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Though there hasn’t been much action stateside for the Fatal Frame series in the last seven years, that doesn’t mean the series is dead. Though the US missed the last couple entries, the developer, Tecmo Koei, is now preparing a portable spin-off that mixes Japanese horror and photography. From our early impressions, Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir aims to successfully takes Fatal Frame into the real world thanks to Augmented Reality.
The AR Cards included with the 3DS were a fun diversion, but Spirit Camera is one of the first releases to really attempt to fulfill the promise of it in a full game. The title comes with a mysterious booklet filled with faded images and weird writing. Once you have the system and game primed, point the camera at the first page and you find yourself transported to a strange hallway. While in first-person view, you look around with the gyro controls trying to find the source of these strange noises and catch brief glimpse of some ethereal woman. Once you spot her you are able to pull her into the “real” world via a photgraph, as she appears onscreen through the camera.
She identifies herself as Maya and says she’s been trapped in that house by some strange woman. She notices that you’re holding the fabled Camera Obscura, a powerful item that reacts to the booklet, which Maya refers to as the Purple Diary. It seems the book is cursed, and its previous owners have met terrible ends, which we assume is what happened to Maya. Since the Purple Diary reacts strangely to the camera, Maya suggests that perhaps you can finally repair some of the damage it caused.
We turned to the next page in the book and lined up our shot through the camera viewer in the top screen. As we snapped a picture of this torn photo, it came to life, showing a doomed man walk the same hallway we did. He then mysteriously disappeared, only to be pulled out into the real world just like Maya, though he isn’t as nice as Maya. Soon he’s coming at you in the real world and we’re doing our best to find him with our camera, shifting around 360 degrees to find the angry spirit, trying to catch him before he hits you. When battling him, we dealt damage the same way as in Fatal Frame: with photography. After spotting the angry spirit we focused on him long enough to snap a picture. The closer he got, the more damage we dealt, but it also made it more likely we’d be hit, making for an engaging risk-reward ratio.
After we finally took enough pictures of the camera-shy ghost to defeat him, he dropped a cryptic note that we soon added to the Purple Diary, and then the demo ended. We enjoyed how the 3DS became the camera since it pulled us into the Fatal Frame formula more than ever. We’re curious if the fun can be sustained for a full retail game, but we’re at least interested now to see how the mystery reveals itself when it hits stores April 13.