First I would like to point out that I love FF above Silent Hill because of the gameplay i.e. the combat. I love how engaging it is, how much skill it can require to pull off some of the more difficult Fatal Frames while still giving you the sense of being disempowered. Now, without further ado, let's get started.
From best to worst:
Fatal Frame 3
I finished this game 5 times so far and yet it still succeeds where no other horror game has managed after so many playthroughs: it maintains tension so overbearing, so suffocating, that I literally have to take breaks (after 2-3 hours) since it is so tiring. I don't know why this particular game has this hold on me. Maybe it's the feeling of not being safe anywhere, not your home or your dreams; unlike other games (with the exception of FF5) Rei can leave her house, visit perfectly safe places, but the curse is still with her (you), still gnawing at her (your) soul. Literally nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Playing it is almost Stockholm Syndrome-ish: I love it for torturing me.
Gameplay wise it is the most polished of the original trilogy. Not as cheap as the first game, not as boringly easy as the second game, it strikes the perfect balance in difficulty. The enemies are varied, some even change their tactics a bit over time and have new moves, wherein in the previous games they remain static.
As for the story, I love how mature it is i.e. the message of "to live on even with the pain" after losing a loved one. Simple, universal, timeless, presented beautifully. Each character is relatable, each character has just enough screen time and is relevant to the overall story. Lots of text to read, but I don't mind since it is all interesting and a lot of it is optional (i.e. the books in Yuu's room). Love Rei.
Fatal Frame 1 = Fatal Frame 4 - ex aequo
FF1: Not much to say here. The original. The least developed gameplay mechanics, story etc. However, the fact that the story is simple, does not mean it's bad. It succeeds at being a tense adventure and it scared me shitless the first time through. Also made me a fan of the series. Don't mess with the OG.
FF4: Oh boy. Incredible potential, marred by huge technical issues and obvious lack of budget and / or time constraints:
- very poor performance (after 2 playthroughs I decided to just play on the emulator, much better),
- game breaking glitches (crashes, freezes, inability to complete the Ghost List),
- many reused audio assets (even moreso than Deep Crimson Butterfly; a lot of ambients are taken straight out of FF3),
- the simple lack of the option of quitting to the main menu (yes, you can reset the application, but the option should be there),
- Choushiro's non-damaging lens seems like a bug workaround than an actual design choice.
Furthermore, multiple other annoying features:
- infuriatingly slow movement speed, even for this franchise; aside from FF5, people in this series shuffle forward instead of running while in FF4 they move so goddamn slow they seem like they're moving in place; the lighthouse part in the end is especially excruciating due to this: I checked that it takes Ruka a solid 3 minutes to "run" to the door at the top from the bottom without stopping,
- many vanishing ghosts linger way too long: it is possible to capture them and then casually walk into them, breaking immersion,
- the best lens in the game, Crush, releases so many particles upon hitting an enemy, it tanks the already poor framerate AND blocks your vision - perfect,
- dodging: good element, but each time Ruka falls down on her butt afterwards and forces me to wave the WiiMote around like an idiot, I WANT the ghosts to kill her ass,
- surprisingly many jump scares in the first 1/3rd of the game; jumpscares aren't scary, they're startling, pls stop,
- there are people who complain that FF3 has too much text to read; they couldn't have played the fourth game, since it has several times more stuff to read and a lot of it seems pointless gibberish in dire need of editing (or the translation is poor).
At the same time the themes (memories, the whole Moon motif), the 3 characters arcs (especially Misaki and Choushiro), the Tsukimori song etc. are almost perfect. Even the modern setting somehow works well in a series wherein the standard setting is an old Edo period manor / village. Tension is still present. Gameplay wise I hate using the WiiMote, so I don't really care it's easy due to the perfect lock on. On Hard and Nightmare there are enough one shotting enemies to make it at least semi difficult.
This game requires a remake more than any other game.
Fatal Frame 5
I only finished it once so far, but I think I have a fairly good grasp about my opinion on it.
While there are entirely too many fighting encounters in this game, the combat is the best in the series (provided you use the motion controls). I fell in love with the combat of this game so much so, that I hated the lack of Mission Mode or any other mode beside Story Mode (Ayane's story does not really count) where the combat is the central focus. It's the Wii's motion controls, but actually done well.
Story wise it's a mess. A good idea, in theory, but in practice it is an anti-FF3: it romanticizes suicide and presents moving forward in your life as a miserable existence. And I'm not even gonna touch upon the Hinasaki subplot son, that is beyond a sh*tshow.
Still, FF5 has the highest production quality of them all, especially in comparison to FF4 and, aside from the main menu song being almost identical to Sleep Priestess, it has almost no reused assets. What's most important, it had tension (Slender Woman... I mean Tall Woman gave me nightmares), I liked the "guard the house" chapters and it was not boring. Unlike the last game(s) on this list...
Fatal Frame 2 = FF2 Deep Crimson Butterfly - ex aequo
FF2: Not scary, almost no tension overall. Even the first time through. Yes, there were segments where there was some tension present (e.g. running away from Sae in the Tachibana house) and brilliant moments (e.g. Sae's and Kusabi's first appearance in the Great Hall), but overall I felt almost nothing. A few people compare it to a fairy tale, but I think FF4 is more fairy tale-ish than this, with the whole poor girl using the power of song to save the day, Choushiro essentially being a white knight etc. So I do not know why that is, but it is boring.
Gameplay wise it is as boring as the rest of the game. The camera is proximity based, which kind of makes sense on paper since most of the encounters are close quarters, but it is not fun to use. Ghosts barely deal any damage to you, they're slow moving and rarely attack.
However, the story is where my true gripe with this game lies. Quoting someone from this forum (can't remember who, sorry):
Crimson Sacrifice. Given the circumstances, anyone who objects to performing it looks extremely selfish and most of the tragedy is rooted in angsty 2gether 4ever codependency that I don't find compelling.
I agree. Very juvenile approach to life. Extremely irritating. Almost as irritating as Mayu. Jesus, I hate her so much. I'm going to be completely honest here: when I saw Mio strangling her during the Crimson Sacrifice ending I was like "YES! DO IT! DOOOOO EEEEEETTTT!", and afterwards "Why are you crying?! You're finally free of that manipulative b**ch! Rejoice!".
DCB is marginally better overall with some pointless additions, such as the ghost hands, Dark Returns etc. and a few good changes like the ending conditions depending on the player's actions. However, it's a Wii game and uses a WiiMote (which I hate in this series) without having the goddamn common courtesy to give me an option for a perfect lock on like in FF4. Also, the increase in twincest innuendos is not helping.
Overall, a horror game (or any game for that matter) being boring is the worst offence a game can make. While both FF5 and FF2 have horrible issues with their stories (IMO), FF5 edges out FF2 primarily in the gameplay department. And it's not boring. I cannot stress this enough.
That's it, thanks for reading.
Edited by DecemberMan, 08 November 2018 - 12:37 AM.