As we approach the release of the remastered version of the “lost” Fatal Frame game in the West, Fatal Frame 4: Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse in March, many are curious to see how much it improves on the original. Well, I got a chance to go hands-on with a playable preview build of the game a full month before its release, and I’m happy to report that it’s looking and feeling great so far.
For those who aren’t aware, Fatal Frame 4 was a Japan-only release on the Nintendo Wii in 2008 and was directed by game auteur Suda51 and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture instead of being entirely in-house at Tecmo for the first time in the series. Suda had a strong pedigree of unconventional and unique Japanese horror games before this, including the Twilight Syndrome series, Moonlight Syndrome, Killer 7, and Michigan: Report From Hell.
Fatal Frame 4 marked a big step forward in several ways for the series, changing up several game mechanics to make things more streamlined and accessible, and less clunky overall. This includes a much-needed quick-turn feature, an over-the-shoulder camera style, added navigation hints after obtaining certain items or solving certain puzzles, the addition of suspenseful item pickup animations, and an auto-tracking feature that snaps to the nearest ghost of any kind when you pull out the Camera Obscura.
All these improvements to the game shine brighter than ever in the remaster, especially the added accuracy of the new control scheme, which doesn’t involve motion tracking like in the original Wii version. The controls feel snappy and responsive, even if there is a little bit less freedom in how you can control the flashlight, but it doesn’t really detract from the gameplay.
While there was a fan translation of Fatal Frame IV released back in the early 2010s, this remaster is the first time it’s getting an official English translation since its release fifteen years ago. This new translation certainly improves the clarity of the clues and notes you’ll find around the game, making the story and progression a little bit smoother than the fan-made translation.
This version of the game definitely plays tighter and gives you a more accurate control experience, as opposed to struggling with the questionable WiiMote accuracy in the original version. It’s a welcome addition to be able to play the game on a standard controller and makes it fit a little closer to the gameplay experience of the rest of the series.
For this preview, the control scheme was limited to using a standard Xbox/PlayStation-style dual-analog setup. Keyboard/mouse controls were not yet available, so they couldn’t be tested. The developer plans to add this control setup for the full release in a few weeks, but for now, we could only use the standard controller settings.
The new higher resolution and framerate are definitely a step up from the original version as well, though, in its current state, it clashes a bit with some of the animations which haven’t yet been updated to match the increased framerate. Some of the textures and geometry were actually updated from the original, with most of the faces and some other details re-designed or updated to look a bit sharper, similar to how the first Fatal Frame game was updated when ported to the Xbox console in 2002. While not quite a remake, the updated visuals definitely give a more modern look for this updated version.
Overall, the visuals are still easier on the eyes compared to playing even an upscaled version of the original. The improved visuals definitely make the strong art style stand out more than it did back on the Wii version, which is always a good thing for the Fatal Frame series.
The current preview version was limited to only 720p visuals, so we couldn’t do a full stress test to see how the game would perform on much higher PC settings, but it was already a step up from the previous experience offered by the original game. Fatal Frame IV seems to be using a soft filter on some of the edges and textures to make them fit with the increased resolution. There will also be an update before release to include more visual options on the PC version.
The visuals are understandably less impressive than the recent Fatal Frame 5 remaster since that game was released six years after Fatal Frame 4, and in a different generation of consoles, but they still look impressive in general, given the age of the game.
Despite the preview just giving us a glimpse of what’s in store for this remaster, we’re very excited about revisiting this title again in a few weeks and getting to enjoy all the added fidelity and features in the full version.
Fatal Frame 4: Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse will be available on PC, Xbox platforms, PlayStation 4 & 5, and Nintendo Switch on March 9th. Stay tuned here for more updates and a full review of the game once it’s available in a few weeks. We will be sure to test all the advanced features and control schemes available in the full game.