Halloween Horror Video Game Roundup Day 5: Fatal Frame and Clock Tower

For today’s Halloween special, I’m going to be looking at two particular horror franchises. I’m looking at two because I’m not entirely familiar with either series, unlike the last bunch of updates, where I have played every game in the series. As such I cannot talk as authoritatively on each series. For those of you who are interested. I have only played Fatal Frame 1 and Clock Tower 3 to completion, so if those games are not indicative of the series, let me know in the comments. Both games are decidedly less action packed than either Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or Dead Space, and both rely on some very interesting mechanics in order to promote horror. So today, we are going to be splitting our focus between Fatal Frame and Clock Tower.

It’s based on a true story the same way that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was. 

Ghost story video games aren’t exactly a new thing. There are many games which use ghosts as primary antagonists, but very, very few do so in an effective way. Fatal Frame is one of those rare cases. The basic premise revolves around a young girl going to a haunted house in search of her older brother. While there she encounters a plethora spooky ghosts and horror ensues. The game is firmly entrenched in Japanese ghost stories, going so far that the game’s central location is based off of a “real” haunted house in Japan. Ghostly horror works best on people who believe in the paranormal to begin with. However, there is always some scares in antagonists who are unpredictable, and not following physical rules is one way to achieve unpredictability.

Creepy for some, highly arousing for others. That’s Japan for you.

The gameplay relies on your character’s use of a magic camera that can kill or capture ghosts. As such, the bulk of the game will have you staring down ghosts as you take their pictures. While this seems unique, it’s really just the same kind of shooting you see in other games; however, it does make you feel decidedly less powerful when you are holding on to your camera than when you have a grenade launcher at your side. The only problem with Fatal Frame is its basic limitations as a video game. The more you get into the game, the less likely it is going to be able to scare you. Repetitive tricks, and more damningly, enemy variation can kill the mood very quickly. This is why horror games like Slender benefit so much from limited content.


Among the horror games I have played, Clock Tower 3 was a particularly unique on. Horror movies often focus on human killers stalking and killing their prey. Games never go this route. The basic limitation is that with only one enemy, there is very little to fight, and a human enemy is inherently harder to make terrifying than the supernatural. Clock Tower does away with that thinking, and pits your character against killings across various stages. It works very well from a horror perspective, by pitting you against the kinds of antagonists that you normally don’t see in a video game. The ability to recreate a slasher film in game form should not be underestimate.

Freddy vs. Jason vs. Crazy McShowerhead

The gameplay fits into the scope of the game wonderfully. Unlike most horror games, you are completely defenceless against the killers who are stalking you. The player must rely on quick thinking and their ability to hide in order to evade their pursuer. The only problem that accompanies the game are the technical limitations of the day, and some pretty amazingly bad design choices. Some killers are requisitely horrific, while others are incredibly silly. Killing enemies at the end with a magic bow is also a pretty stupid idea from the design of a horror game. Apparently, the Clock Tower series was bought by Capcom for its third instalment, this may explain the story of the game, as Capcom stories are usually incredible pieces of garbage, and this was no exception.

No, I wasn’t joking. Magic bow.

Unfortunately for fans of these two series, it is unlikely that they will be picked up in the near future. Fatal Frame IV was released on the Wii in Japan awhile ago, but there are no plans to bring it over to the west. Clock Tower, on the other hands seems to be abandoned entirely. Neither of these series ever reached the popularity of the mainstream horror series, but they did have a cult following and it isn’t hard to see why. Each game provides a very unique take on horror, and the most important thing about horror is to be unpredictable.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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