As a gamer I look forward to new gaming experiences, especially when they explore a new concept or build upon an existing one. So I got excited when I learned of Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir because I’ve never explored a game quite like this before. Developed by Tecmo Koei, Sprit Camera is actually a spinoff of their Fatal Frame series; the story mode is actually called Fatal Frame: Diary of Faces. After playing and completing Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, I left with a mixed reaction.
First, let’s start with one of the better aspects of Spirit Camera, and that’s in its storytelling. Throughout the game you are tasked with discovering the truth behind the mysterious Diary of Faces and its connection with the old house. Those who have been pulled into the old house are haunted by the Woman in Black. The story explains this quite well, especially the connection with Maya, one of the game’s main characters. Some of this is told through the use of cut scenes with most of it revealed through conversations with Maya. I enjoyed its interesting story and have to admit that it’s told remarkably well. Though, Spirit Camera’s story is good, the gameplay is what really left me with mixed feelings.
Spirit Camera has two main gameplay mechanics, both of which are utilized using the Camera Obscura. Your Nintendo 3DS acts as the Camera Obscura which can scan the Diary of Faces using the AR features on the handheld. Most of your progress will be made by scanning the Diary of Faces and completing puzzles within the diary. This works quite well, if you have proper lighting conditions. My main concern here is that even in the light, sometimes the slightest shadow can throw off the camera. Thankfully, Nintendo has uploaded the Diary of Faces to their website which can be printed, or even scanned directly from your monitor.
Scanning the Diary of Faces is only one of the main components, the other being your battles with ghosts. You will be using both the camera and the gyro functions of the 3DS to fight these battles. You must swivel around the room to find the ghost, then line it up with your camera (indicated by a circle in the middle of the screen) and attack by snapping its picture when the circle turns yellow. Taking a picture of the ghost damages it, but if you are patient you can inflict more damage by building up the circle meter. You must also be careful because the ghosts can harm you as well; your health is located in the lower right hand corner of the 3D screen. Lastly, you can block a spirit’s attack when the circle turns red; I’ve found this to be the most potent way of defeating each ghost as this is also the best way to maximize damage from your attack. There is still gameplay that requires you to speak with Maya, answer questions and investigate your surroundings. You will also find yourself inside the old house a few times, but there were too few house sections for my liking.
My main complaint regarding the gameplay is that the game is much too repetitive. Talk to Maya, scan the diary, and battle a ghost. This happens in almost every chapter and becomes boring quite fast. While the ghost battles are a little more exciting, these also tend to fall flat. I can best describe this by saying that it feels lazy and that more could be accomplished with the concept.
All of this brings me to my last disappointment; this game is not scary. Maybe I’m desensitized to horror because I’ve been fully invested in the genre since I was like 4 years old. That could be MY problem, but it really feels like they tried to make this game scary. I can see the novelty in creating horror by connecting it to the real world with AR and such, but it mostly comes off as cheesy, funny, and sometimes annoying.
Spirit Camera does excel in both the audio and visual department. There are some great atmospheric tracks and some decent voice acting in the game. There is a certain character that gets on my nerves, but the other characters have good voice work. Spirit Camera does look quite good in its cut scenes, the overall design choices, and the character models, but the 3D felt a little lacking. I can remember one scene in which the added depth looked cool, but for the most part I played with the 3D switched off.
Aside from the main game, there are two other modes to play; Haunted Visions and Cursed Pages. These are mainly compilations of mini-games that take advantage of the 3DS camera, gyro functions, and the Diary of Faces, much like the main game. There is only one that stood out to me though, and that would be the Spirit Challenge from Haunted Visions. Spirit Challenges allows you to take a picture of yourself, or somebody else and then creates a spirit for you to fight. The reason I liked this is that depending on the person’s face, you will get a spirit that has different stats. You can fight a really aggressive spirit, a balanced one, etc. Overall, you can expect roughly 3 hours on the main game and however many hours you want to spend on the other content.
Overall, I left Spirit Camera with mixed feelings. On one hand the gameplay is unique and implemented well, but on the other it’s mostly repetitive and average at its core. It feels like there could be more done with this concept which is disappointing. I could still see some Nintendo fans liking this game more than me for the simple fact that the gameplay is unique. I strongly recommend a rent on this game. Only splurge if you’re looking for something completely different on the Nintendo 3DS.
Obtainment: Borrowed Review Copy