Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water – A Complete Turnaround
It’s not secret that I’m a huge Fatal Frame fan. Earlier this year, when I wrote about things I wanted to see at E3 that would never happen, one of the entries was Fatal Frame remasters. When I found out that Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, previously released as a Wii U exclusive, was being remastered for PC and current-gen consles, I was ecstatic. I was going to finally be able to play a Fatal Frame game on PC. I actually ended up getting a copy for my Nintendo Switch, but the fact remained: It was Fatal Frame time again in the Holstrom household. I’ve actually been sitting on this editorial for weeks. I didn’t know how to come at this from an angle that I liked. You see, the problem is: I really didn’t like this remaster.
Here at DreadXP our motto is “Positively Spooky” and that’s a motto I’ve stuck to. I want to be positive about games. I want to find the good in something that others may cast off as average or bad. Every game has value. I struggled to find the value in Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. Its mission-based progression system felt clunky and arcade-like. It stole any sense of fear or tension by having a huge “MISSION COMPLETE. A WINNER IS YOU” banner at the end of every important story beat. The scares felt telegraphed and too in-your-face. I remembered how good Fatal Frame 1 and 2 were. I thought about the subtle ghost moments that would make me jump. Then, I realized what I was doing.
I was judging a game based on the nostalgia that I had for earlier entries. This is a huge issue in media criticism. I let my expectations overcloud genuine fun that I could be having. I stacked up Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water against two games that came out on earlier systems, with entirely different story progression and playstyles. I expected Maiden of Black Water to be Fatal Frame 1 and 2 and didn’t think of it as its own game. I thought on that. I sat on it. I rolled it over in my hands, feeling the contours of my opinion. Could I…be wrong? Surely not. It’s just a bad game. Nothing more to see here. It isn’t like the first entries, and thus, it is bad. Thanks for reading.
I had to go back. I had to see if I was just putting expectation above experience. The tipping point came in a conversation about Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, of all things. I had been thoroughly enjoying the show, while Twitter kept telling me it wasn’t good. I thought, “Okay, cool. It’s not exactly one-for-one with the anime, but it is its own thing, and that’s how I’m judging it”. Then it hit me like a piano falling on a cartoon, “I’m doing the same thing to Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. I’m doing a Twitter. So I went back. I booted up the Switch and settled in. I cleared my mind of previous fond feelings I had for Fatal Frame 1 and 2. I wanted to experience Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water as a blank slate. If it was possible, I would have Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘d the originals out of my brain. I went in with no expectations. I loved it.
Some people may say, “Well of course you loved it, you lowered your expectations to its level”, as they typed up a 147 tweet thread about Ed in Netflix Cowboy Bebop. To these imaginary people that I use in my editorials all the time I say, “I didn’t lower my expectations. I changed the nature of them”. Taken as a standalone Japanese horror game about a camera that is used to fight ghosts, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water slaps. It’s a good time. The scares are still a little bit overt, but all-in-all, it’s fine. The mission-based structure gives it more of an action horror feel, like Dead Space, or the 3rd-person Resident Evil trilogy. It gives you breathing room to restock on items and get ready for your next ghost adventure.
Had I just sat with my original feelings about the game, I would’ve been fine. I would’ve continued my life, played other games, and reviewed them. I just couldn’t square my attitude about Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water with how I approach games. I said earlier that I wanted to find the value in every game. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some irredeemable trash games out there. They definitely exist. I’m just saying that it pays to come at a game from a different perspective once in a while. If I had never gone back, I would’ve missed out on the fun experience. When it comes to games, it’s all about how you approach something. If you measure up everything against previous iterations, you’ll almost always walk away disappointed. Take every new game as a fresh experience, and you’ll rarely walk away empty-handed.
You can see how you might feel about Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water HERE.