Fatal Frame 3 vs Fatal Frame 4 - A brief comparison

Having play through both Fatal Frame 3: The Tormented (PS2) and Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (Wii), I got the huge urge to write a quick article about these two amazing horror game that are unique in its own style. This article will mainly discusses about the differences between these two great games as well as improvements in FF4 than its predecessor.

The term 'Ghosts' are referred in both series. Some might refer this as 'Spirit'.
Fatal Frame 3 is abbreviated as FF3 and the same goes for Fatal Frame 4 (FF4)


Theme / Background Setting

FF3: The central theme behind Fatal Frame 3 is the old japanese kind of shrine and wooden manor. You will find yourself exploring these buildings in your dream.

FF4: Unlike the third series that took place in traditional and typical shrine, this latest series took place in a more modern setting where we are most probably born - Hospital.


FF3: Ghosts are typically maidens, priestess or ghosts that wears white robe with a bandana on top of the forehead. It will be what you expected if you had seen a lot of japanese horror films. Nothing more, nothing less.

FF4: As the setting suggest, you will surely encounter your typical doctor, nurse, and medical staffs ghosts inside the hospital itself. It does not limit to these though as you will also be meeting with other type of ghosts.


FF3: You are able to play 3 characters (2 females and one male), namely Rei (female freelance photographer), Mikuru (assistant photographer of Rei), and Kei (a friend of Rei boyfriend).

FF4: There are a total of 4 playable characters in this game (3 female teenagers and one male detective), Mizuki, Madora, Ruka, and Shiguo (male detective).

Rei in FF3 wearing Kimono
Ruka in FF4 wearing normal cloth


FF3: Controls in FF3 is intuitive enough. You moves your character using left analog stick. The same analog stick is also used to move your Obscura camera.

FF4: Prior to playing this game, I had read many players complaining that the controls in FF4 doesn't feel as natural as it would be (or at the least it doesn't really lives up to their expectations). I'm kinda agree with that, seeing on how the controls are explained. You moves your character using the analog stick of your nunchunk. Entering viewfinder mode, the same stick is used to move your character forward/backward and left/right ONLY. You can only moves your camera by tilting the wiimote upwards/downwards. After trying out this game I must say that I had no difficulty with such control scheme at all. Heck, it feels natural!

Ghost List

FF3: You only get to view the secret ghost list that accounted for 33 of the complete ghosts list of 217 upon your first playthrough. A complete ghost list is only unlockable after your first playthrough. Do not worry though as any of the ghosts that are not listed in the list will still be recorded and viewable on your second playthrough.

FF4: The complete ghost list of a total of 233 is viewable in your first playthrough. The ghost images is also slightly larger when compared to FF3.

Ghost List in FF3

Ghost List in FF4



The improvement below is purely subjective and it is based on my personal thought after having playing both FF3 and FF4. Having said that it might differ from what you might think. I had not played the previous iteration before. FF3 is the first Fatal Frame game in the series that I had played.

Story Progress

In both series, you get to control different characters in each chapter. In Fatal Frame 4, however, there will be a short description of the previous chapter that leads to the current chapter (also viewable via the Summary screen). This gives us a better sense of timeline as to what is happening till date for a particular character. As you might have probably guess, Fatal Frame 3 doesn't have this mechanic and it had left me lost some times after leaving this game for days.

Building Layout

I found that the building layout in FF4 is more easier to remember than FF3. There are multiple floors (including basement) and each floors are consisting of halls, staircases and rooms. In FF3, the layout is more complex and you are probably spending the first couple of hours wondering around the place just to get at least a little bit of direction. To be truth, I often find myself opening up the map just to see which route should I take to head towards the next destination (despite having to know where the destination is).


It is a hit or miss here for both series. In FF3, each room/sections is labelled clearly in the map. This is seriously lacking in FF4 whereby the only thing that is labelled on the map is the name of the floor, that's all. The only thing that I like about the map in FF4 is the 'key' legend (this does not exist in FF3). A 'key' legend is marked on the map whenever you had obtained a key that leads to the room that the key will unlock. This is the feature that I found very useful for not wasting time to wondering and checking each room just to figure out whether this key will unlock this door.

Map in FF3 with labelled room name

Map in FF4 without any room label except floor name

Pressing A in Map view will display a list of floor names


If you played Resident Evil 2 and had come to fond the fixed camera angle (i.e. the kind that are fixed and will only changed depending on the area that the player is currently at) that the game featured then you would probably thrilled to hear that FF3 uses exactly the same camera angle. Some player might say that such fixed camera angle creates more intense and suspense atmosphere for the game. For me it look kinda outdated. I like the camera in FF4 by a LOT largely because the camera will always stay behind (a.k.a following) the character, similar to the camera angle used in any modern third person viewing game. It creates a more natural playstyle ultimately.


Like in both series, you get points for capturing ghosts or damaging them. Points in FF3 is used in a wider variety as you can use them to upgrade your character skills and lens bonuses. In FF4, points are only used to purchase herbal medicines or films. And you only get to spent them on save points. To upgrade your character skills or lens would require another type of resources, blue (skills upgrade) and red (lens upgrade) crystals respectively.


In FF3, there are a number of secret ghosts scattered around the mansion, and some of them are only capturable on your second playthrough. This changes in FF4 as the secret ghosts had been replaced by mini dolls called Hozuki dolls. Capturing these dolls will break the curses that are sealed upon them and unlocking extra features upon your first playthrough. The similar feature in both series is you will not get any blue indicator when getting near them. So a good sense of eyesight and treasure sense will definitely proved to be useful.

Hozuki dolls are scattered all over the places, waiting to be shot.

Ain't it a pretty face?
Capturing it will break the curse. Duh.

Ghost Sense Indicator

This is by far the most useful improvement that I had found useful when capturing ghosts. Sensing the ghost direction in FF3 is a pain (or some might called this challenging) as you only get a red shining dot whenever a ghost near you. In FF4, there are now four of these indicators (similar to the directional pad) that will more accurately pinpoint you to the ghost direction. So no more finding yourself continuously entering and exiting viewfinder mode just to find out where did that ghost had vanished.

Camera view of FF3. Classic.
Camera view of FF4. Now with four directional ghost sensing bar on top

Locating Item

Like in both series, items such as herbal medicines and films are scaterred all over the place and are lit with blue growing light. In FF3, you will notice the blue grow even when you are afar from the place. However, in FF4 your only chance to finding such grow is by getting near them and pointing using your flashlight. You will hear a sound when finding them. An additional blue indicator bar will appear whenever you are in the vicinity of the items (with the exception of Hazuki dolls). Aren't the developer thoughtful?


In FF3, some of the locations where items such as herbal medicine and films will reappear upon re-entering the dream. So you are always guaranteed to have at least one herbal medicine or Type14 film at hand. Be certain that you won't find reappearing items in FF4 because you will not be able to leave and re-entering that place.

Reaching Out for Items

In FF3, you get near to an item, press X and that's it. Item is obtained. FF4 has a slight improvement here probably because the developer thought of creating a more tense environment for the players. Here is how it works in FF4: you now need to continuously pressing A button which is kinda similar to that your character is leaning his/her hand towards the items. Sometimes an invisible hand will grab your hand and spook you at random times. Been there, done that. When that comes you swing your hand just like any normal person would do. Um, well in this case, you shake your wiimote.


The types of films remained the same in both series. However you get an infinite Type07 film in FF4 and they now inflict good damage to ghosts too. As such, you will never stuck wondering in a place fearing that you do not have any films left to banish the next ghost you encountered. Just a figure of speech: the damage that the same type of film inflict upon the ghosts in FF3 is similar to having an egg throw at the ghost (except that it DOES hit). To better paraphrasing it, it is better than not using it at all. Trust me on this one.


Like most survivor horror games, perform a 180 degree turns is a must to quickly turn to the foes on your back. Such control movement is not present in FF3 and the only way to turn to your back is to pressing the L1 or Square button accompanied by the analog stick while in viewfinder mode. Good news in FF4 as you can now do this by shaking your wiimote left/right quickly or pressing the Z key while using the analog stick.

Ghost Locking

In FF4, you can now lock at the ghost face by keeping the Z button pressed. This feature does make this game easy to perform fatal frame. Sometimes I wish this feature does not exist as it really eases the game. Well I can always choose not to use it except when in desperate time especially when the ghost will suddenly rush at you like a mad bull followed by a ducking stance.

Keeping Z button pressed will enter the locking mode.

Ghost Face

I found that ghosts in in FF4 has a more detailed and emotional facial expression than in FF3. Yin and Yang. In many times you might see a smoothing or calm side of a face (easier to spot by using the ghost locking feature) then all of a sudden it will changed to an aggressive state that you might never have expected.

Hanging ghost in 4F after exiting the elevator

Fatal Frame

In FF3, you can only get to perform Fatal Frame after the initial Shutter Chance. In FF4, you get to perform Fatal Frame even at the first shot similar to Shutter Chance. In terms of graphic, you know that you can perform Fatal Frame upon seeing the prominent broken grass surrounding the central circular indicator. In FF3, you only get to see a red circular sign which might be hard to spot sometimes. Performing Fatal Frame in FF4 creates a more brighter light and pushes the ghost slightly than FF3. Personally I found that performing Fatal Frame shots in FF4 is easier than in FF3 as I felt that it last longer. That might probably be subjective though.

More Pictures that showcast the differences between these two games.

Title Screen

Menu Screen

Loading Screen



Camera Settings - Main

Camera Settings - Stats Upgrade

Camera Settings - Lens Upgrade



Random Shots in Fatal Frame 4

Management room in 4th floor


Laundry room
Patient ward. You get to see this a lot.
Um no shot?
What's with all the slippers?
Shot from Haibara Hospital 2F
This way to the Treatment room
Waiting counter
Retro telephone. It will mysteriously ring some times.
Portraits in Director's room. Are these the actual photos from real person?
A miniature wooden shrine hanging on top. Some sort of protective charm?

Staircase below the Director's room. Creepy.
Bed. Restraining belt. Weird device. It's torture time!

Masks are so common in this game.

Some sort of torturing device.

A gramophone that apparently still works. Too bad you can't interact with it.

Imagine putting this thing on your head.
A bronze Buddha statue.
Yet another small door.

Hmm christmas tree?

Mask in a shrine.
Mizuki seemed to start remembering something..
Follow the ghost.
Sakuya entering a shrine on the basement. Let's follow her.

Ah, these big double doors again.

Central altar in which a ritual is performed.


Looking through the mask.

Yay. Distorted face.

Sakuya wearing red kimono is gooding.

Let's duel - Mizuki vs. Sakuya. Fight!
Sakuya approaching.

Please don't leave me...

They look like twins.

Mizuki: Hell yeah I am!!

Such innocent looking face.

... at long last.

Come to mama.

Hmm duel?

Consoling time.


Solemn look on Sakuya face.

Camera zooming out.

Lunar phase. End of Chapter 7