In the 1998 original Ring A film by director Hideo Nakata, the entire premise of the film revolves around a vengeful spirit named Sadako, whose inner rage has given rise to a cursed videotape through a phenomenon known as “thought”. While Sadako is ultimately the driving force behind the film’s narrative, it’s not until the very last scenes that we finally see the spirit with our own eyes (barring a few “blink and you’ll miss it” appearances). . With a total duration of just over ninety-five minutes, Sadako is only visible for about fifty seconds.

Ghosts and apparitions are much scarier when they lurk in the background, mostly invisible, announcing their presence only in subtle ways: creaky ground; a piano key playing in an adjoining room; a soft, crackling moan that filtered through a crack in a door. A good balance must be struck when depicting ghosts in the media: if you show too many of them, you risk diminishing the potential impact for the public. Examples include Pennywise from Hethe woman in black from, uh, Black womanand unfortunately the plethora of ghosts found in Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.

Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on Switch marks the first time the game has been officially released in the West, having originally been released as a Japan exclusive in 2008 for the Wii. For many fans of the franchise, it’s the last missing piece in a series that’s over twenty years old. But while this new remastered version significantly updates the game’s visuals, it still feels like a game from fifteen years ago – a game that for many Western gamers lacks the added benefit of nostalgia to sweeten its aging gameplay. mechanical.

For the uninitiated, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse features four protagonists as they explore the desolate island of Rougetsu. Three of them were islanders at a young age, returning after multiple deaths forcing them to confront their pasts and solve the mystery of the island. The fourth protagonist is a detective who has already investigated a series of murders on the island and now finds himself battling a crowd of spooky ghosts with his trusty flashlight in hand.

The overall narrative is definitely intriguing and easily one of the most interesting aspects of the game. As you explore the various environments, you’ll find plenty of notebooks, journals, pamphlets, and drawings, all of which serve to flesh out the overall mystery. With that in mind, a lot of the finer details of the game are found in the optional environmental clues, so if you’re someone who prefers to just run through the main objectives, you’ll miss a lot.

With its core gameplay, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse feels very much like a “classic” survival horror game. You’ll move through rooms and hallways at a chilling pace, illuminating every nook and cranny with your flashlight in hopes of finding hidden objects and solving benign puzzles to access new paths. While you’re there, of course, a host of hostile ghosts will appear at frequent intervals, and it’s here that you’ll need to use the franchise’s iconic “Camera Obscura” to dispatch them.

Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

The controls, while functional, definitely feel unnecessarily complicated, even for a survival horror. Walking is simple, but tedious, and even though the game has a free-form camera system, the camera won’t follow you unless you start running. Not much of an issue during quieter times, but when trying to get out of the way of an invading ghost or trying to quickly catch a wandering specter before it disappears, get the right angle quite quickly can be a little tricky. chore, nightmare sometimes. Fortunately, moving the camera around in first-person view is a little more manageable, as you have the option of using the right analog stick, the Switch’s gyroscope, or a combination of the two.

Speaking of ghost encounters, this is where the game loses a lot of its potential scare factor. The characters are certainly visually scary, but the frequency with which they appear as well as the almost arcade gameplay required to defeat them lessens their impact. When they appear, a light appears at the top of the screen to indicate what type of ghost is in the immediate vicinity and where exactly they are facing relative to the player, so there’s hardly any element of surprise. Once you’ve located the ghost, all you have to do is remove the camera by quickly pressing ‘X’, changing the perspective from third person to first person. Then keep the ghost in the center of your scope and shoot quickly to deal damage.

Fatal Frame: Lunar Eclipse Mask Review - Screenshot 3 of 4Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

However, there are a number of ways the game manages to mix up its main combat. Primarily, by waiting for a ghost to be about to attack before firing, it will execute a perfect “fatal frame” attack, dealing bonus damage and allowing you to chain combos together. It also features an assortment of camera upgrades and expansions, allowing for more powerful shots, the ability to dodge incoming attacks, and more.

It’s certainly appealing, but there’s definitely a bit of a disconnect between the quiet, subtle terror found in exploring the environment and the more direct action found during combat sequences. Encounters fill the screen with elaborate objective indicators, written combo achievements, and blue orbs that glide from your ghostly opponent onto your character. It’s strange, but it’s a problem that has unfortunately plagued the Fatal Frame series since its inception; We hope Koei Tecmo can strike a better balance if they release a new entry in the future.

Outside of combat, you can also capture ghosts on the fly. These are specifically known as “wraiths”, and they linger for brief moments before vanishing into thin air. You’ll need to be quick here if you want to take your shot, but doing so successfully will net you a handful of points. It’s great fun to catch the ghosts just in time and makes you feel like a real paranormal investigator. In addition, “Hozuki dolls” can also be found hidden in the environment, and taking a picture of them will also earn you points.

Fatal Frame: Lunar Eclipse Mask Review - Screenshot 4 of 4Captured on Nintendo Switch (Connected)

You can spend these points at save stations found in the game, exchanging them for healing items, camera gear, or even extra costumes. You can also see exactly which ghosts you’ve revealed in the in-game menu, as well as records of all narrative records found on your travels. There’s a huge number of items to discover, so having them all accessible at the press of a button is a great way to ensure you’re fully up to speed with the story.

In terms of visuals, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has definitely seen a significant improvement over the original Wii version, with more realistic character models and sharper environmental detail. That said, there’s no doubting that for a modern game; the animation in particular feels very “Wii-era”, and if you’re coming from the back of the more recent Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, the downgrade here is certainly noticeable.

Performance is also a bit hit or miss. The frame rate remains relatively solid throughout, but the game often has issues loading new areas. You’ll often find that your character will get their hands on a doorknob and freeze for a few moments while the next room is rendered. This makes transitions a little weird, and we wish the developers had masked this delay more effectively; maybe a short scene similar to Resident Evil or Luigi’s Mansion would have sufficed.


For fans of the franchise, Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse should be a no-brainer. Fifteen years after its original release in Japan, its Western release brings some improvements in visuals and presentation. That said, you can definitely feel the game’s age in the main game and little has been done to further adapt it to modern sensibilities. The movement is irregular, the camera does not enough feels on point, and loading between rooms really shouldn’t be an issue in 2023. Plus, the frequent presence of ghosts and the arcade-style combat required to defeat them constantly feels at odds with the feeling of dread. how you feel while playing the game. Explore the setting, but since it’s a core aspect of the series as a whole, you might be able to ignore it. We highly recommend checking it out if you like survival horror, but be aware that it has a number of quirks that we want fixed.

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