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Monday, September 8, 2014

Fatal Frame V Belongs on the Wii U

By FERIKU - Nintendo has a better relationship with horror than people like to pretend.

The fifth Fatal Frame game was recently announced for the Wii U. It will come out on September 27 in Japan, and fans are hopeful this one will receive a Western release, unlike its predecessor.

As of 2012, Nintendo co-owns the rights to future Fatal Frame games, so it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Fatal Frame V is a Wii U exclusive. Nevertheless, some people—probably the same people who complain about Bayonetta 2’s exclusivity—are ticked off.

Why? For many, it seems to be that the Wii U didn’t previously have exclusives they wanted, so they didn’t buy it, and therefore it shouldn’t receive any exclusives they want. It’s a terrible argument, so instead they just say M-rated games don’t belong on the Wii U. After all, the Wii U is just for little kids, right?

Oh wait...

Fatal Frame has always struck me as a perfect Wii U series, because your only “weapon” is a camera. For the first time ever, the player will be able to hold the Camera Obscura? Sounds good to me! And since a lot of Wii U games don’t seem to know what to do with the GamePad beyond making it the map or status screen, it’ll be a great step toward more creative uses.

Besides its unique qualifications, Fatal Frame V belongs on the Wii U because survival horror in general does. In fact, the genre might not exist without Nintendo.

The PlayStation 1 era was the golden age for survival horror games. The name came from the first Resident Evil, which is often considered to be the game that truly defined the genre. But the game that started it all… was for the NES.

1989’s Sweet Home was an RPG for the NES, released only in Japan. Despite being an RPG, it had psychological horror themes and included many of the gameplay elements that define survival horror. Not only that, but Resident Evil was originally designed as a remake of Sweet Home, and its influence still shows. Sweet Home included inventory management, a tense fight-or-flight atmosphere that emphasized survival over combat, backtracking, save rooms, multiple endings, a frightening story told through diary entries, and more.

Survival horror has changed a lot throughout the years, and you’ll find raging arguments and disagreements, so for the sake of this article, I’m going to use my definition of survival horror, which relies on three key features.

  1. It must actually be horror. By this criterion, a game like Luigi’s Mansion doesn’t count (although one could argue Luigi’s Mansion is a parody of survival horror).
  2. Combat must be de-emphasized. The player’s objective should never be “Kill everything!” For example, the Flood are scary, but Halo: Combat Evolved will never, ever, ever be survival horror.
  3. The setting must be a maze-like environment, with areas initially closed off to the player that are gradually opened. Yes, there is overlap between classic survival horror and “Metroidvania” game structure. This is known as recursive unlocking.
But Feriku, you might ask, aren’t you being a little…strict?

Darn right I am! Survival horror is one of the hardest genres to define, and the name is constantly being smashed onto games that don’t deserve it, especially action horror titles. Just so we know where we stand, Dead Space fails my criteria. Alan Wake fails my criteria. And modern fans’ precious Resident Evil 4 fails my criteria.

But Feriku, Resident Evil 4 was a great survival hor--

No! It wasn’t! If you don’t believe me, believe Iwata, who clearly references “the big change with Resident Evil 4.”

As for Resident Evil: Revelations… It’s closer than the series has been in a long time. I give it credit for trying, but it feels like the developers were afraid to go all the way, and just sprinkled in some survival horror trappings.

(Oh, am I ranting? Sorry about that. As with other series that have had their soul ripped from them, the fate of Resident Evil is a sore point with me.)

Back to my initial point—yeah, my definition is strict.

In fact, I considered adding even more criteria to my list. Puzzles, for example, are almost a requirement, but since survival horror “puzzles” range from backtracking with a key for a particular door to solving a riddle based on an expert knowledge of Shakespeare, I’ll save that for another day.

Understand this, and you’ll be one step closer to unlocking the door.

All right, so we’ve got our criteria. I could go through various Nintendo consoles and their history with horror (Google “sanity meter,” and one of the top results will be a certain game published by Nintendo called Eternal Darkness), but I just know people would argue that Nintendo used to be “hardcore.”

Because of that, let’s focus on the system where those eeevil “casuals” took over Nintendo’s focus—the Wii.

I researched survival horror titles that came out for the Wii. Backwards compatibility doesn’t count (so the GameCube’s Eternal Darkness isn’t listed here, for example), but remakes and new ports do.

  • Fatal Frame IV (Wii-exclusive, only released in Japan)
  • ObsCure: The Aftermath
  • Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil (Wii-exclusive)
  • Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil Zero (Wii-exclusive)
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
  • Fatal Frame II: Deep Crimson Butterfly (Wii-exclusive, only released in Japan, Europe, and Australia)
  • Ju-on: The Grudge – Haunted House Simulator (Wii-exclusive)
  • Calling (Wii-exclusive)

Those are all the Wii survival horror games I’ve been able to discover. At this point, you might be scratching your head in confusion. I’ve only listed 8 games. 8 games in an entire console generation? That doesn’t prove anything, right?

Well, let’s take a look at the Wii’s major competitors at the time, the PS3 and the Xbox 360.

  • Silent Hill: Homecoming
  • Siren: Blood Curse (PS3-exclusive)
  • Silent Hill: Downpour
  • Silent Hill HD Collection
  • Amy
  • Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut

Xbox 360:
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming
  • Silent Hill: Downpour
  • Silent Hill HD Collection
  • Amy

And… that’s all I could find. 6 for the PS3 and 4 for the Xbox 360. (Or 7 and 5 if you prefer to count the contents of the Silent Hill HD Collection as two games.) Between the two consoles, there are only 6 unique games. Siren: Blood Curse is the only exclusive. And man, if it wasn’t for Silent Hill

Of the 8 Wii survival horror games, on the other hand, 6 are exclusives.

Why? Why did the survival horror genre flock to a console supposedly geared toward “casuals” and children?

Despite the insistence of many gamers that the Wii became “casual” to pander to the masses, all of the complaints about Nintendo seem to come down to one thing—Nintendo does what it wants, regardless of what’s mainstream.

Survival horror isn’t mainstream. It’s become more and more of a niche genre as time has gone on and as action-oriented shooting-fests took over the mainstream horror label. Most true survival horror games these days are indie games for a reason—AAA developers don’t want to take a chance on them. (Downpour and ZombiU were both hammered by reviews.) Two of the Wii games I listed, Ju-on and Calling, have actually been dubbed “casual horror,” and Japan has even more of them.

But the popularity of indie games is on the rise, and survival horror might be on its way back. Outlast is available for the PS4 and Xbox One. Daylight is out on the PS4, as is Among the Sleep. The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation both promise to restore survival horror to Sony and Microsoft’s consoles. The Wii U launched with ZombiU, has The Letter (an indie game that may or may not be horror), and just got Master Reboot.

And now, the remake of Resident Evil, which previously appeared on the GameCube and was re-released as Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil for the Wii, is getting an HD remake for the PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

…Poor Wii U. At least it has Fatal Frame V. If any company deserves survival horror today, it’s Nintendo.

Feriku didn’t discover the survival horror genre until 2009. While this means you can’t accuse her of being a nostalgic whiner who won’t ever be pleased, it also means she hasn’t gotten to play all of the games. If she missed a survival horror game, or if she listed one that isn’t really survival horror, be sure to mention it in the comments.

This guest post was the winner of the KoopaTV guest-posting contest.
Ludwig later writes about Fatal Frame V, now known as Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water. It does get localised, just not in the way people want.


  1. Replies
    1. ...And so the Wii U survival horror situation has only gotten worse since this was written. :O

    2. Because of Revelations 2? I'd bet it's not going to be survival horror anyway.
      Or did you mean something else?

    3. Yeah, that's what I meant.

      (I guess Wii U's everything situation may or may not have gotten worse.)

    4. It did? But at E3 Nintendo showed off all sorts of great Wii U stuff!

    5. Yeah!

      ...But break it down by, uh, genre.


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