- Fatal Frame 2 is a survival horror game developed by Tecmo.
- Fatal Frame 2 is one of the best survival horror games on the PS2.
- Following its 20th anniversary, Fatal Frame 2 deserves to be remembered.
The Fatal Frame series has always stood out to me as far as horror games go. It is a series that combines arguably everything good about survival and action horror and centers it around traditional Japanese settings. The quaint Japanese villages and sprawling old-fashioned Japanese manors the series traditionally centers around are a far cry from the regal Spencer Mansion or the downtrodden streets of Raccoon City.
Fatal Frame has always been interesting thanks to the way it utilizes its setting as part of the series’ thematic and narrative identity. It is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and folklore, utilizing them in a way that — I imagine — would greatly heighten the experience for a player who understands and has knowledge about the topic. However, at the core of Fatal Frame are stories that are ultimately human, topics that anyone can relate to or understand regardless of pre-conceived knowledge.
Beyond just the setting, what separates the Fatal Frame games to most other survival horror games is the combat. Instead of traditional firearms, every single game gives you the Camera Obscura — a magical camera with the power to purge and exorcise ghosts — which you use to fight the many ghosts you’ll find in the game.
Thinking about it, having your primary weapon in a horror game with ghosts be a camera seems like common sense, considering how cameras stereotypically function in ghost stories. It is a means through which you get a glimpse of the paranormal. In that sense it feels almost empowering to use something that is conventionally a tool meant for discovery and fear, directly as your means of offense and defense.
What makes the camera more compelling is that it is used as a way to heighten the fear even more. Instead of most other survival horror games, Fatal Frame tells you that the only way to get through the horrors is to stare directly at their faces and get as close to them as possible. It is a genius creative decision that perfectly complements your unique weapon.
In that sense it feels almost empowering to use something that is conventionally a tool meant for discovery and fear, directly as your means of offense and defense. “
Widely considered to be the best game in the series, Fatal Frame 2 is officially 20 years old. Many people regard it as one of the best horror games of all time and one of the scariest video games ever made. As such, as a fan of the series, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to talk about what is one of my favorite horror game franchises ever.
While I do not entirely believe that is accurate — I feel Fatal Frame 1 is significantly scarier while the third one has a more gripping narrative — Fatal Frame 2 still stands strong amidst the other giants in the survival horror genre. It reminds me how tragic it is that in comparison to giants such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, Fatal Frame itself has become less and less relevant with time, especially due to the lack of any new games.
It is sadder still because Fatal Frame 2 actually has a lot in common with Silent Hill 2, both games deal with grief and the trauma that comes with it. While Silent Hill 2 leads more into the abstract, Fatal Frame is more direct and visceral. Both games are ultimately tragic and deal with heavy subject matter, it’s how they interpret it that makes them so interesting to watch.
As a sequel building off of Fatal Frame 1, it is easy to see Fatal Frame 2 as the perfect sequel. A game that builds on top of the first game, addressing every small bit of criticism resulting in an almost flawless title. Many people complained that the first game was too scary with a huge difficulty spike in the third act. Thus, Fatal Frame 2 is less scary (although admittedly it is still a terrifying game) and also way easier.
Fatal Frame 2 actually has a lot in common with Silent Hill 2.”
Another complaint against the first game was that it relied too much on backtracking. While Himuro Mansion was a fantastic setting for the first game, by the second half you were essentially just backtracking to previously explored areas. In direct contrast to this, Minakami village feels almost gargantuan in scale with numerous small and large interiors that you can enter and fully explore.
Something that remained consistent from the first game, if not improved, was the sound. All the Fatal Frame games showcase some excellent use of sound to contribute to their scariness. A stray sound of the creaking wooden floor, or the trees shaking outside due to wind, every little sound contributes just a bit more to put you on edge and it works masterfully.
Another aspect that makes Fatal Frame 2 so scary and immersive is its use of camera angles. While most horror games nowadays opt for a traditional third-person camera, the PS2 era was teeming with games that experimented with fixed and dynamic camera angles. I would argue that among those games and more, Fatal Frame 2 has by far some of the most masterful use of camera angles you will ever see.
My earlier claim that Fatal Frame 2 isn’t as scary as the first game should come with an asterisk because even though I feel this way, I don’t think that is entirely true, all thanks to a single segment in the game.
The Kiryu house is one of — if not the scariest — location I have ever had to explore in a horror game. Belonging to a doll-maker who was murdered by one of his daughters, the house is now haunted by a doll cursed by a spirit. The moment you enter the Kiryu house you immediately get the feeling that something is wrong.
It is where all of Fatal Frame 2’s strengths as a horror game emerge in full force to create a nerve-shattering level of anxiety that claws its way deep into your psyche. When I first played Fatal Frame 2 I had a surprisingly relaxed time with the game for most of the runtime. However, my casual stroll through Minakami village came to a grinding halt the second I opened the doors to the Kiryu house.
It took me more than a day to eventually get through this draining level. Every step through the Kiryu house felt like I had large metal balls of steel tied to my feet, dragging my way through every single step. Eventually finding myself lost in the manor was a spine-chilling realization, knowing I would have to scour through every inch of this place all over again all while I was desperately hoping to leave this place for good.
The Kiryu house is one of — if not the scariest — location I have ever had to explore in a horror game.”
I don’t remember a lot of stuff about Fatal Frame 2 in great detail, but the Kiryu house has cemented itself as an Inside Out level core memory inside of my brain that triggers every time the word Fatal Frame 2 is mentioned. It is in the same breath as when someone thinks of Effect and Cause when they hear the words Titanfall 2 and when you think of Jam whenever someone mentions Peanut Butter.
Keeping everything into account, Fatal Frame 2 is the quintessential survival horror game that deserves to be remembered by every horror fan. It is a damn shame it never reached the appeal of other horror franchises like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, or Dead Space even though it gets a lot right, oftentimes even more than the games it stands alongside.
Unfortunately with an extremely bizarre release of the fourth game which was almost impossible to play until recently, and a weird (and horny) fifth and final entry on the Wii U, the Fatal Frame franchise slowly faded into obscurity. Although with the steady rise of horror games in the last 2-3 years, maybe all is not as bad as it seems right now.
The recent re-releases of both Fatal Frame 4 and 5 are also some cause for celebration. While it might be too much to expect a whole new game, I at least hope that the PS2 trilogy can get a similar treatment. Even if we don’t get another game, the PS2 trilogy is truly something special, and it deserves its chance to be remembered for the classic that it very much is.
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