Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (Wii U) Review

By Albert Lichi 03.11.2015 30

Review for Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water on Wii U

Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen for the Wii would have been the fourth entry in the Fatal Frame/Project Zero series. Sadly, the Western territories will most likely never see an official release of the fourth game. However, thanks to customer demand, the fifth and latest entry for the Wii U has finally made it to the rest of the world. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water for Europe) carries the tradition of supernatural survival-horror and Japanese spiritualism, but done in a new way that can only be enjoyed on the Wii U thanks to its unique GamePad. After so much waiting for this franchise to return to the West, can Mokoto Shibata's nightmare continue to instil fear in today's era of gaming? Cubed3 reloads another round of film for the review of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water starts off with a powerful intro that showcases just how far the series has evolved. From the advanced water effects and how the artists were able to render the most supple wetness and cloth/hair physics, it is clear that Koei Tecmo had their top people working on Fatal Frame. Quite a bit of attention to detail was given to character models, especially in their faces and eyes. The most obvious change in Fatal Frame is how the characters can combat the tormented spirits, thanks to the Wii U GamePad, which gets full use out of the 1:1 gyroscopic sensors. This control method is fluid and perfectly captures the feel of actually wielding the Camera Obscura for accurate 360 degree first-person manipulation.

Since this entry in the franchise is more focused on the action thanks to these new controls, the ghosts and spirits themselves are also a lot more aggressive, and have all kinds of new tricks that are sure to give any survival-horror veteran a surprise or two. When the characters don't have the Camera Obscura at the ready, Fatal Frame controls like how a good survival-horror should: weighty and tank-like. This is a movement scheme that provides a lot of friction against users who panic easily around the ghosts, or those who are used to responsive third-person shooter controls. Koei Tecmo made the conscious choice to slow all the action down in order to create tension in sequences when there are several enemies attacking. For those who would rather a more traditional control method that does not rely on motion controls, there is an option that makes the game use the analogue sticks, but the gyroscope must still be used for fitting objects into the camera's frame.

The story of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water centres on Mount Hikami, a place of worship nestled among a creepy forest and several old haunted shrines. Pretty much everyone who visits this place gets the uncontrollable urge to commit suicide as well as witness various paranormal activities. Yuri, Miu, and Ren are the three playable protagonists whose stories are all connected. As the game plays out they will revisit past areas and impact each other's journeys. Fatal Frame is a dark game with many plot elements focusing on sacrifice, suicide, incest, and religion, and it all can get pretty heavy; so heavy in fact that the Nintendo localization team sought to censor a scene that involved Miu, who was a model, pose in a bikini for an uncomfortable photo-shoot. The scene now has Miu in her regular clothes and the scene sadly loses a lot of the leery and creepy impact it had, which played with the viewer's emotions. This decision to censor an already mature-rated game was a poor one. For the most part, the game is quite linear, even so much as to have characters refuse to go off the intended trail. Fortunately the game does actually open itself up fully towards the end, where it shines its brightest and all of Mt. Hikami can be explored. It can be pretty impressive how few load screens there are even if it still does try to hide them with long door-opening animations.

Screenshot for Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water on Wii U

Some changes make Black Water different from past games, like the removal of save-points. While it is sad to see such a staple of survival-horror disappear, Koei Tecmo sought to implement a chapter system that is similar to how Resident Evil 5 operates. Any chapter can be replayed, making it so filling up the ghost list is much more convenient over having to replay the entire game from the start. Like Resident Evil 5, all items purchased are now done between chapters as opposed to visiting the old save-lanterns to restock on healing items or more potent film. This is a fair replacement since Maiden of Black Water is also one of the longer survival-horror games out today, clocking in at about 20 hours for the first play through, and then even more hours to get the extra endings (which are actually worth getting) that hearken back to an era when these kinds of games actually had replay value. The chapter system also makes it so favourite characters can be easily replayed. Ayane from Koei Tecmo's Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden shows up in her own post-game bonus chapter with her own unique gameplay, which makes Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water into a stealth game.

Fatal Frame has a lot going for it, but it isn't perfect by any means. There are some instances of low resolution textures and low-polygon models that show up once in a while and clash with the utterly gorgeous character models. The frame rate can occasionally dip as a result of the game being rendered twice (on the GamePad screen and on the television) and some weak English performances that have utterly flat readings or just are poorly cast. Thankfully the game does include the option for the original and vastly superior Japanese audio. One concern that must be mentioned is the lack of a retail physical disc edition in the North American region, which requires a large download of approximately 16 gigabytes. Naturally this is severely limiting for many Wii U owners who do not have a deluxe model or free space in their unit. Why such a large game file is limited to download only is a completely bungled calculation on the publisher's part. However, anyone who is capable of actually downloading Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water will be in for a very depressing and dark survival-horror that will induce quite a bit of stress.

Screenshot for Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

There is a good reason why the Fatal Frame franchise is frequently placed in top-ten lists for scariest games of all time. This is a series founded on emotional dread and torment, with themes of sacrifice and spiritualism. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water proves to be a worthy entry in one of the more classy and dignified examples of survival-horror. The sad fact is that they just don't make games like this too often. The censorship that the localization team and publisher implemented is deplorable and disrespectful to Mokoto Shibata's work, and making this title mostly available via eShop only is not doing it any favours either. Perhaps one day Fatal Frame will be in better hands, but for now Maiden of Black Water ranks as one of the better horror games to come out in a long time.

Also known as

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water

Developer

Koei Tecmo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Comments

You mention no disc release in America but you seem to be misinformed. The eu release is also digital only. They did a limited release of the LE with a disc but that is no longer available and there is no standard edition.

What deplorable act of censorship are you talking about? Removing the bikini costumes in a game that features young people? Yes it lowered the impact of one scene but does that honestly bother you? That is far from deplorable it is sensible. They were replaced with well crafted Nintendo themed costumes.

Trailer

The game is indeed fantastic but people marking it down on the grounds that it was censored massively is false and wrong. It was tweaked by the developers so they could bring it over and sell it. We don't live in the 90's to early 2000's anymore. Bikinis as unlockables are not required.

( Edited 05.11.2015 10:14 by Sandy Wilson )

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

I've also heard that every Fatal Frame game has removed the bikini costumes when they were localized.

It's probably also important to note that the scene in question features a character who isn't of the age of consent in America. We're still pretty squeamish about stuff like that over here, and I can imagine it might cause some problems for Nintendo if they left that scene in.

That said, I didn't get the impression that the game got a lower score because of any of that. An 8 is pretty darn high.

NNID: crackedthesky
My blog, mostly about writing: http://www.davidjlovato.com

This is a good review it just annoyed me that the "censorship" has been used as a platform for complaints. The score here is really good and reflects the quality of the game but across the internet people are damning the game because it had this trivial thing changed. XD

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

A lot of people just don't like censorship whatsoever - big or small - even if it is to suit particular countries' standards. I think people are within their right to complain about it, at least to make a point that they don't want censored versions of games released in their country. Sure, this may be considered a minor complaint to most in this game, but I can definitely understand why people feel the need to speak out against it.

That said, I think adjusting content can be considered the right move in certain instances. The weird "bikini" costume for one of the Xenoblade Chronicles X characters has been altered for the West, and given the character's age and appearance, that looks like fair play to me.

I suppose it depends on the individual's standards and beliefs, though; if you're okay with 15-year-old girls in next to no clothes, you're probably gonna complain about it.

On the topic of the review, though, quite surprised by the high praise. Shame next to no one will experience it. I do think people have been ignoring how limited the release of the physical version of the game in Europe is, too. Yes, we got more than the US got in this limited disc release, but it's limited and is also overpriced as the only way to obtain a disc copy of this game. Europe has it essentially just as bad as the US when it comes to actually getting hold of and playing this game because the same rules apply. Because of how pricey the disc version is, I'll never be able to pick this one up.

( Edited 05.11.2015 17:05 by Azuardo )

That's the issue right here, a large amount of people don't find it trivial. It's someone's art (Motoko) being altered because of caving in. it makes the people behind the game look weak too in a a way

I'm doing the right thing, when no one else wanted to.

A good review of a brilliant game (even though I am only on Chapter 3).  I was lucky to get the physical disc edition - yes, it cost a bit but the package was pretty good value I thought.  I have never played a Fatal Frame game and for me, it was well worth the wait.

I had seen a Japanese play through and had also seen the bikini scene.  I agree with both the reviewer " This decision to censor an already mature-rated game was a poor one." and also Azuardo's point above.  This is an 18-rated game already .... plus messing with the artists to cater for the puritanical is just bollocks.  Amazing how nobody complains when you can run around and shoot the crap out of someone in graphic detail is Ok.  But a bikini costume - woah!! 
Yes - I hate censorship .... I am an adult capable of making my own mind up !

Having said that,  I don't think the reviewer marked the game down as a result - I think the score is fair overall.
 

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those that understand binary and those that don't ..

Sandy Wilson said:
You mention no disc release in America but you seem to be misinformed. The eu release is also digital only. They did a limited release of the LE with a disc but that is no longer available and there is no standard edition.

What deplorable act of censorship are you talking about? Removing the bikini costumes in a game that features young people? Yes it lowered the impact of one scene but does that honestly bother you? That is far from deplorable it is sensible. They were replaced with well crafted Nintendo themed costumes.

Trailer

The game is indeed fantastic but people marking it down on the grounds that it was censored massively is false and wrong. It was tweaked by the developers so they could bring it over and sell it. We don't live in the 90's to early 2000's anymore. Bikinis as unlockables are not required.


you have never played a senran kagura game or onechanbara title have you?

i made the distinction very clear- the creator and director of this game designed the scene to make you feel a certain way and that was meant to make you feel uncomfortable. the character in question was a model and it isnt unheard of in real life to see teen models in bikinis all the time. given the context of the scene it was an artistic choice designed to toy with your feelings.

using sexual imagery in horror is very natural since sex and death are universal concept they are easy for us to relate to and the director of this game knew that. he purposefully crafted this scene which was very emotional and now it is just broken. other games that use imagery like this are the 2 silent hill sequels.

with censorship a line must be drawn. nintendo crossed it and now the customers must pay for it.

DazJ said:
A good review of a brilliant game (even though I am only on Chapter 3).  I was lucky to get the physical disc edition - yes, it cost a bit but the package was pretty good value I thought.  I have never played a Fatal Frame game and for me, it was well worth the wait.

I had seen a Japanese play through and had also seen the bikini scene.  I agree with both the reviewer " This decision to censor an already mature-rated game was a poor one." and also Azuardo's point above.  This is an 18-rated game already .... plus messing with the artists to cater for the puritanical is just bollocks.  Amazing how nobody complains when you can run around and shoot the crap out of someone in graphic detail is Ok.  But a bikini costume - woah!! 
Yes - I hate censorship .... I am an adult capable of making my own mind up !

Having said that,  I don't think the reviewer marked the game down as a result - I think the score is fair overall.
 


ironically you wont ever see any of those puritanical nancy's ever buy fatal frame to begin with. so really this utterly pointless censorship is not going to help them at all except lose sales from people who want it. 

consider this- if you were always given a choice between a censored version of a game vs a censored version, what is the likelihood you would ever choose the censored version over uncensored?  probably never.


also- for those who keep saying the censorship isnt a big deal, then why censor it? if it wasn't a big deal then they didnt need to censor it?

 

Insanoflex said:

also- for those who keep saying the censorship isnt a big deal, then why censor it? if it wasn't a big deal then they didnt need to censor it?

Not a big deal to some people, but clearly a big deal to Nintendo.

Azuardo said:
 
Insanoflex said:

also- for those who keep saying the censorship isnt a big deal, then why censor it? if it wasn't a big deal then they didnt need to censor it?

Not a big deal to some people, but clearly a big deal to Nintendo.

as many people have made it clear to me- they refused to buy it based on it being censored.
nintendo as a company has a goal to make money by providing a desirable product that people want. They took a fine game and made it undesirable to many by gimping it to eshop only and censoring it.

i cannot imagine a more counter productive maneuver by a big publisher with such a high quality game. 

Oh, I don't disagree at all. As I mentioned to you before, Nintendo doesn't deserve to own the rights to this franchise due to the way they handle the series. You'll always find people saying "Hey, at least they brought it over in some form; we should be thankful for that," but the way they've handled the franchise as a whole, and this game, in particular, it's like they want to do as much as possible to ensure it sells weakly and give a reason not to continue bringing it out here.

I don't know cost of disc to probable sales ratio with a niche game like this, but all I know is that people like myself won't ever buy the game because of the way it's been released, and as you say, people look like they refuse to buy it based on the censoring. Big or small, people have a right to make a stand against it, and I respect that.

I think if this was a series/game I had a huge passion for, I would also be very angry at any form of censorship...but whether I'd flat out refuse to buy the game, I don't think I'd be able to do that. That's why I wish more developers released Asian versions more often, which contain English and Japanese subs - we could always import the uncut version that way.

Azuardo said:

I don't know cost of disc to probable sales ratio with a niche game like this, but all I know is that people like myself won't ever buy the game because of the way it's been released, and as you say, people look like they refuse to buy it based on the censoring. Big or small, people have a right to make a stand against it, and I respect that.
 

if xseed, atlus, nisa or koei tecmo can do it for game with games with fractions of the audience, then there is no excuse for nintendo.

koei tecmo has published Ars No Surge, and they possibly printed like 20,000 copies of that at best. they wouldnt make that many if they knew they wouldnt profit off it.  this is the same publisher that published Deception 4 in the US TWICE... 

Azuardo said:
Oh, I don't disagree at all. As I mentioned to you before, Nintendo doesn't deserve to own the rights to this franchise due to the way they handle the series. You'll always find people saying "Hey, at least they brought it over in some form; we should be thankful for that," but the way they've handled the franchise as a whole, and this game, in particular, it's like they want to do as much as possible to ensure it sells weakly and give a reason not to continue bringing it out here.


people who say "we should be thankful for them releasing it at all" need to understand how business works. first of all nintendo isnt doing us a favor- the customers are the ones who must pay for it. nintendo isn't entitled to our money- THEY MUST EARN IT.
if they want people to buy their products they must make their products desirable.
you didn't see them making captain toad or splatoon digital only- they WANTED people to buy them.

Can't argue with that.

Insanoflex said:

Sandy Wilson said:
You mention no disc release in America but you seem to be misinformed. The eu release is also digital only. They did a limited release of the LE with a disc but that is no longer available and there is no standard edition.

What deplorable act of censorship are you talking about? Removing the bikini costumes in a game that features young people? Yes it lowered the impact of one scene but does that honestly bother you? That is far from deplorable it is sensible. They were replaced with well crafted Nintendo themed costumes.

Trailer

The game is indeed fantastic but people marking it down on the grounds that it was censored massively is false and wrong. It was tweaked by the developers so they could bring it over and sell it. We don't live in the 90's to early 2000's anymore. Bikinis as unlockables are not required.


you have never played a senran kagura game or onechanbara title have you?

i made the distinction very clear- the creator and director of this game designed the scene to make you feel a certain way and that was meant to make you feel uncomfortable. the character in question was a model and it isnt unheard of in real life to see teen models in bikinis all the time. given the context of the scene it was an artistic choice designed to toy with your feelings.

using sexual imagery in horror is very natural since sex and death are universal concept they are easy for us to relate to and the director of this game knew that. he purposefully crafted this scene which was very emotional and now it is just broken. other games that use imagery like this are the 2 silent hill sequels.

with censorship a line must be drawn. nintendo crossed it and now the customers must pay for it.


Jeez... Okay. I actually own and enjoy Senran Kagura, with my preorder in for the next one, and onechanbara. My point here is that the choices were made to change the game very slightly so that PEGI and the US rating board wouldn't say no to it. Yes it is an 18 rated game but just a slight tweak of one scene doesn't merit the term 'deplorable' nor is it a reason to boycott the title (which some people have).

The game has retained pretty much all of it's sexualisation and themes so how can this one scene change merit so much hate for it? While I agree it lost it's impact somewhat it's main meaning is still there and it still makes us understand that she doesn't enjoy her current situation.

What you also don't seem to realise is that the creator/ director you mention above are the same people who agreed to the edit.

Also Silent Hill doesn't feature any of this in the same context as Project Zero. Silent Hill 2 had the nurses which were a manifestation of James's lust and in silent hill 3 onward there was not so much of it (they should have stopped with the nurses as they don't fit the other people's nightmares so well)

Yes Nintendo should be giving the fans exactly what they want but a tiny tweak to avoid having to fight with the rating boards is fine with me or maybe I'm just odd in that not seeing a young girl in a bikini when Japanese people can doesn't change my opinion on a game?

p.s. If you really want to see asian women in bikinis you could just google it! :p

( Edited 09.11.2015 11:50 by Sandy Wilson )

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

nintendo did not need to make any tweaks at all to maintain an M-rating/PEGI rating lol.

http://www.gamefaqs.com/3ds/668742-senran-kagura-burst

senran kagura is rated T for Teen and features just as much gratuity if not MORE.


remember this is a game for ADULTS. 
and it is the adults who are paying for this and nintendo is treating them with utter contempt by acting like a nanny and restricting them on what they can and cannot buy. THAT is what is so deplorable. 

first its bikinis, but what is next? how far will you let them go? customers should be made aware of these things since it is their money.

answer me this, Sandy-
given the choice of censored or uncensored, which would you buy?

 

We don't have the choice currently however I would buy uncensored obviously. I just don't feel the need to be annoyed about something so small in the grand scheme of things. Two costumes and one small tweak to a cutscene is barely anything at all. Look at games like Left 4 Dead in Germany or how many games are not released in Australia. Do you really feel you've been done out of anything important?

Senran Kagura is unashamedly a game about giant tits okay. It is somewhat different to Project zero. Also one of the reader reviews there is mine!

Yes they could have left the scene un touched. I'd be fine with it. What annoys me so, is the way people are reacting. How perverted do you have to be to feel angry that they dressed a character back up in a scene when she is obviously not yet an adult? Sensibilities, even though we personally don't care when it's uncensored, are things that need to be complied with in order to avoid controversy.

Do you honestly think that they would have tried again to get a rating if it had failed to get one? I don't as there is very little money for either the developers or Nintendo here.

It isn't treating adults with contempt. It's expecting adults to understand the reasons behind such a move and to be accepting of it. Complain all you want it's the reality of living in the west. If you really want uncensored games move to a country where it's possible to release them without getting berated by the ratings boards.

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

Sandy Wilson said:

It isn't treating adults with contempt. It's expecting adults to understand the reasons behind such a move and to be accepting of it. Complain all you want it's the reality of living in the west. If you really want uncensored games move to a country where it's possible to release them without getting berated by the ratings boards.

adults should be able to buy what they want.

Sandy Wilson said:

Yes they could have left the scene un touched. I'd be fine with it. What annoys me so, is the way people are reacting. How perverted do you have to be to feel angry that they dressed a character back up in a scene when she is obviously not yet an adult? Sensibilities, even though we personally don't care when it's uncensored, are things that need to be complied with in order to avoid controversy.


who are you to judge? this game was made to cater to a specified audience. to just callously assume that they are all perverts because they want the game as it was intended is naive and you fail to see the bigger picture.

this is why games arent art and will never be considered art because nobody is taking the creator's vision seriously. you only see what you want to see.

from my understanding, in japan, the age of consent is a lot lower over there, which explains one of the many possible reasons why they have younger girls wearing stuff like that, not sure if im missing something there

( Edited 10.11.2015 15:20 by Ser Millian )

I'm doing the right thing, when no one else wanted to.

Ser Millian said:
from my understanding, in japan, the age of consent is a lot lower over there, which explains one of the many possible reasons why they have younger girls wearing stuff like that, not sure if im missing something there

still doesnt matter since the age apparently had no bearing at all since senran kagura is rated t for teen.

Insanoflex said:

adults should be able to buy what they want.


Indeed they should and they can.

Insanoflex said:

who are you to judge? this game was made to cater to a specified audience. to just callously assume that they are all perverts because they want the game as it was intended is naive and you fail to see the bigger picture.

this is why games arent art and will never be considered art because nobody is taking the creator's vision seriously. you only see what you want to see.


I never said that anyone was a perv. I simply insinuated that that was one of many causes of this outcry. Some people will be and they will also be annoyed at XC:X for removing a costume for their youngest character or when the Criminal Girls game was tweaked. Japan has lot's of trouble with these sorts of things to such an extent that it's government considered a countrywide ban on certain types games, manga and anime.

Technically it isn't censorship either. Localization teams have to localize the game for the region and removals and additions made during that process are not really censorship. Most edits are made with input from the developer and publisher meaning the writer and developer believed this didn't affect the vision of the game.

On another note games can be considered art due to the creativity, time and production required to make them. Like most artistic work the word "art" is subjective. I don't believe most modern "art" is art but I feel many video games are.

( Edited 11.11.2015 12:20 by Sandy Wilson )

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

not art-

product

art = product

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

art is created as a means of expression.  product is something that is made to make money off of.

this stopped being art when someone intervened the artist's vision and censored it for the masses.

 

product = art, art = product.

Art is often created as a product used for financial gain. Comic books, animated movies, postcards, portraits, figures, statues, etc... it doesn't then stop being art, it doesn't lose it's sense of vision by becoming a product.

I build and design websites for a living. Do I look at it as a product? Yes. Would I consider my work art? Yes. You have to be creative and have vision to design a product and that product will only sell if it is perceived as an item of value and beauty which means it is classified as art by the customer. Products are art both objectively and subjectively and art is a sellable commodity in the same sense.

p.s. Do you really think they changed Project Zero without asking first? The creators will have okayed this you know.

Once you join the Yakuza there is no way Bakuza

Sandy Wilson said:
product = art, art = product.

p.s. Do you really think they changed Project Zero without asking first? The creators will have okayed this you know.


i asked mokoto shibata himself on twitter.
he had no idea.

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