|This article is for the original PlayStation 2 release. For the Xbox version released in the next year, see Fatal Frame: Special Edition.|
|Publisher(s)||Tecmo, Ltd. (Jap.)|
Tecmo, Inc. (US)
Wanadoo Edition (Europe)
Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc. (PSN release, US, Canada)
|Release date(s)||December 13, 2001 (Jap.)|
March 04, 2002 (US)
August 01, 2002 (PlayStation 2 the Best release, Jap.)
August 30, 2002 (UK, Italy)
September 03, 2002 (Austria, Germany, Switzerland)
October 09, 2003 (Poland)
November 22, 2007 (PlayStation 2 the Best reprint, Jap.)
April 09, 2013 (PSN release, US, Canada)
CERO C (15+) (Jap.)
|“||Unravel the mystery...||”|
Fatal Frame, or Zero in Japan and Project Zero in Europe, is a Japanese survival horror game and the first installment in the Fatal Frame series.
It was first released for the PlayStation 2, and later for the Xbox. The PlayStation 2 version was developed and published by Tecmo on December 13, 2001 in Japan and March 4, 2002 in North America, and was published by Wanadoo on August 30, 2002 in Europe. It was re-released as a "PlayStation 2 Classic" on the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 on April 9, 2013 in North America.
It is the first game of the Fatal Frame series, introducing the franchise's unique premise of fighting ghosts with a special camera.
Set in 1986, the story begins with an aspiring folklorist, Mafuyu Hinasaki, decides one night to investigate the Himuro Mansion, a place that is said to be haunted, in search of renowned folklorist Junsei Takamine. He brings with him a family heirloom, a special camera that has the power to "expose things the normal eyes can't see". Mafuyu enters the mansion and discovers that the ghosts of those who have perished in the mansion are roaming the empty halls. After fending off a violent ghost and seeing the power of the camera for himself, Mafuyu decides to continue his search. As he attempts to return to the entrance hall of the mansion, however, a dark presence surrounds him, and Mafuyu's fate is unknown.
Two weeks later, Mafuyu's sister, Miku, arrives before the mansion. Fearing the worst may have happened to her brother, she takes it upon herself to enter the mansion and find him. Inside she finds the camera that Mafuyu brought with him, and, continuing his investigation, finds out the truth about the folklorist who went missing. Takamine came to the mansion to document the grisly events that occurred there long ago. In his progress, he uncovers the mysterious Strangling Ritual that took place in the mansion, but before he and his assistants could leave the haunted grounds, they were set upon by the spirits that were killed in the aftermath of the failed ritual. Miku continues deeper into the mansion, determined to find the truth and her missing brother. The story gets worse and worse by every room Miku enters, when later on she finds out that the Shrine Maiden (who is dead) looks for Mafuyu too.
- For more details see: Fatal Frame Nights
During her time in the mansion, Miku sees various apparitions of her missing brother, leading her towards solving the mystery of the mansion. Eventually, Miku learns that the Himuro Mansion was the site of many horrific rituals, the main one being the Strangling Ritual which was designed to keep the Hell Gate located beneath the mansion closed and protect the region from harm. The ritual would require a woman within the family to become the Rope Shrine Maiden, who is selected and hidden away for ten years with little contact with anyone, so she would have no attachments to the world. Beneath the mansion is an expansive cavern, where the final acts of the ritual culminates. The Rope Shrine Maiden is purified and taken to a large stone pedestal, where five ropes are tied to her limbs and neck. The ropes are connected to five pillars, symbolizing the five head families of the surrounding region. These pillars are turned, causing the maiden great pain until her limbs are torn from her body. The ropes, stained by the sacred blood of the sacrificed maiden, are then used to tie the doors of the Hell Gate closed, thus preventing The Malice within from escaping and causing catastrophe.
The ritual failed, however, and the disaster known as The Calamity occurred when the last Rope Shrine Maiden, Kirie Himuro, failed to sever her attachments from the world. While she was isolated within the mansion, Kirie met and fell in love with a man who stayed at the mansion and bore a striking resemblance to Mafuyu Hinasaki. The Himuro family began to fear her growing attachment, and after confining her to her room, the family master ordered the man to be killed. Kirie learned of his death before the final moments of the ritual, and her regrets caused the ritual to fail. The Malice poured forth from the gate, killing most within the mansion and driving the rest mad. The malice attached itself to the spirit of Kirie, twisting her into a vengeful ghost bent on making others experience the pain and misery she went through. Apart from the ghost of the Rope Shrine Maiden was the spirit of a Girl in White Kimono, guiding Miku along her investigation. This is the embodiment of Kirie's more innocent self, tied to her sacred duty as the Rope Shrine Maiden.
Ever since the Malice erupted from the Hell Gate, the mansion has been trapped in darkness and the souls of all who perished inside are unable to rest. Junsei Takamine and his assistants, Koji Ogata and Tomoe Hirasaka, were caught in the darkness upon setting foot inside and they fell to Kirie's wrath. They are cursed with the same gruesome fate that befell the Rope Shrine Maiden and become violent ghosts themselves. When Mafuyu entered the mansion, he became trapped as well, however, because he resembled Kirie's lover so much, he was allowed to live. After being trapped inside the Himuro grounds, Miku nearly falls to the curse of the strangling ropes, but on the fourth night she takes the final path of the Rope Shrine Maiden and finds Mafuyu before the Hell Gate. They call out to each other, but before Mafuyu can reach out to Miku, Kirie pulls him back, saying "We will always be together". Miku uses the powers of the camera obscura to exorcise Kirie's ghost, but she is overpowered and the camera is thrown to the ground and broken. Before succumbing to the malicious ghost, Miku sees the girl in the white kimono point towards the broken camera. She is really pointing at the shinning fragment that came from within the camera, the final piece of the Holy Mirror used as a last resort against the Malice. Miku has uncovered all other of its pieces while searching the mansion, and after assembling them, she is able to banish the evil that possesses Kirie, freeing her spirit and Mafuyu from the Malice.
There are two possible ending cinematic that plays after completing the game. The second scene is only available after beating the game in "Nightmare" mode. Additionally, a third ending can be obtained on the Xbox release by completing the game on "Fatal" mode.
After freeing Kirie from the Malice with the Holy Mirror, the girl in the white kimono appears and points towards the Hell Gate, saying "Don't forget your duty". Resolute, Kirie rises and walks towards the Hell Gate and wills the ropes to tie around her wrists binding herself in front of the Gate so that it will never open again. Suddenly, the cavern starts to shake and crumble. Kirie tells Miku and Mafuyu that she must remain to block the Hell Gate and they should escape. Miku and Mafuyu start running, but Mafuyu stops and tells Miku that he cannot leave Kirie alone. He stays behind to comfort Kirie from her endless pain, and tells Miku to escape. Outside of the mansion, as she watches the souls of those trapped in the house float gently into the sky, Miku comments that, after that day, she no longer saw things that other people didn't.
This ending is considered canon due to the events in Fatal Frame III: The Tormented.
This ending is achieved by completing the game in "Nightmare" difficulty.
Kirie closes the Hell Gate, and binds the sacred ropes around her wrists to prevent it from ever opening again. The cavern begins to quake and Kirie tells Miku and Mafuyu that they must escape. Mafuyu hesitates for a moment, but he and Miku quickly exit the crumbling mansion. The two watch the sky outside as the souls of the mansion's dead float and find their peace. Mafuyu, in a sad tone, speaks of how Kirie has sacrificed her entire life, and will forever be in pain in order for their souls to be at peace.
This ending is achievable only on the Xbox version. It is obtained by completing the game in "Fatal" difficulty.
The cinematic of this ending is identical to the "Mafuyu Ending" found in the Playstation 2 version, however, the change occurs in the game's credits. During the credits sequence, it is also revealed through photographs that Kirie finds solace beneath the mansion when she is reunited with the soul of her lover. The two embrace and the game ends in a happy note for both main characters and Kirie.
Fatal Frame was the first to introduce the innovative use of an old-style camera as the primary weapon. In addition to navigating the main characters around the mansion grounds, players are able to enter Viewfinder Mode, where the camera is raised and the view changes to that of the camera's frame. In viewfinder mode the player is able to snap photographs of ghosts, both violent and benign, which is the main method of progressing through the game. Items are also available, some being consumable and most being key items needed to unlock doors, complete tasks or solve puzzles. Puzzles are encountered frequently in the game, some being based on the same concept but becoming progressively more difficult. The varying difficulty settings of the game (Easy, Normal, Hard, Nightmare, or Fatal (Xbox only)) determine the amount of consumable items scattered throughout the mansion and how formidable the enemies are.
The main horror aspect of the game is, undoubtedly, the ghosts. The mechanics programmed for the ghosts allow them to float ethereally through the air, walls and floors, and even teleport, allowing them many ways to attack the player. The ghosts' appearances are usually inspired by their deaths or by Japanese stigmas of horror, which, some argue, are particularily chilling.
The game, depending on which console it is played on, offers two endings. Upon completion of the game, a ranking is given based on total time taken, points accumulated and other categories. The player is also given rewards and unlockables, such as alternate costumes and camera functions, depending on what difficulty was beaten, how much of the Ghost List was completed and other criteria. Beating the game also unlocks Battle Mode, where the player is faced with fighting specific ghosts, and is rewarded with points towards purchasing unlockables. An option is also given where the game can be replayed with all equipment, upgrades and unlockables carried over.
The Xbox release of Fatal Frame included many changes, the largest being the addition of a new ending and a new difficulty setting (Fatal). The appearance of the camera's viewfinder mode was also revamped, and more hidden ghosts, diaries and unlockables were added as well as an optional battle with a brand new ghost during the game's final night.
The idea of a camera absorbing ghosts is based on a superstition that having your picture taken steals your soul and the only way it can be returned is to burn the film. There are followers of religions around today that believe this to be true including places in Mexico. The ghosts encountered are all lost souls.
Other than the obvious name change, other aspects of the game underwent editing for releases in regions outside of Japan. The term "Fatal Frame" itself was not introduced until the overseas release, prompting the name change. Another prominent change was in Miku's character design. The large red bow over Miku's shirt (much like those seen in Japanese school uniforms) was removed, and the shirt underneath was made more red to compensate. Miku's face was also edited, giving her slightly smaller eyes and redder lips, and her hair was changed to a more vibrant brown color. The new model was used for all subsequent releases, including the Japanese Xbox edition.
The cover of the overseas release of Fatal Frame contained the tag line "Based on a true story", however, the validity of this claim is questionable. The plot of the game is allegedly based on legends surrounding a Himuro Mansion found outside of Tokyo, Japan. Stories are told of the gruesome deaths of the family and inhabitants of the decades-old mansion, however, series producer Makoto Shibata has said that the real-life mansion was not the basis for the game's plot. Instead, Makoto Shibata cited two old Japanese urban legends as the game's main inspiration, rather than the stories of the Himuro mansion murders. Further, the "Based on a true story" tag line was not explicitly advertised during the game's Japan release, and was only added upon its release outside of the country.
Makoto Shibata described the actual inspiration for the game’s haunted house in an interview:
- "In an area outside Tokyo, there lies a mansion in which it’s said seven people were murdered in a grisly manner. On the same property, there lie three detached residences that surround the mansion, all of which are rumored to have ties to the mansion’s troubled past. It’s said there is an underground network of tunnels that lay beneath the premises, but nobody knows who made these tunnels or what purpose they served. Many inexplicable phenomenon have been reported occurring on the property. Bloody hand prints have been found splattered all over the walls. Spirits have been spotted on the premises...even in broad daylight! A narrow stairway leads to an attic where a spirit-sealed talisman is rumored to be locked away. Men have sought this talisman, only to be found later with their bodies broken and rope marks around their wrists. There’s a crumbling old statue of a woman in a kimono, but its head is missing. If you take a photo of a certain window, a young girl can be seen in the developed picture. These incidents have provoked fear in the people of Tokyo, and many believe that those who live near this area will become cursed. The deaths of those seven people are unexplained to this day."
The developer of Fatal Frame, Tecmo, was quickly sued by the movie company behind Ghostbusters, claiming that the idea of capturing ghosts in a camera infringed upon the concept of Ghostbusters. The case was later dropped.
The PlayStation 2 interviewEdit
An interview with Makoto Shibata (director), Keisuke Kikuchi (producer) and Hitoshi Hasegawa (aka. Zin Hasegawa, character design director), was published on the December 21st issue of Softbank's Weekly "The PlayStation 2". The interview was published as below:
Sales in JapanEdit
Fatal Frame was released on December 13.
Below is displayed the weekly results based on Famitsu's software sales chart:
Famitsu's Top 30Edit
Week ??, 2001 (December 10 - December 16)
The game debuted at 15th place, selling 21.770 units. 
Week ??, 2001 (December 17 - December 23)
The game didn't reach the Top 30. 
Below is displayed the number of units sold worldwide according to VGChartz:
North America: 0.07m (49.0%)
Europe: 0.06m (38.2%)
Rest of the World: 0.02m (12.8%)
As of February 21st, 2015, 0.14m units were sold. 
- The title "Fatal Frame" was only introduced in the overseas release of the game as a special camera shot. In the original, the equivalent camera shot was named "Zero" shot, which was consistent with the Japanese title.
- Fatal Frame, being the first in the series, is the only game without a proper musical ending theme.
- Supposedly, the game is based around the true story and legends surrounding Himuro Mansion in Japan. The mansion is rumored to be the gruesome death site of a Japanese family and several of its associates a few decades ago. However, when asked, Makoto Shibata, the series producer, said the game was based on two old Japanese urban legends and ghost stories; he made no mention of the previous tales of the Himuro Mansion murders, which brings into question the factuality of this previous "basis" for the true story. It is also worth noting that the game was not explicitly advertised as being based on a true story in Japan, and that the "based on a true story" tag line was not used until Tecmo released the game outside of Japan.
- In Europe and Australia it is called Project Zero, this is widely believed to be a mis-translation of the Japanese name Zero, also Project Zero was the name of the team which designed the game.
- In some copies of the game for the PS2, there is a game breaking bug in which Mafuyu is unable to use the camera. It is impossible to advance without the use of the camera and there is no known fix for it rendering the game completely unplayable.
- Fatal Frame was referenced in the 2006 horror game movie Stay Alive.