Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse review

Project zeroKoei Tecmo

Known as Fatal Frame in some regions, Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is the fourth game in the series, but how does this remaster hold up in 2023?

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse originally came out on Nintendo Wii in 2008, where it had a troubled beginning. Motion controls alienated purists and it wasn’t until the fifth game, Maiden of Blackwater (and its various ports), that the series found its feet again.

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Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse became a lost chapter in the franchise. Luckily, this 2023 remaster of the game fixes this, ditching motion controls, while also giving it a fresh coat of 4K paint. However, the question remained, will the ghouls of its past drag it back into obscurity?

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse – Key details

  • Price: £49.99/$49.99
  • Developer: Koei Tecmo
  • Release Date: March 9, 2023
  • Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Nintendo Switch

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse trailer

Why are ghosts so scary?

Horror games are a dime a dozen, and many know how to make you jump through their atmosphere and slow build-up of tension. Only a select few are genuinely unsettling though. Games like Outlast, Amnesia, and PT achieve this through mastery of the first-person perspective, but Project Zero goes for the Silent Hill approach and succeeds in being scary in third-person.

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Ghost stories are scary in a way that monsters, psycho killers, and other creatures of horror can’t replicate. They get under the skin in a way nothing else can – Project Zero knows this.

Toying with that fear of the unknown is one Mask of the Lunar Eclipse’s strengths. The title sees an amnesic group of women, who escaped a serial killer years prior, return to the scene of their trauma – a small island in Japan. A catastrophe has killed many of the island’s inhabitants leaving it deserted, cursed, and haunted by malevolent spirits who may have a connection to the serial killer.

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Project Zero gameplayKoei Tecmo
Project Zero gameplay isn’t for those with a nervous disposition.

Echoes of the past

The game plays like a traditional survival horror, distinguishing itself from modern entries in the genre like Dead Space remake, The Calisto Protocol, and Resident Evil Village. Instead, it feels a lot more like a PS2 entry in the genre like Silent Hill 2 or one of the earlier Project Zero/Fatal Frame games. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse benefits from the old-school feel and will appeal to those who miss the horror games of the past. The version we played also looked great on Xbox, with the remaster being a true upgrade from the original Wii release.

While the visuals, atmosphere, and story stand out, some of the mechanics in Mask of the Lunar Eclipse haven’t aged well. The game feels clunky and cumbersome in places with the controls not always feeling natural. Your character walks by default and while there’s an option to run by holding down a button, it barely improves your character’s speed – they just shuffle their feet a little quicker. We found it easier (and creepier) to walk everywhere which better equipped us for taking out the spooks that lurked around most corners.

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Project Zero ghostsKoei Tecmo
Ghosts are terrifying in Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.

Combating the paranormal

Speaking of ghosts, as with other games in the franchise, you can keep them at bay by taking pictures of them with the magical Camera Obscura. Some can be seen well in advance, but others will attack without warning meaning you’ll always need to keep your finger on the shutter. While taking photos, the camera shifts to first-person which takes a second or two. Ghosts can get to you during this transition time, so be ready.

The ghosts themselves are incredibly creepy and come in a variety of types with some being more dangerous than others. Early encounters are terrifying, reminding us of classic moments from Japanese cinema such as films like The Ring or The Grudge. Pale nurses will stare vacantly at you from windows while vengeful spirits will lunge at you murderously after shambling down a corridor to reach you. It’s truly scary stuff.

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However, that tension doesn’t last indefinitely. Once you’ve snapped your two-hundredth picture and banished scores of spooks, the frights begin to lose their impact. This is a common problem throughout the franchise though, and Mask of the Lunar Eclipse does no worse that those entries. Despite our nitpicks, it is still a stellar survival horror experience for the most part.

Project Zero gameplayKoei Tecmo
Project Zero is also called Fatal Frame in some regions.

Verdict 4/5

The Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse remaster is a spooky sojourn for those who missed it the first time around or those who enjoyed the earlier entries. Those who had a good time playing Maiden of Blackwater will also find a lot to love in Mask of the Lunar Eclipse.

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The game is an excellent throwback to a lost time in survival horror history and every fan of the genre owes it to themselves to check it out. It’s refreshing to see a game relying on ghosts as its primary source of scares after many monstrous horrors have run around the genre lately. And be in no doubt, this is a scary game. These ghosts want you to join their less-than-alive existence, and you’ll have to brave all kinds of spooks to avoid that fate.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S

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