The PS2 came out at possibly the worst possible time. I was deep in the throes of an Everquest habit, and it followed up the PS1, a system where niche Japanese games tended to get incredibly small print runs and then disappear.
So I bought a ton of games for the thing based on “well, I don’t have time for this right now, but if I don’t buy it I’ll never be able to find it again”, which is (for the record) a terrible strategy.
Earlier this year, I finally admitted that there was a huge stack of JRPGs that were never going to get played, and those went on their way to eBay. It was a wonderfully freeing sensation.
Still, I wasn’t going to give up on Fatal Frame III. I’d played every other game in the series, and tried to start the third installment a couple of times, but for one reason or another had always bounced off of it early on.
More than that, I decided that I was going to Play It Right. I own the disc version of the game, so I could have ripped that, but instead I found an “undub” ISO of the game online, loaded up PCSX2, applied all of the patches to make the game widescreen and to improve the resolution and add anti-aliasing and all of that, got about an hour in, was feeling quite good about the whole thing…
…and it crashed during a cutscene. Save points in the Fatal Frame games can be a little scarce, so I wound up quite a bit back from where I’d gotten and was forced to re-evaluate what I really wanted out of the game.
It turns out that what I wanted was the ability to play a game without worrying whether the emulator I was running it on was going to up and die at any given moment, so I wound up going back to the “PS2 Classics” version off of PSN, which did NOT crash at any point and which actually looked OK, even if it wasn’t upscaled and antialiased and so on and so forth.
Fatal Frame 3 is a direct sequel to both Fatal Frames 1 & 2, though it doesn’t rely too much on you having played the earlier games. If you HAVE, you will get to enjoy a lot of the callbacks, mind you, and I’d recommend Fatal Frame 2 to everyone just on principle, so at least play that one.
Much like every other game in the series, you find yourself smack in the middle of an obscure Japanese ritual designed to save the world from unspeakable darkness, at the cost of sacrificing girls TO unspeakable darkness which you would think would be the first sign that things aren’t going to go to plan. There are a bunch of ghosts around, some of them are very unhappy with their state of affairs and want to kill you, you have a camera that somehow hurts ghosts, and there is a lot of wandering around looking for keys to open doors and a lot of undead that need to lose the significant prefix in order to dispel seals.
It’s pretty damn bleak and creepy, is what I’m getting at, though it does have the happiest ending I’ve seen in any game in the series.
On the downside, there’s rarely any real direction as to where you should be looking for the SPECIFIC ghosts you need to overcome to unseal any particular sealed door, so there is a lot of walking very slowly around a gigantic mansion, cursing your character’s inability to run, and then realizing that you have been holding the “run” button this time and that you actually COULD be moving even slower. A FAQ is therefore recommended for those “where am I supposed to be going now?” moments.
Also recommended: headphones, a dark room to sit in, and a controller that supports rumble. This game does a lot with rumble for atmosphere and I don’t think it would be nearly as effective without it.
It wasn’t my favorite game in the series, but there’s something about the specific nightmare fuel that the Fatal Frame games tap into that you won’t be finding anywhere else.
Oh, and I finished the Chuo line version of Densha De Go! Pocket last week as well. So that’s all of the PS2 games off the backlog and only one physical PSP game left. At some point here I am going to be down to only needing current-gen systems hooked up.