Here we go with Fatal Frame 5: Third Drop Gameplay! The second drop was intense. But it looks like we’re jumping from Yuri to Ren Hojo. Ren, for those who might not remember from his very brief introduction in the first drop, was a man who commissioned Hisoka to find a photo album.
That album contained a photo of a girl he’s been seeing in his dream. But was it really a dream… or a memory?
Who are all these people?
Here’s a reminder of who each character is:
- Ren Hojo – Ren is an author who lives with his assistant, Rui, at the base of Mt. Hikami. He often calls Hisoka Kurosawa to find things with her Shadow Reading.
- Rui Kagamiya – is the assistant to Ren Hojo.
- Hisoka Kurosawa – Owner of an antique shop, she’s also a talented shadow reader who’s able to find lost things and people. She vanished during on Mt. Hikami during the second drop while looking for a missing person.
- Yuri Kozukata – one of the main protagonists. She attempted to commit suicide after the death of her family but was stopped by Hisoka. She now works for Hisoka in her antique store and is learning how to shadow read. She’s very sensitive to spirits.
- Inn Keeper – We meet him during the prologue while Hisoka is looking for the photo album in the inn. His inn used to be popular but a landslide destroyed most of it and killed his family.
We start off in Ren’s home, with Ren and Rui leafing through the photo album at the waterlogged inn. But as they turn the pages a photograph falls to the floor. Ren reaches for it and the woman in the photo turns to him.
“Will you die with me?”
Ren is stunned but he’s the only one who sees, or hears, the woman’s ominous request.
To make matters worse, Ren decides that he wants to go back to the inn where the photo album was found in case there are more photos. With Rui and the Camera Obscura in tow, we head off.
Or we would if I wasn’t a lore hound. Taking a few moments to scrounge through Ren’s disorganized living room, we find a few documents. We find Ren’s unfinished manuscript first. It looks like he’s an anthropologist who specializes in Japanese memorial photograph. The next document is Hisoka’s evaluation of Ren’s camera. She’s an antique dealer but she also specializes in these occult cameras.
Ren’s Camera Obscura, she writes, is the only one she’s ever seen with a compound lens. But perhaps more important, owning a Camera Obscura invites misfortune into the life of the owner. Everyone who owns one has either died, lost their mind, or gone missing. With the Camera frequently outliving their owners.
That rings true, considering Hisoka vanished on Mt. Hikami last drop…
Digging into Ren’s impressive bookshelves we find a few interesting tidbits:
A book details how Mt. Hikami was the home of many shrine maidens. A man fell in love with one, but she refused his advances. In a rage, he butchered all the shrine maidens on the mountain he could find, tossing them into the river as he went.
The bodies of the shrine maidens turned the river red, and their corpses spilled into the Pool of Purification.
The spirits of the slaughtered shrine maidens are said to have haunted the mountain ever since, leading all who meet their gaze into the water, where they drown themselves.
Hmm. Seems very reminiscent of some of the cutscenes and notes we saw while exploring the forest.
But after the shrine maidens were slaughtered the rituals being performed on Mt. Hikami ceased.
With no more lore to find, Ren and Rui head to the inn, just before sunset. Why is it always sunset?
“If you climb the mountain in the twilight hours, it’ll show you a different form. It’s true form. Only those who wish to die come here at that time.”
We arrive at the inn and – Nooooooo we have to do another tutorial. Apparently Ren’s compound camera is different from Hisoka’s. I desperately wish it’d just let me find out on the fly. But we can take multiple shots now. And while that’s cool, I’m so so so tired of tutorials.
At least Ren and Rui have better banter than Yuri and Hisoka. And Rui is very happy to provide ample exposition.
Tutorial done, we step inside the inn… we’re almost immediately met with a ghost. A drowned woman who stands, staring, at the end of the corridor. We turn down another hall, and a hatch on a duct slam close as we approach it.
I have a feeling that we’re not wanted here.
And yet the moment we turn around –
An entire room of ghosts. That’s not good.
There seem to be even more than the first time we came here. Why are they all converging here? They vanish as soon as we snap a picture.
We work our way through the first floor, towards a glittering. It’s just herbal medicine. But as soon as we take it a spectral woman attacks us.
It’s an incredibly easy fight, and she dissipates into blue flame, apologizing. Now I kind of feel bad…
We get to the room where Hisoka originally found the album. Inside, the inn owner is waiting for us. He vanishes once we take a picture but where he stood is a crumpled note.
It’s a note he must have written when he was alive. In it, he laments that the mountain swallowed up half his inn. The only thing left is the album of postmortem photographs. This album is the last thing he has of his father, the last thing he has of his family.
He decides to burn the album and commit suicide upstairs, while watching the sunset. Sunset suicides – what a theme.
Let’s go upstairs!
We turn around to try and find our way upstairs but before we can get too far the ghosts we saw earlier lumber towards us, suddenly ready to fight.
I’ll be honest, the multi-shot function is really fun. It’s pretty brutal against packs.
We head upstairs, where we see the inn owner stumble, disoriented. He vanishes again but we’re getting closer.
We find a locked door and take a picture of it. The film shows us a picture of the hatch that closed on us when we first arrived. It’s a strange mechanic that’s been around since Fatal Framers early games… but if we want to open this door, we better investigate this hatch.
As we turn around, we find the inn manager hanging from the ceiling. But that’s strange, since we know he burned himself to death. He vanishes again and there’s another note.
The note reads that things on Mt. Hikami were always strange. A few years ago two girls went missing on the mountain, but only one returned, though she lost her mind. Since then, she’d return every year to look for her missing friend. Mt. Hikami has a way of making people disappear.
“My father disappeared on Mount Hikami. Will it take me too? And will anyone look for me…?”
Heading downstairs we find the hatch which generously opens for us. It seems like a bad idea to stick our hand in it, but Ren does it anyway, and pulls out a key hidden between the pipes.
Finally, we can unlock that door!
But the moment Ren turns around he’s assaulted by the ghost that attacked Yuri in the first Drop. And he’s a little stronger than he was in that tutorial battle. He collapses and we poke his collapsing ether for a few extra spirit points.
Things are heating up…
Mostly unscathed we head towards the door upstairs. But as we cross the corridor towards it the windows in front of us shatter— and the hung inn keeper bursts through.
It’s more silly than spooky.
To be honest, I’m a little tired of seeing the inn keeper everywhere. Like… we get it. You’re dead and upset about it. Anyway, Ren photo battles him, but now the inn keeper has shards of glass in him. Rui stands there, staring at you vaguely concerned. Occasionally she walks through the inn keeper, utterly baffled by the events unfolding all around her.
It’s by far the hardest fight during the drop, as he’ll occasionally vanish only to drop on your from above. But once we’re done, we touch his spirit fire and we’re overcome with a vision (cutscene).
Ren sees the inn keeper stands on top of the inn at the roof’s edge, noose around his neck. But this isn’t a man who’s committed to death—he’s terrified. A ghastly pale woman grabs his ankles from below, staring up at him with the most unearthly, hellish expression. He screams and falls, hitting the glass which shattered right before the boss fight. He hangs there, and the spectral woman who startled him into falling stands within the inn, staring at her handiwork.
But as the inn keeper’s spiritual essence vanishes, he sighs, “Now I can meet them again.”
He’s surely talking about his family who passed all those decades ago. So was he trapped here? By exorcising his spirit, did we free him?
If that’s the case, we’re essentially doing good deeds by kicking ghost ass.
There’s a note, left where we defeated the inn keeper.
Mt. Hikami was once known as the Grove of Shrine Maidens, where mountain maidens oversaw the deaths of pilgrims, easing their passing to the other side.
“I like that. I envy it. I wish someone would be there to see me off,” the note ends.
Looks like that ghostly woman came to grant his wish.
Outside the window, the woman who is perpetually falling off the cliff falls to her death. I’m pretty sure it’s her, anyway. Same white dress, same scream.
We head to the observation room, where a hung woman greets us. Who’s she?? She vanishes once we snap her photo.
There’s another locked door, so let’s skip that for now and go to the other door, which leads to the inn roof.
It’s the innkeeper. Didn’t we exorcise him? Is he still stuck in his eternal loop? Other ghosts have mentioned dissolving and melting. He jumps, and there’s another note.
“The sunset beckons. It’s calling me into the water. This is the right thing to do.”
Hmm. Was the innkeeper influenced by the mountain to kill himself?
There’s a room up here, and I’ll be honest the architecture of this inn has me completely confused. But the room is all burned up, and now I remember why we’re here. To look for the postmortem photographs the inn keeper supposedly burned.
We enter the burnt room and see the inn keeper staring at something. Rui tells us there must have been a fire. Thanks, Rui.
We take a photo, and the Camera Obscura brings something to light. The photo album we came here for.
Behind us, Rui goes to contemplate the noose and the edge, slipping the noose over his head.
We slow jog to Rui and snap a picture to see a woman from the Netherworld behind him.
Boss fight, let’s go. We have to exorcise her before she kills Rui. Or gets Rui to kill herself. She floats around, accompanied by the sound of a swinging noose. It’s a gruesome sound, perhaps the creepiest thing in the whole drop.
This fight is much harder, but we eventually catch the final Fatal Frame and Rui faints, falling back from the edge.
Ren steadies Rui but before we can finally, finally leave another Maiden arrives.
“You will dissolve into nothing.”
Fuck. It’s another fight. Ae these Maidens going to show up at the end of every drop?
As we fight her, the reassures her we can: “Show it to her.” “I can see into your soul.”
The only good thing is that she goes down easily. Way easier than the woman who almost got Rui.
There’s one more note. The postmortem album was compiled by folklorist Keiji Watarai, who moved to the base of Mt. Hikami to study the rituals there. The inn keeper’s father helped find photos for the album.
But Keiji became fascinated with how water was revered on Mt. Hikami. So, he built a house on the mountain itself. Shortly thereafter, he vanished. And search parties were unable to find even the path to the folklorist’s house.
Only the photo album was recovered, which the inn keeper’s father took it back to the inn. But shortly thereafter, he, too, started acting strangely and vanished.
“I’d forgotten about the photos until I found them in the old building, after the landslide. But now I understand why my father left. Watarai, too. These photos are so beautiful.”
Like the Camera Obscura, it seems like this photo album leads people to mysterious ends. It seems these photos are cursed. I wonder if Ren is next in line. But Ren and Rui survive the night and return home, scathed, traumatized, and full of questions.
Final Thoughts on Fatal Frame 5: Third Drop Gameplay
So, if I had to give a score for Fatal Frame 5: Third Drop Gameplay it’d have to be 3 Cthulhu heads out of 5. And that might be a little generous.
I’m personally tired of the inn and seeing the same ghosts. Particularly the inn keeper. It felt like recycled content. If we had to go back to the inn to collect story-necessary lore, I wonder if that lore couldn’t have been compiled in Hisoka’s notes, during the Second Drop?
Also there were way too many hanging ghosts. Just, constant nooses, everywhere. Spooky the first time! So very unspooky the fifteenth time.
Approximate Playtime: 1 hour.
Slay the Spire Downfall Review: A Masterclass in Fan Content
Slay the Spire Downfall, also known as Downfall, is a fan-made mod to Slay the Spire by Table 9 Studio. Table 9 is a small game studio that has primarily specialized in small projects but is soon to release its own original game, Tales & Tactics. Downfall is one of its first projects, and has been met with heavy support from the Slay the Spire development team and community. It has been so successful, it even has its own Steam page.
If you aren’t familiar with Slay the Spire, check out my review! Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the base game, let’s get into the expansion!
Downfall adds considerable content and new playing options to Slay the Spire. Generally, there are plenty of new cards, events, and relics. Additionally, there is a new hero, The Hermit, an undead gunslinger. Cards in their deck have increased abilities when played from the middle of a hand, creating better outcomes the more deliberate you play.
In addition to traditional Standard mode, the game’s meat and potatoes is Downfall mode. In Downfall mode, you can play as one of seven bosses from Slay the Spire. Instead of climbing up the tower, you work your way down defending it from the same heroes you’d play as in the base game. Each boss has its own unique playstyle and deck, resulting in even more varied play experiences.
The seven playable bosses are The Slime Boss, The Guardian, The Hexaghost, The Champ, The Automaton, The Gremlins, and The Snecko. All can be encountered as enemies during a Standard run. Their playstyles are as follows:
The Slime Boss
The Slime Boss’s special mechanic includes slime minions that can split from the Boss and have a variety of effects. Additionally, the Boss has cards that add Goop, increasing the damage of the next attack and causing additional effects when consumed.
The Guardian’s special mechanic is that they are able to phase between modes after taking a certain amount of damage. The cards also have gem slots, which allows gem cards to be combined with other cards to make them more powerful.
The Hexaghost’s special mechanic is that it has six Ghostflames that can be ignited by playing certain card type combinations. When ignited, a special effect occurs. A large portion of the cards in this deck are centered around end-of-combat buffs and cards that disappear if not played immediately.
The Champ’s special mechanic is that they change between Defensive or Berserker stance, giving them bonuses depending on which stance they are in. Their cards interact heavily with their stances.
The Automaton’s special ability is that they create functions, cards which are the stored combination of three already played cards. Their cards can cause compile errors when certain cards are used together, and the deck is focused on function synergy.
The Gremlins’ special ability is that you play as all five gremlins, each with their own health bar and buff effects. Cards have extra abilities depending on which gremlin is the main gremlin at the time.
The Snecko’s special ability is that they play cards of any class. This means they have access to hero and boss cards of all types throughout the run.
The new playable characters are a hit. They are so much fun to play and add an intriguing new dimension to the game. My favorite new characters are The Automaton and The Slime Boss, though every time I play any character a few times, I find a new favorite! Each character is refreshing and interesting in its own way.
Generally, the gameplay takes an already great game and gives it even more replayability. My biggest critique is that Downfall currently doesn’t work on the Steam Deck, unlike Slay the Spire. However, it’s an absolute blast to play either way. Because this is a fan expansion, it is free to download! But you do still need Slay the Spire in order to play.
I can’t recommend this game enough. It is enjoyable, has a high level of replayability, and a greatly executed concept. I only wish I could play it everywhere! (5 / 5)
Slay the Spire Review: Deckbuilding & Monsters
Slay the Spire is a roguelike, deckbuilding video game created by small indie studio Mega Crit Games. Released in 2017, Slay the Spire is the first and only game created by Mega Crit. However, the game has continued to see updates from the development team and fans alike since its release. In fact, a Slay the Spire Board Game just launched in November 2022 on Kickstarter to great success.
In Slay the Spire, you play as one of four characters as they battle their way through a magical tower filled with monsters, loot, and curses. The further up the spire you go, the harder and more lucrative your journey becomes. Will you defeat three of the many bosses awaiting you and receive your glory?
Within Slay the Spire, there are four characters (The Ironclad, Silent, Defect, and Watcher) each with their own deck and playstyle. You begin by choosing which one you will play as for the journey ahead. The Ironclad has a focus on healing and strong attacks, and is the simplest adventurer to play as. This makes sense, as they are the first character you have unlocked and introduces you to the mechanics of the game. Meanwhile, The Silent has a focus on many small attacks and poison. The Silent is very accessible in its mechanics just like The Ironclad, however is less forgiving to strategic mistakes. The Defect is more complicated and has a focus in channeling different elements to produce varied effects on the battlefield. Lastly, there is The Watcher, the complicated character, who has a focus on utilizing different combat forms to gain advantages. In addition to different playstyles through their unique decks, each adventurer also begins with a special ability and starting health.
After selecting your character, you journey deep into The Spire, choosing pathways filled with monsters, merchants, more relics, rest sites, and mystery events. Killing enemies provides rewards through gold, cards, single-use potions, and occasionally powerful relics which stay with you the whole run. Elite enemies provide better rewards, however, healing opportunities are usually few and far between. Fighting too many elite enemies may prove more dangerous than lucrative. At merchants cards, potions, relics, and the removal of a card from your deck can be purchased in order to improve your strength. Rest sites provide either healing or card upgrades, forcing you to choose between your precious health and the improvement of your build. There are three acts in a full run, with a boss at the end of each act. As the acts progress, the bosses become harder, testing the mettle of your improvements throughout the game.
I have absolutely adored my time playing Slay the Spire. The progression within a run is difficult but rewarding. There have been times when poor luck ended my run, however I still always had fun anyway. The diversity of characters and the resulting playstyles is great, even if I have found myself going back to The Ironclad time and time again. Additionally the game gives the player a significant amount of agency in the decisions on how to improve your deck and character. This creates replayability and a sense of ownership over a given run. The game also rewards and encourages taking chances, making it a blast to push your luck.
While I’ve had a great deal of fun, there are some areas for improvement. My biggest gripe is that there aren’t more unique characters, monsters, events, and bosses. I’d love to see more playstyles as well as see less repeats of bosses, monsters, and events. The system and gameplay is so robust, it just needs some more content to be a top tier game. That being said, there have been periodic content updates (including the addition of The Watcher in 2020) and the community has created an extensive content mod that even has its own Steam page. Also, despite my issue with the amount of content, I definitely will be putting at least 30 more hours into this game.
Overall, I love this game and highly recommend it, so much so, I cannot wait for more content. For $25 on Steam, this game is a must play if you enjoy rogue-likes and deck building games!(4.5 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End
Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”
“When We Are in Need”
Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.
The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.
“Look for the Light”
Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.
Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.
Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.
The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.
HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.
A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.
Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.
It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
(4 / 5)