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Delivering on its promises

Game Time

Video Game Review
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater
Nintendo Switch

Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 1
Nintendo Switch

WRC 10
Sony PlayStation 5

THE RESIDENT Evil franchise remains the gold standard for all things spooky and frightening, but the Fatal Frame series is definitely no slouch. While Resident Evil had embraced conspiracy theories and biological monsters as its main plot points, Fatal Frame opts for more traditional scares, leaning on its supernatural aspects to really dig in deep to the players’ psyche. Protagonists in this series often find themselves caught up in ghostly events that bring up forgotten pains and twisted sacrificial rituals.

Fatal Frame emphasizes heavily on Japanese-style horror and slow spooks. It doubles down on its smothering atmosphere, and is more content in letting the tension stew as you see and explore the lost haunts it has laid out for you. Those who played the first release on the Sony PlayStation 2 a full two decades ago continue to recall an amazing experience, and while the older games do now feel dated with their tank controls and slow combat, the series still feels very timeless when you look at its story and its themes.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water seeks to emulate that same design, deliberately avoiding faster-paced modern horror game tropes. It embraces its slow-burn style to let the terror sink in. Taking on the roles of Yuri Kozukata and Ren Hojo, players must investigate and explore a haunted mountain where ghosts supposedly lead people astray, and tempt them to take their own life. What follows is a ghastly unravelling of the mountain’s history and the curse behind it. Fighting off the spirits of the dead, players must lead both protagonists on a quest to quell the mountain’s restless spirits and give its tormented denizens the peace they deserve.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water features Camera Obscura, which allows its wielder to fend off ghosts by taking pictures of them. Close-up photos of ghosts do more damage, and its film serves as ammunition, with higher-quality film being faster to load and stronger in its effect. These film cartridges do come in limited supply, though, and while the lowest quality film has unlimited use, it also deals the worst damage. Combat requires you to ration the film you have whenever possible, especially against the more dangerous ghosts that lurk around each corner. The more mundane ones simply lunge at you and easily telegraph their attacks. However, the ghostly shrine maidens and some of the more twisted enemies not only float about; they also disappear and reappear, teleporting from place to place to throw off your aim. These ghosts have their own unique attack patterns and quirks, and by learning them, you’ll be able to do a special type of attack called a Fatal Shot.

Taking these Fatal Shots in Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water can happen only when the enemy is in the middle of an attack. While risky, these Fatal Shots not only do more damage; they also stun the enemy and throw them back, while also awarding you much-needed points to power up your camera or buy better film and healing items.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water makes use of a nice risk-reward system that incentivizes being patient during combat. It’s a little clunky at times, especially with the game’s love of fights taking place in tight spaces, but it’s enjoyable, and at times, even tense. Those familiar with the series will already know of these mechanics, and will find it easy to get back into, especially given the responsiveness of the Switch. A few additions spice up the combat, though. Characters are able to dodge attacks, but precise timing is needed. Ghosts are also far more dangerous than earlier series incarnations, with a fair number of them loving to hide behind walls or floors before striking. An added “wetness meter” also encourages players to avoid fighting out in the open; while these areas do allow for more maneuverability, being close to water or out in the rain increases the damage these ghosts can deal, making them significantly more dangerous. It all adds up to a deliberate but methodical approach to combat, one that the series has always loved, and one that Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water embraces wholeheartedly.

Combat isn’t the only thing overhauled. Exploration has also been changed, with characters now being able to sprint when needed. While the sprint is more like a jog and not all that fast, it does help in getting around the giant maps that Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water provides. With several distinct locations to explore, and the series’ love for backtracking between areas to solve puzzles, it’s a useful addition that cannot be understated.

Storywise, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is mostly a stand-alone story disconnected from the earlier games. While it does have a few callbacks to earlier series characters, it’s one that doesn’t need previous games to understand, but features all of what you’d expect a good Fatal Frame story to have. From slighted sacrificial maidens to ghost dolls to tormented spirits in agony, it’s Fatal Frame as you’d expect it to be. While the plot may seem outwardly confusing, you’ll find notes that piece the story together, explaining the concepts, characters, and events as they’re needed. With the addition of the Fatal Glance that gives you a peek into each ghost’s tragic end, it provides players a bit more flexibility and understanding when wrestling with the game’s seemingly murky storyline.

Thankfully, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water divides the game into smaller, easier-to-understand chapters called drops. Each drop has very specific objectives to accomplish, and it later divvies up into smaller tasks that require trekking all over the place, it’s often quite clear in what you’re expected to do in order to progress. That doesn’t mean exploration is streamlined, though; there are still plenty of areas to look around in, all with their own set of goodies and lore to find and understand.

All told, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water manages to capture what was most enjoyable about the older Fatal Frame games. It has the same sense of exploration and fear the older games had, and it’s particularly fulfilling for lovers of the horror genre.

That’s not to say that Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is exempt from any issues. There’s certainly some room for improvement, especially since it’s a remaster of a 2014 release on the Nintendo Wii U. While the textures have improved, and the Switch’s controls feel seamless, some technical issues do crop up. Undocked, the game has some slowdown, especially in some of the busier areas. Moving to a new area can sometimes trigger a loading screen, and while the game’s load times never venture into the awful, it does take you out of the moment to see the world pause and see the flashing LOADING message pop up.

Design wise, some of what Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water does can be an issue. The over-the-shoulder camera does make it easier to traverse some areas, but sprinting can cause concern and make the camera go berserk when you’re trying to turn corners. A little mini-game to pick up items and dodge ghost hands is enjoyable the first few times, but can get exceedingly frustrating because of the slow pick-up animations. Opening doors can also be quite slow, and while doing so can lead to tense moments leveraged by the threat of a ghostly face popping out to lunge at you, repeated actions of the same can also be quite frustrating — especially in areas that require multiple backtracking.

Make no mistake. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water has no dealbreakers. For all its issues, it does a lot right. It’s heavy on atmosphere, filled with unlockable costumes and upgrades, and even has multiple endings to encourage repeat playthroughs. Content-wise, it might not be the best in the series, but it’s certainly one that tries to give its all from start to finish, and one that does it admirably.

Fans of the series will definitely enjoy Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. It delivers exactly what it promises, even for those unfamiliar with the franchise. It’s not by any means a difficult game, but it’s one that will keep you captivated from beginning to end.


• Stays in line with the older Fatal Frame games’ style of combat and exploration

• Runs pretty well, docked and undocked, and is a fairly smooth experience

• Can be surprisingly creepy, especially in some of the later areas

• Old-style Survival Horror at its best


• May be too easy the first time around, even to those new to the series

• Has some optimization issues when a lot of things happen on screen, or when transitioning to some newer areas

• Game design issues can slow down gameplay

RATING: 9/10

POSTSCRIPT: Nippon Ichi Software has always been at the top of the list when it comes to Japanese role-playing games, continuing to produce outstanding offerings from longtime favorites like the Disgaea series, and even having a hand in publishing notable titles from the Ys and The Legend of Heroes franchises. Given its vast library of treasures, however, not all of its releases have the same level of popularity.

With the Prinny Presents NIS Classics series, NIS seeks to give players a chance to reexperience some old games that might have slipped under their radar. In particular, this first volume features a remaster of two solid tactical RPGS in Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. Both games have received upgrades to make them playable on the Nintendo Switch, and while they each have their own unique spin on the JRPG genre, they’re both accessible and fun to play through.

Take, for instance, Phantom Brave’s gameplay. You’re not only controlling your main character; you’re also binding and using phantoms as best you can. These phantoms are strong, supplementary units you can create, but with a caveat; they can only really be used for a certain number of turns before they disappear, making the timing of when you summon them essential. You also have to keep in mind what objects you’re binding them to. These phantoms have no physical form, and so must rely on you attaching their spirits to an object during battle. The objects you bind them to also have an effect on what stats they’ll have, and so you’ll need to juggle which characters are binded to what items, and tailor your party according to the situation. Do you bind them to weeds and trees in an effort and bum rush your opponent even if their stats are weaker, or do you move up and take the hits while aiming for the sturdier objects across the map? Phantom Brave might not be as well remembered as Disgaea is, but it’s no less adept at making you hesitate and think your options through.

The same can be said of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters’ own distinct choices. While Phantom Brave embraces its more Disgaea-like origins, Soul Nomad tries to go for something different, playing out closer to games like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy with a bit of Fire Emblem blended in. In Soul Nomad, you’re balancing squads of units against each other, putting units in the front, middle, and back row depending on their capabilities. Leaders of the squad are the most important members, as their survival and even their stamina affect how well the squad performs as a whole. It’s an entirely different beast of its own, requiring you to manage each squad, weigh the drawbacks and benefits of each action you take during battle, and whether or not you’ll give in to the demonic power of your main character. These choices will have adverse effects on your endings, and with the game’s open-ended nature, there’s a ton of them to unlock depending on your actions en route.

Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters are distinct, but both boast of the trademark NIS art style and writing. Longtime fans of the Japan-based developer know to expect very nicely done spritework coupled with interesting scenarios, ranging from the silly to the surprisingly deep and thought-provoking. Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, in particular, has a much darker path you can take, syncing perfectly with its gameplay balance of pushing and pulling against the demonic influence the main character is under. While both don’t carry the same prestige that the flagship Disgaea series does, they still exhibit similar influences.

Playing Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters on the Switch is a breeze. While Soul Nomad & the World Eaters’ remaster is mostly a simple upscale, Phantom Brave appears to have been given a lot more attention due to its earlier re-release on the PC. Both games make use of the Switch’s interface smoothly even if they don’t really make use of the Switch’s unique motion control and touchscreen capabilities. The Switch’s portability does allow for some easy RPG gaming on the go, especially as the two titles combined will take a significant chunk of your free time.

If there’s anything wrong with the remaster, it’s mostly in the fact that it IS a remaster. The lack of additional content the games received in their porting in comparison to NIS’ more recent games like Disgaea 5 or Disgaea 6 may give impulse buyers pause. While NIS has done a brilliant job of remastering and updating the games to be playable on modern systems, they are, in the end, more of graphical overhauls, and anyone looking for gameplay extensions may find them wanting.

That said, Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 1 is a fantastic release — a decidedly good step at reexperiencing cult classics in a modern way. Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters have aged pretty well, all things considered, and they’re right at home on the Switch. Highly recommended.


• Two very solid games for the price of one

• Both games offer unique and interesting gameplay, with their own spin on tactical role-playing

• Surprisingly deep writing

• Spritework still holds up after all this time


• More of a graphical upscale than a gameplay overhaul, with mechanics left untouched and simply ported over

• No new extra content to play through

RATING: 9/10

THE LAST WORD: KT Racing’s WRC 9 was a thoroughly enjoyable experience even for players not really predisposed to racing. Featuring smooth controls, standout graphics, and a strict attention to realism and detail, WRC 10 pick up right where its predecessor left off. For the most part, it’s able to achieve what it wants to do — which, for all intents, is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

WRC 10 goes all out to really immerse you in the experience. Featuring all 12 rounds of the season, WRC 10’s main gameplay mode is its Career mode, a combination of managemen- style gameplay and fluid driving on the rally stages. As the driver at the head of the rally, you’re in charge of navigating the game’s requisite twists and turns. As the manager, you’re setting up these events, building reputations, forming teams, and slowly making a name for yourself and those under you.
WRC 10 brings about a very interesting mix where you’re not only weighing the benefits of what each event can bring; you’re also managing the talents of those you employ. You’re able to unlock skills, hire researchers to help create better equipment, and assemble a championship-worthy team that can see you through the entire event. It’s not a new game mode in the WRC line-up, but it’s one that still remains entertaining, particularly if you like the micromanagement aspect it brings. The options you have are plentiful, and you’ll constantly be weighing positives and negatives against each other as you slowly, but surely, make a name for yourself and your team.

As noted, WRC 10 also has the driving segments you have to wrestle with, and it does not disappoint in this regard. It brings a plethora of new cars, new stages, and new rallies, and pulls out all the stops and lets you go crazy on the road. Speeding through empty streets, listening to the hum of the engine, and taking precise turns while your partner/navigator tells you of the obstacles ahead is truly immersive when combined with the next generation graphics it employs.
Each stage you’ll run through in WRC 10 affects how your vehicle will perform, and what vehicle you pick will drastically alter the outcome. It’s always a thrilling balance between speed and safety, and you’ll turn corners and burn rubber in an attempt to finish as fast as you can in the safest way possible. After all, a misstep can result in a disastrous crash.

Newcomers need not be afraid. While WRC 10 takes a more simulation-based approach to its driving, there’s plenty of helpful assists to slowly help you acclimate to its requirements. Conversely, if that’s not enough of a challenge for you, then you can always dive straight into the tougher contracts with wet roads and low visibility to test your skills. The sky’s the limit when it comes to how you want to enjoy your driving in the game. In this regard, the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller is nothing short of perfect, bringing an superior experience when it comes to enjoying the rallies themselves.

That said, while WRC 10 is a fun game to play, it does give the impression as a title that, at times, feels like a slight step up rather than a full sequel. Almost everything WRC 10 does is an overall improvement over WRC 9, but it nonetheless suffers from the same issues. Texture pop-in is present and can be jarring when contrasted with the game’s photorealistic tracks, and some slowdown now and then can be frustrating in a game that pushes you to go as fast as you can.

For newcomers to the series, WRC 10 will be able to scratch an itch that other racing games can’t, but those who still have WRC 9 fresh on their minds might also find WRC 10 as a sequel that doesn’t give nearly as much as it should.


• Great graphics and great gameplay, especially if you like the series’ Career mode

• Really immersive due to the DualSense triggers

• Accessible even to newcomers, with plenty of options in how you want to run your rallies


• Can be viewed as an update rather than a sequel

• Still has the same issues as those in WRC 9

RATING: 8.5/10