Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water Xbox Series X Review

For those seeking a new horror franchise to dive into Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water will give that uneasy feeling of danger fans crave from horror titles.

By Grayshadow, Posted 31 Oct 2021

The Fatal Frame series has a notorious history of being extremely terrifying and that's a lot of pressure for each new installment. With horror games more plentiful than ever, each creating more scares than ever maintaining such an acclaimed reputation is difficult. Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water does successfully accomplish in creating tense unnerving situations and does not sugarcoat the dark elements of its adventure. Often showcasing uneasy material many will find disturbing such as mental trauma and suicidal thoughts and actions. Issues with interacting with objects and Ghosts are problematic and could use some post-launch fine-tuning. Despite the shortcomings, Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water still delivers a tense experience horror fans won't want to miss out on.

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water,NoobFeed,

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water takes place on Hikami Mountain, an infamous place for spiritual happenings and suicides connected to the bodies of water surrounding the area. Players take control of 3 different protagonists: Yuri Kozukata who can bring people back from the shadow world, an author named Ren Hojo who is a friend of Yuri and doing research on the mountain for a book; and finally Miu Hinasaki who is the daughter of previous protagonist Miku Hinasaki. The story heavily focuses on breaking a dark ritual that has calmed many people and depending on your choices during the finale will determine who lives, dies, or finds peace.

The game does assume you know what happened in the previous games so you'll have to look that up yourself. If you don't you'll be lost for many occasions that I cannot say for spoilers. Overall the story has strong voice-acting and a narrative that complements the often bleak setting. With rays of hope only manifesting in specific times but being much more profound for it.

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water,NoobFeed,

The gameplay mostly focuses on using the Camera Obscura to put the hostile spirits to rest. Targeting changes the perspective from third-person to first and allows the player to target the ghosts. While in this mode you cannot select items until you unequip the camera. The Ghosts are not mobile but can phase through walls and teleport, but the targeting icons keep you aware of their location. Each flash releases orbs, with each direct hit creating more and if you have enough in frame you can cause significant damage with the targeting reticle turning red. This encourages you to target multiple ghosts or orbs to maximize damage. If the ghost is about to strike you can trigger a series of counterattacks right before the ghost strikes and if grabbed provide an opportunity to break free while causing return damage called Shutter Chance. Each ghost has a unique pattern but you'll fight mostly the same enemies throughout the 10-hour adventure.

Since the Camera Obscura is your primary form of defense you can load in 1 of several types of film. These can be found in the environment or exchanged for points, along with other items, before starting a stage. The weakness option is infinite but the other options are finite so you always have something to fight with. The camera itself can be upgraded with different lenses for special effects that can be boosted and enhancements for better loading, damage, range, or spirit power absorptions which allows the player access to more power flashes. All of this is based on a point system that is earned by defeating ghosts and keeping items at the end of the stage, which gives you an overall rank based on how many points you've earned. You can keep replaying levels for more points if you wish and you're planning to 100% the game you're going to have to do it a lot. This is because while Yuri and Miu share skills Ren has an entirely different camera that has an optional 5 quick shot and must be upgraded separately.

If you wish you can spend points on cosmetic upgrades. Costumes and accessories for Yuri, Ren, and Miu are all available but only some are locked behind specific requirements. The game does not tell you what these are but it usually involves just completing the game. They do carry over into in-game cutscenes but not in actual cutscenes.

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water,NoobFeed,

Outside of taking the photos of ghosts much of Fatal Frame focuses on exploration. Most stages are linear but occasionally you'll have open areas to explore. With the final level combining everything together for 1 long stage. Each level is peppered with items and collectables, with the player slowly grabbing each one and depending on how much Black Water you've absorbed will determine if a ghost will grab you. This is an annoying QTE where a ghost arm grabs your hand at random times but you can avoid it by backing away. It's an interesting concept at first but eventually becomes annoying due to the slow nature of grabbing the items.

The game does not shy away from providing items, with most stages overflowing with healing items and other necessities. Nightmare difficulty, which is unlocked after beating the game, will offer the best challenge for those seeking it especially if you want that S rank. The game does a great job of exposing the item by both highlighting and providing an indicator of it. If you get covered in too much Black Water through rain or Ghost attacks you become tainted, with a meter filling based on how much. For the most part, this only affects how much the Ghost arm will appear when grabbing items and can be cleansed using Embers but can deplete health if covered too much.

The best items come in the form of collectables that offer more insight into the narrative. It showcases what characters are thinking, the people who lived on the mountain were like, and much more. Unfortunately, you cannot read these within the main menu and this also goes for the glances for Ghosts.

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water,NoobFeed,

Since the Ghosts were once people the game does a great job of providing stories regarding them. The Ghosts that attack you, once defeated, memories can read by touching them known as glancing. This allows you to read their memories and find out how they died. Specters and Traces on the other hand are distinct. These are ghostly figures that cannot be interacted with but offer extra points by quickly taking their photos. Like the items the game provides an indicator to show where the Ghost is but you'll have to be quick as some disappear fast.

Interaction with items and Ghosts in Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water is not great. You often have to be in a very specific place to interact with the environment, whether that be picking up an object or trying to glance at an enemy. This is especially problematic with the final boss where you have to be in a very specific place to glance and it can be infuriating when it does not trigger.

You'll spend all your time on Mt. Hikami, often revisiting the same areas over and over again. The prevent this was getting stale the game often shifts enemy locations and provides access to these areas at a slow pace. It can be repetitive at times, with the player forced to head back up the mountain again because another person decided to head up there alone or was possessed. But be ready to go up and down the mountain constantly.

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water,NoobFeed,

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water is a solid horror title that delivers on chills and thrills. The overabundance of items does alleviate much of the tension but those seeking that S rank will have to abstain from these luxuries. For those seeking a new horror franchise to dive into Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water will give that uneasy feeling of danger fans crave from horror titles.

Review Copy Provided by KOEI TECMO AMERICA.

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): KOEI TECMO AMERICA Corporation, Nintendo of America
Developer(s): KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD.
Genres: Survival Horror
Themes: Horror, Action, Adventure
Release Date: 2021-10-27

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