A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The story contains themes of fear, sorrow, haunting, and the afterlife, as well as family and friendship.
Positive Role Models
The three main characters aren't violent or antisocial, but they don't make great role models. They show concern and care for one another, but they choose to go to demonstrably dangerous locations and make decisions that imperil themselves and others.
The story is set in Japan and features an entirely Japanese cast of characters.
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Ease of Play
The interface features a mix of traditional and motion-control mechanics, and may not be immediately intuitive for some players. In-game tutorials detail and provide practice on basic mechanics, and players who are still struggling can lower the difficulty to a story-focused setting that makes encounters much more forgiving.
Violence & Scariness
Players don't engage in physical combat with the game's ghosts, but instead use an old camera to repeatedly take pictures that damage the apparitions until they disappear. Non-interactive scenes show brutal violence, including a large group of dead people lying on the ground, blood spatters covering clothing and skin, a ritual sacrifice with a long blade, and suicides that involve hanging and jumping.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The female characters are clad in impractical clothing -- including swimsuits -- that often show cleavage and are sometimes close to transparent.
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Products & Purchases
This game's part of the long-running Fatal Frame series of games, which has inspired a movie, a novel, a manga, and plenty of toys. It's also a remake of a game originally released in 2015.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is a downloadable remastered version of a survival horror game originally released for Wii U in 2015. This version has been optimized and enhanced for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Windows PCs. It focuses on a trio of characters investigating the disappearances of people and paranormal activities reported around a mountain in the Japanese countryside. They encounter ghosts, but they don't physically fight them. Instead, they use a supernatural camera to take pictures of them, which causes damage until they disappear. But non-interactive scenes show depictions of people dead or dying -- sometimes covered in blood -- including a ritual sacrifice with a sword. Some scenes involve suicide and contemplation of suicide by various means, including hanging and jumping. The depiction of suicide isn't glamorized, but may still be disturbing for some. Parents should also be aware that part of Fatal Frame's claim to fame is its depiction of buxom female characters in skimpy and impractical outfits, and that this edition provides additional sexy costume options, such as swimsuits.
Is It Any Good?
This one's for fanatics of the franchisse and few others. When Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water came to Wii U in 2015, it didn't exactly win awards. It was spooky in places, but clunky controls, linear design, and a lack of fresh ideas within a genre and series that were both aging kept it from making much of a stir. This remaster is pretty much a straight port of that game to modern systems, and doesn't do anything to fix these problems. The controls -- a mix of gyroscopic motion for framing photos and joystick control for movement -- are still very awkward, and players are still more or less stuck following ghosts as they lead to some clue, vision, or scene of horror, running through the same locations again and again. Worse, this was never a particularly pretty game (the Wii U was an underpowered console), and moving it to much more powerful systems on which players are used to seeing gorgeous graphics only amplifies its visual shortcomings. The character models have been reworked just enough to not feel jarringly out old (though faces still show about as much emotion as a block of cheese), but the environments are muddy and blurry -- often to the point of not being able to immediately make out what you're looking at.
The most compelling parts of the experience are generally those that involve no user interaction at all. Maiden of Black Water's cut scenes suffer some pacing issues, occasionally drawing out moments of anticipated fright so long that the effect is lost, but they still manage to deliver some disturbing moments of shock and terror -- the sort of stuff that fans of survival horror games eat up. Just be warned that it can get pretty dark at times, with characters killed or taking their own lives in ghastly ways. It's hard to recommend a game based on its non-interactive story sequences alone, so unless you're a die-hard Fatal Frame fan who didn't get the chance to play the Wii U original, you can probably take a pass on this remaster. The 2021 version of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water has no shortage of contemporary competition that manages to deliver both plenty of scares and fun mechanics.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.