HomeReviewsGame ReviewsProject Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review: Ancient horror on PS5

Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse Review: Ancient horror on PS5

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Fatal Frame Mask of the lunar eclipse lands on the current generation with a new look, but unchanged substance.

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Fatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has now turned 15 since its debut on the Nintendo Wii. The haunting saga Project Zero has always been a guarantee for fans of Japanese terror, based on spiritism, gore and Japanese folklore full of monsters and ghosts. Over time, however, the series has shown excessive conservatism, distancing itself from modern videogame horror. While other historic franchises experiment with new episodes, VR experiences and remakes made more dynamic than the originals, Project Zero does not seem to want to move away from the past.

Damsels in trouble

As we told you in the last test of Fatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, we are talking about the remastered version of the fourth Project Zero video game, born on Wii and initially released only in the East. Arrived in our area, already at the time he showed a certain tiredness, despite boasting a solid narrative sector that still offers an interesting plot today. It develops along three distinct storylines, set on an island home to a decommissioned sanatorium and haunted by vengeful ghosts.

The protagonists are three young girls: Ruka Minazuki, Misaki Asou and Madoka Tsukimori. Many years earlier, together with other girls, they had been freed from the clutches of a sect, which operated under the cover of the medical facility. Much later, however, all the survivors except Ruka, Misaki and Madoka die mysteriously. Plus, strange dreams and visions from that time lure the trio to the island where it all began.

Only the detective who had saved them the first time, Choushiro Kirishima, he notices their disappearance and runs to look for them. The girls soon discover that in order to survive the “ghosts” of the past they must exploit the power of the Camera Obscura: a camera that can detect and drive away ectoplasms. Despite being spirits, in fact, they know how to make themselves extremely tangible and dangerous.

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Choushiro, on the other hand, is armed with a torch infused with lunar energy, in practice identical to the Camera Obscura. The controllable characters and the paths alternate from chapter to chapter, passing through approximately 13 hours of gameplay. Nevertheless, the separation of events never confuses the user, who always knows what he is doing and why. The development remains very linear and traditional, divided into gameplay and classic cutscenes. Despite being a title without particular twists, the mysteries that surround the protagonists are still valid and represent a good incentive to reach the ending. However, the characterization, especially that of the girls, leaves something to be desired. Their personality is based on the classic “damsel in distress” stereotype, scared and surrounded by danger, almost always helpless or badly armed, rigorously young and attractive. Even if by now it is an anachronistic topos and we could say one-dimensional, one can pass over it, accepting that it has always been part of the creative choices of Fatal Frame.

Not surprisingly, among the contents added in the remastered figure a large wardrobe of alternative outfits for girls, with the new photo mode that was probably designed to enhance their presence. By activating it, time freezes on the action in progress and we can orient the view as we want: zoom in, decorate the shot with filters and eliminate all the characters present from the scene, or just some.

Of photography and slowness

As a simple remastered, Fatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse keeps the three-dimensional models, hitboxes and the backbone of the original game. It borrows the renewed computing power available only to offer a refreshed look, through new high-definition textures and a more realistic lighting system. it results “a good photograph“, which from environment to environment makes us enjoy the gloomy rotting corridors and the rooms of which we can almost smell and breathe the dust to the fullest.

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Furthermore, compared to the Wii version, it also improves the recognition and uniqueness of the places explored. A few more details in the background manage to make the difference, such as a window that was previously only “stage” and from which now, however, a pale moonlight penetratesthrough thin curtains blowing in a ghostly breeze.

The graphic improvements have also made the ghosts more realistic and translucent, far from the “yellowed rags” that appeared before us in 2008. None of these improvements weigh on the stability of the title, as we confirmed in the preview phase on PC before this review on PlayStation 5. Regarding the Sony console, however, it is a pity that the haptic feedback of the DualSense has not been exploited to increase immersion. The controller vibrates when you are in the presence of angry ectoplasms, but in a traditional and monotonous way. We rather enjoyed it framing management via gyroscopewhile using the Camera Obscura.

In the most excited moments it works really well, when the view switches to first person it is convenient to move the camera intuitively, to follow the most unpredictable enemies and “photograph them to death”. Unfortunately, however, the increase in the level of challenge, both at normal and difficult level, remains contrived and linked to the number of hits to be inflicted to win a fight.

Repetitiveness soon creeps into the gameplay, which offers in rotation the same alternation of exploration, backtracking, fights: even if the playable characters and their respective weapons change, therefore, the substance always remains the same. In general, the experience is undermined by a maddening slowness. It may be overwhelming at first to have to move so slowly, not being able to quickly escape from the entities, yet this feeling soon subsides, with anguish and tension giving way to impatience. The movements of the protagonists are unnecessarily slowed down, whether they are the aforementioned damsels in difficulty, or the expert and courageous detective.

Also, the woodiness of some interactions clashes with the graphic modernization and with the renewed fluidity of the room, canceling the sensation of danger given by the context. The spirits float towards us in very poorly staged fashion, traversing surfaces as if on rails, hitting us even when they shouldn’t. Among other things, the spaces where we can move and the obstacles on the ground are not always precisely defined, that’s why sometimes we found ourselves stuck with the edges of walls and furniture. It mostly happened to us as we backed off in first person. Encountering an unexpected encumbrance risks losing focus on the opponent and makes it difficult to score a Fatal Frame or critical hit (for the wrong reasons).

Even the progression of power ups for the Camera Obscura is overly diluted. It takes too long to upgrade the characteristics of the only weapon we have. Even bringing the stats to the maximum, then, the changes seemed laughable to us. There are more incisive ones, related to lenses and other devices that we can mount on the instrument.

However, they are also sipped in an attempt to increase the pressure on the player, the “survival” vibe. Even in this perspective, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse only partially satisfies, because accumulating the points necessary to have survival resources is easy: just photograph some passing spirit when it appears near us. At the shop of each checkpoint we were thus able to buy an abundance of healing items, or films to increase the effectiveness of the Camera Obscura.

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse
Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar EclipsePlayStation 5 Analyzed VersionFatal Frame Mask of the Lunar Eclipse proves to be too conservative, characterized by slow and anachronistic game rhythms. It is true, in any case, that structural changes could not be expected from a purely aesthetic remastering. For sure, historical fans will greatly appreciate the improved graphics, more realistic lighting, controls adapted to a traditional pad and the alternative costume compartment. Instead, those who have never tried a Fatal Frame will hardly digest a visibly dated play system.

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