts to take pictures of specific
places shown in photos in order to unlock the way forward. These parts do threaten to
slow down the game’s pacing too much when all you want to do is move ahead, but thankfully
these challenges never get too difficult and are only a minor annoyance as a result. Maiden of Black Water absolutely excels at
building a relentlessly creepy, oppressive atmosphere throughout. There’s a fair share
of jump scares to be had here, no doubt, but this game is more about creating an indelible
sense of dread that keeps you feeling uneasy and intimidated than it is jumping out at
you with “gotcha!” moments. Those looking for Resident Evil’s brand of guns-blazing,
high-action horror won’t find it here; Fatal Frame is more like Silent Hill in that it
maintains a slower, more deliberate pace meant to let the atmosphere get under your skin
gradually. “Slower” really is the right word for
it, too. Atmosphere-building is one thing, and like I said before, the story is paced
very well, but everything else in Maiden of Black Water kind of feels like it’s soaked
in molasses and this can often be to the game’s detriment. All three playable characters walk,
run, and turn with all the agility of a tank, and indeed, the controls are not unlike the
tank-like controls in old Resident Evil games. More often than not I found myself fighting
the controls in an effort to get where I wanted to go without turning in a bunch of other
directions first, which I found to be especially frustrating in tense battle situations where
I was quickly being attacked by ghosts on all sides and taking unnecessary damage due
to my character fumbling over their own sluggishness. This problem is even worse when you’re fighting
in hallways and other close-quarters environments, with ghosts easily phasing in and out of walls
while you slowly, clumsily try to turn your character around and run away to compensate.
There is a “quick turn” command in the style of Resident Evil 4, but it honestly
isn’t much help. These control issues represent Maiden of Black Water’s most egregious,
persistent flaw. Maiden of Black Water has genuinely stellar
sound design. This is a game you’ll want to crank the volume way up for. While there’s
almost no music to speak of, the incredible ambience of Mt. Hikami’s various locations
cranks the fear factor up to 11. The shriek of a ghost reliving its own death could pierce
the darkness around you at any time, and this is a game that certainly proves silence can
sometimes be the loudest sound of all. While the English voice acting falls flat
due to stilted performances and wildly uneven volume levels, with many characters barely
being audible over the rest of the game, it hardly matters when everything else sounds
so authentic. In a nice bit of fanservice, the game does feature dual-language audio,
so those of you put off by the poor English voice acting can switch to the native Japanese
voice track if you like. Graphically, Maiden of Black Water stands
as a perfectly good-looking game even if it isn’t mindblowing. There are definitely
some low-res textures here and there and character animation can occasionally be a bit stiff,
but the game looks pretty great on the whole, with fantastic water and shadow effects being
the standout visual elements. The various ghosts and apparitions also look particularly
great, and it’s hard not to jump as the ghost of a girl who slit her own throat lunges
at you as you frantically try to take a good picture of her. Like in many survival horror games, much of
the story is revealed via documents you find scattered around as you explore, and my main
complaint about the visuals is related to this. Simply put, the text in these documents
is way too faint and hard to read on both the TV and the Wii U GamePad’s screen. I
often found myself needing to squint in order to read the text in these various documents,
which was a bit irritating. It is worth mentioning that Maiden of Black
Water is a shockingly graphic game, with incredibly realistic depictions of people dying in various
horrible ways and some genuinely disturbing ghost designs. However you feel about the
Wii U’s squeaky clean, family-friendly image, this game completely shatters it and is one
of the most visually disturbing games I’ve ever played on a Nintendo console – or any
other console for that matter. Maiden of Black Water is not for the squeamish or faint of
heart. Overall, while incredibly clumsy, sluggish
character movements and controls do their best to hinder the experience and often make
battles with ghosts feel unfair, I liked Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water and would recommend
it in a second to survival horror fans of the Silent Hill persuasion and, of course,
to existing Fatal Frame fans. With a compelling, haunting story and a genuinely terrifying
atmosphere throughout, this is a game best played by yourself at night with the lights
off… or maybe it isn’t, depending on how healthy your heart is. Thanks for watching,
and keep it on GameXplain for more on Fatal Frame and all things gaming.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. 1:02 they took half of a chance and I won't support half of a release. Lots of other games with physical releases to enjoy since I'm not a lucky European

  2. This game seems like it was made for the Wii-U gamepad. Too bad it's likely fated to do sub-par in the USA. Pun not intended. Unfortunate, since Fatal Frame is an imaginative series well worth its weight in gold.

  3. For my ignorance. But is a video a review conducted only based on looking at video footage without playing the actual game? Thanks in advance 🙂

  4. Ohohohoho! Totally getting this game. Still love physical copies though. Was the music from the game, assuming it is and it is beautiful.

  5. I was planning on getting this game this month, but I have some hurdles that need jumping over. Firstly I need an external hard drive for space and secondly I need a charging dock for my gamepad, because it won't charge from the top so I need a dock to charge it from the bottom.

  6. I am thinking of getting a fatal frame game. Any suggestions for which one. Also,a dumb question,are there a lot of jumpscares.

  7. I feel the control is on purpose, because your characters aren't like trained soldiers or something. They are just normal people facing off against ghosts so, the lack of control you have adds to the game as your not some bad ass that can just move around like a ninja and do w/e. Your an normal very weak person trying to surivive through this.

  8. Although M-rated, Nintendo did censored the Western copy and removed a few contents along with it.
    Oh, and big spoiler alert, especially for those who didn't watch the Japanese walkthrough:

    There is an unlockable story that lets you play as Ayane from Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden. Simply beat the main game, and you'll unlock it.


  10. This game has been censored, so please don't buy it. If you really want to play it, then either wait and get a pre-owned copy or rent it from GameFly. Thank you.

  11. Disliked because he didn't mention the censorship, which obviously should be a negative, and that he suggested switching to the Japanese voice acting instead of listening to mediocre English VA. It's not like you can hear the quality of the Japanese VA unless you speak the language.

  12. all of you who wanted this game soo bad don't want it anymore, bunch of hypocrites. You're only delaying the inevitable when it comes to not buying digital. even the xbone and ps4 needs to install the damn game before you play it. games that require 30-60 gigs of space and when you least expect it, you need to buy an external hard drive

    Make all the excuses you want fakers, i hope it helps you sleep

  13. For those on the fence, there is a demo available that gives you a prologue and the game's first two chapters. My first impressions really liked how intuitive the gamepad felt as a camera even though the character controls are rather clunky.

  14. I have heard of the Fatal Frame series, sadly never had the console except for the Wii and because the Wii was region locked, was never able to play it.

    I don't have a Wii U because of family issues, my parents think I have too many consoles, but I do know that we are lucky to finally get some unique Japanese games on Nintendo hardware.

    Yes the slight censorship of the game because of Nintendo of America is disappointing but the inclusion of a Zero Suit Samus outfit as well as a Zelda outfit does help but if I were to play a Japanese game, I would rather have everything that the Japanese have regardless of the cultural issues.

    Kinda wished that Xseed would have published this instead of Nintendo of America considering that Xseed understands that those who complain about things in games are not the ones who would play it, so to censor something just to please those who will never play the game is not the answer.

    The sooner that Nintendo of America can realise this, the better, other than that, I know the reason why I brought the PS3 and PSP was to break away from the mess that Nintendo were always making when publishing games to the west.

    But still, for those who can get it and who do own a Wii U, you will be supporting a niche Japanese game that has survival horror elements similar to Silent Hill, and considering what has happened at Koniami it is better to support those smaller Japanese Developers when you can.

  15. From what I understand by looking at this game in youtube videos, this game is similar to Fragile Dreams that was available for the original Wii console, similar in its survival horror gameplay where you need to make use of every item that you get and manage your inventory well with what little you have.

    The Camera being the only means of defence is what makes Fatal Frame unique and stands out above all others for being different in the way it handles ghosts and spirits.

  16. There is an exclusive remake of Fatal Frame 2 on the Wii here in europe and its awesome :D. I only played the first one on the ps2 and the remake of 2 on the wii. I never found the 3rd one and I was pretty pissed off that Fatal Frame 4 didn't come out outside japan because Suda 51 directed it :C. But I'm gonna get the Fatal Frame 5 special edition on friday :D.

  17. You lied! Sixth drop took 2 hours to beat because I didn't know where the last picture to the scavenger hunt. But the rest if the game is amazing!

  18. Metroid suit sold it..Metroid Prime is my fav game ever,I'm 47 and played games since 1977,and anything with Metroid I'd buy but it still looks awesome..

  19. I grabbed the limited edition from GAME (UK). And it's one of the nicer Limited Editions I've gotten in a long time. It comes with a landscape artbook, some spirit photographs in an envelope, a double sided large poster and a beautifully designed Tin Case and of course the game. I've been a fan of the Project Zero series for ages. Just after the release of Zero 4 in Japan, I met someone in my class who was just as addicted to the games. Together we spent hours bricking a Wii (An update on the system disabled the use of Japanese games, so we spent ages just trying to reset the damn thing)in order to play Zero 4 and while we both enjoyed it immensely, it was very clear that the European Wii wasn't able to run the game at it's full potential. When we heard about Zero 5, we both got depressed as the Wii U had been fully region locked, still despite a lot of people sneering at me for buying one, I did just in the hopes of Zero 5 coming overseas. My wish came true, and it feels like I'm rewarded further because I'm able to be in possession of such a important part of a game franchise that brought me and my best friend together ^_^ Thank you so much for reviewing this game with a open mind as well! A lot of reviews I've seen tend to just moan about how clunky and slow the Zero/Fatal Frame/Project Zero series is; I once stumbled upon someone just saying it was just copying Silent Hill when I think the games except for perhaps the atmosphere, are nothing alike! So thanks again for the spoiler free review!

  20. have you actually played the original Project Zero? (Fatal Frame) this one is so poor in comparison.. it's about as scary as a banana.

  21. nintendo still owns the game industry. 1st they own more money than both Microsoft and sony. 2nd Nintendo has a wider range of users since its consoles or handhelds always owns games which both adults and children like. 3rd they are always the first to invent new things, sony and microsoft the least. because rip-offs. And at last, the console war between microsoft and sony is usefull to nintendo, people will rather buy a wii-u instead of a sony PlayStation or x-box (depending which console people like the most).

  22. I have never played a horror game before, but this has the hugest of interests. I've seen gameplay of horror games, but never really played it. Would you reccomend this to someone who's never played a horror game before, just to get started, or should i just watch a let's play? I'm really curious.

  23. This sounds quite good. Played the first Project Zero way back in the day but haven't since then. Think I need to catch up!

  24. People always complain about Tank controls. If only they'd quit blaming it because they suck ass at gaming and give it more time to understand that they are perfect controls for survival horror.

  25. How the heck i should get scared in this game when that bitch wiggles with her ass like that. Is this horror or a porn game?
    Those stupid, idiotic shit dripping assholes who made this game, should have played SH3 befor. That game was SCARY.

  26. I personally did not find this game all that scary, that being said I don't really find any game all that scary. I do, however, love what I've played so far of the game (haven't finished it yet) and love the ambience and sense of dread that is always looming over you as you play.

    I just HATE the freaking controls. I know it's intentional and meant to build tension, but I find moving around to sometimes be a greater threat to me than the ghosts I'm fighting.

  27. I tried playing the demo and couldn't get anywhere very early on, so the game was no good to me. Is that why the game is free now?


  29. I want to play this game, but not a fan of censorship. The thing is that censorship has do with culture norms. I still think it dumb that they censored it. It funny, but firing people in Japan is shunned on. Here in U.S.A people look for reasons to fire you. The problem is everone has to believe what you believe or else people start to cry.
    P.S. By censoring these types of games, Nintendo of America is saying"we have no respect for Japanese culture". Fun Note in Japan, Game Developers are blaming the U.S.A. for having to censor games. which has out rage by fans.

  30. 1 year later. This is the game that made me buy a Wii U in a heartbeat when announced but ironically the game that I ended up not getting because it's "digital only". My connection is trash so anything more than 4gigs can kiss goodbye. I even struggled to download the demo. Sigh… Fatal frame… Hopefully you'll be at NSwitch and with a physical release this time.

  31. Why no new sequel? This franchise deserves more love 🙁 and please add all the costumes that were intended in the N.A. version. Cant believe in GTA 5 violence no one bats an eye, and for a bikini everyone loses their minds (of course not the gamers), and the tall lady left me traumatized.

  32. This game was murdered for being only digital, having censorship and being larger than the OG Wii U HD size. Nintendo destroyed any chances for Fatal Frame to be as great as it was on the PS2 era.

  33. We really need this on swicth, make it happen Nintendo, now is the perfect chance, but please give us a physical copy and an uncensored game :3

  34. I want to play this game so bad but I’m not too Crazy about that $49.99 price tag. Can anyone tell me if it’s even worth it at that price?

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