Discordant sounds and distant supernatural noises all contribute to a foreboding atmosphere, while the Japanese voice acting is solid.
Some of the textures betray this remaster's Wii roots, but the noise and film grain covers up most flaws. Character models look great, and the creaky environments are suitably oppressive.
Perhaps not for everyone, the slow character movement and fiddly controls can prove tricky to overcome. But when it clicks, it clicks, just like taking a snap with the Camera Obscura.
Some neat extras and a visual overhaul make this western release worthwhile, with New Game+ offering incentive for another go around. As remasters go, this is a fairly accomplished one.
A strong enough list that has a nice spread, but one that potentially demands multiple playthroughs and the finding of numerous collectibles. This one will take you a fair bit of time.
March 08, 2023
In Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, none of the game's protagonists are in any hurry to get anywhere. You might think that with all of the malevolent spirits roaming about, they'd want to pick up the pace a bit, but no. Holding down what is very generously referred to as the 'run' button causes your character to break into a gentle sashay – a casual canter, perhaps – prompting any sense of urgency to diffuse into thin air, much like a spectre disappearing through a wall. This is entirely deliberate, of course, your slow movements making each ghostly encounter more tense than it otherwise would be – that might not have been the case had you been able to sprint out of danger.
Known as Fatal Frame in North America, the Project Zero series started life on PlayStation 2 in 2001, spawning four mainline sequels – this fourth entry was released in 2008 as a Japan-only Nintendo Wii exclusive, and following the 2021 remaster of the fifth game, Maiden of Black Water, bringing Mask of the Lunar Eclipse to a western audience seems to make perfect sense. And, by all accounts (old reviews), it's one of the better Project Zero chapters, despite clunky controls and fiddly combat. None of that has changed for this remaster, but then, if you're a fan, you probably wouldn't want it to.
This is a faithful remaster, then, bringing improvements to lighting and shadows, enhanced in-game cinematics, new costumes, and upgraded character models, making your visit to an abandoned hospital on Rogetsu Isle an even more spine-tingling experience than it was fifteen years ago. As three different protagonists – Ruka, Choshiro, and Misaki - you'll wield the series' staple weapon, the Camera Obscura, photographing ghosts to vanquish them, on a search to find out what happened to two missing friends, who, it transpires, have met a horrifying demise.
As a weapon, your camera is a versatile thing, able to capture images of harmless spectres, creepy wraiths, or hostile spirits who'll happily throttle the life out of you. Manage to find lenses lying around, and you can outfit the Camera Obscura with additional abilities, or, in the case of Choshiro, you'll hit ghosts with moonlight energy from your Spirit Stone Flashlight. Zapping apparitions with your camera or flashlight racks up combos and points, which in turn can then be exchanged at save point lanterns for useful items, like health replenishing herbal medicine or extra film (lower difficulties offer other useful items for purchase).
Tracking down blue spirit stones enable you to upgrade the Camera Obscura, boosting film loading speed, the damage it deals, and so on, while red spirit stones upgrade your lenses, making them more potent. Gradually, you'll become a formidable fighter of ghosts, waiting for the optimum time to take a snap, hitting ill-fated revenants with Fatal Frames and other special shots – it's fairly gratifying stuff, even if most enemy encounters unfold with you holding up your viewfinder and slowly backing away or grappling with controller buttons.
It's Mask of the Lunar Eclipse's ability to foster a constant sense of unease that keeps you rapt, however, as you leisurely pace down corridors and enter rooms with your nerves on tenterhooks, just waiting for something to jump out. Visually, the game is practically monochrome, while grainy noise makes it feel like you're trapped inside scratchy, degraded celluloid. The camera's close up vicinity fosters an almost suffocating sense of claustrophobia, and tentatively reaching out to pick up items amid the looming threat of being randomly grabbed by a ghostly hand, proves to be a cheap but effective trick. Jump scares guaranteed.
Not everything lands perfectly. Combat is the biggest sticking point, especially when the game decides to outflank you with two or more ghosts in a tight space. Your glacial, limited movement can make it hard to wriggle out of such encounters, while a quick turn manoeuvre ends up swinging the camera around wildly, as you resort to pure panic (and not in a good way). Moments like these seem fairly ill-considered, and, at worst, grossly unfair, as you’re deliberately turned into a sitting duck, stuck between a rock and a ghost face. Invariably, you’ll get pushed into a decrepit little corner, haemorrhaging health as evil spirits claw at your hapless character. It’s not exactly ideal.
Every inch of Rogetsu Isle reeks of decay, and you can't help but wonder what the hell Ruka, Choshiro, and Misaki are doing in such a place - one riddled with murderous spectres on top of everything else. And why have Ruka and Misaki turned up in silky, frilly dresses? Surely that’s not suitable ghost-busting attire. Lingering questions like these aside, there's no denying the fact that Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has ample capacity to provoke scares, and, at the very least, cause a few goosebumps. But with a great deal of backtracking throughout its twelve chapters, painfully slow character movement that won’t be to everyone’s liking, and finicky combat, this is a Fatal Frame title with what some may consider a few fatal flaws. That said, if it's effective, hair-raising horror you seek, then this is well worth snapping up.