>> Fatal Frame 5

Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water Remastered or Fatal Frame 5 is a Japanese ghost survival horror game where three characters are looking for a missing person in a haunted mountain shrine over several nights. As it follows series tradition of an exorcising camera and catastrophic ritual, what makes this unique is its primary theme of suicide; however, this new entry fails to establish strong writing, characters and performances to fully explore or utilize this theme. Moreover, this game is much more streamlined that it loses its challenge, design and tension. It is an okay game but a failure as a new entry.

>> Quick Thoughts

This game is similar to the third game where it has three playable characters with their own shooting styles investigating a flooded mountain over multiple nights and chapters ideally crossing over each other's path and culminating into a satisfying ending. Like the forth game, it also utilizes the motion controls which makes camera control a bit faster and drops the fixed camera perspective for a modern third person camera which is not necessarily good for this genre. What makes the games in this series special is that the horror, tone and atmosphere are solidly executed; here however, the game shows a lack of polish in character, map and quest design and too many player options bring the horror down.

My biggest issue with the game is the significant backtracking or retreading where the player returns and navigates to the same areas too much without variation or contextualization. Since the game is structured into multiple chapters over several nights, the story and pacing suffers to give the characters frustrating reasons to come back specially worse for fillers such as the lore and home surveillance chapters. The characters also suffer as the game demands them to be frustratingly less intelligent to piece together information and more importantly the consequences of their actions. Beside the story and characters, retreading the same areas repeatedly become monotonous, breaks immersion and shows a lack of careful map and quest design. In comparison with the third game's large central location, the player must investigate any new facts then appear within it at an unpredictable location which feels more natural and better paced.

Another big issue is the third person camera and analog movement is so bad that a fixed camera perspective and tank controls would work better. First the camera field of view is so close that it hard to see what is in front and induces nausea where a simple accessibility option would really help. While the camera is typical of most games, the movement system is relative to the camera which causes so much unwanted turns which becomes so inconsistent at times if not moving towards the camera's direction specially when picking up items or in combat. While a bit more subjective, the camera combat favors multiple targets that feels more like a fast arcade shooter than slow and deliberate which requires patience and enhances the atmosphere. In general, movement was not an issue in the old games yet here the immersion is occasionally ruined.

Another massive issue is the lack of challenge or excessive hand holding. Puzzles which gave variety and tone are gone or nonexistent. Items can now be bought before starting a chapter that greatly diminishes resource management which provides mechanical tension or item conservation. Because of its arcade chapter structure, chapters must be designed to be finished independently removing the pressure for resource management and the need for better quest design. The fact that players can ask for help where to go anytime with ghost traces seems to cover up the poor map design as well. Another example of that is when acquiring keys, the game shows on the map where to use it which just shows a lack of faith in the player. Too many healing items are also given to the player each chapter making even the combat less tense. Regarding camera combat, the auto-tracking is too good since getting counterattacks becomes easier. Lastly, the enemy indicators when raising the camera just cover up the uninspired fight areas. With so many concessions for the player, it feels the game favored making it more accessible than retaining its memorable aspects.

I usually play Japanese games in Japanese audio for the intended experience; however, the remastered version only has English audio that accentuates poorer dialogue not in their intended language which is the case here. In general, the character's performances feel stilted that tilts more to B grade horror. For example, characters barely react to key information when read or the constant repetition of known facts makes them feel stupid or slow. Characterization is also sparse and poor that barely exploring relationships or giving them colorful insights. Not to forget the sexualized female designs, alternative costumes, wetness mechanic and all the crouching positions pushes them as objects than characters even more. Although the old games may have that same quality, this is feels more like a lack of polish even if its is a modern remaster.

The story is not noteworthy enough to discuss and does not have a strong resolution specially with all the padding. Also, one of the three protagonist feels like sketchy fan service and does not contribute much to the overarching mystery which could be removed and provide a more paced story. The theme of suicide does not land well since the characters are flat and relationships underdeveloped specially the assistant of the male protagonist who just keeps getting into trouble. Even if the old game's protagonists were as quiet and lacked character, it did not hold back the story and atmosphere.

Overall, this game looks like a game of its series but lacks the bite and charm of its predecessors. This game has so many issues I wonder why any of first three was not remastered since it had a solid design and experience. If another game comes out of this series, I hope this will not be an example or the direction it follows, although with the fourth game is not giving me much hope.