Let's Talk About Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse
A fantastic horror experience with the quintessential Project Zero/Fatal Frame formula
5.0Overall Score

My friends, I am on cloud nine. When I first picked up Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse last year, I accepted that I was never going to get to play it. After all, it was a Japanese Wii exclusive. I got my copy in May of last year. A couple of months later, the remaster was announced, and I cried with happiness.

When I started getting into retro gaming (yes, the term makes me feel old too), I instantly drifted to horror. No surprises there. Project Zero caught my eye instantly. Something clicked for me, and I fell in love. And Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was no different. But enough gushing about my obsession with the series. Let’s get to talking about this epic remaster! I’m going to do my best to keep this as spoiler free as possible!

So, what is Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse?

Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is the fourth entry of the Project Zero/Fatal Frame series. It was a collaboration between  Tecmo, Grasshopper Manufacture and Nintendo Software Planning & Development. Series co-creators Keisuke Kikuchi and Makoto Shibata returned as respective producer and director. Grasshopper Manufacture’s Goichi Suda (known commonly as Suda51) came on board as co-director, co-writer and designer. One of the goals of the remaster, discussed in the digital art book, was the desire to remain true to Suda’s visions in particular.

The story is set on the fictional island of Rogetsu Isle, in southern Japan. It takes place a decade after five girls mysteriously disappeared at a festival. While the girls recovered, their memories vanished. Two of the girls have now died, found with covered faces in a tragic, crying pose. The remaining survivors Ruka Minazuki, Misaki Asou and Madoka Tsukimori are left confused. Misaki and Madoka travel to the island to try uncover the truth, soon followed by Ruka when they don’t return. Detective Choshiro Kirishima is also on the island, sent by Ruka’s mother to find her and continue his pursuit of suspect serial killer Yo Haibara.

Something catastrophic happened on the island, something that resulted in the death of all its inhabitants. However, none of these people seem to truly be at rest. Players must fend off wraiths using either the infamous Camera Obscura or Choshiro’s Spirit Stone Flashlight, all while exploring the hospital-turned-hotel to find the truth behind what happened.

The Rituals

Project Zero has always had a way of exploring different emotions, and Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is no different. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse revolves around memory – the fear of both losing it and regaining it. While characters change with each chapter, Ruka is the clear main protagonist. While Madoka and Misaka are also survivors, their time is far shorter than Ruka’s. Especially in Madoka’s case, as we only play as her for the Prelude. Misaka has a couple of chapters, but we primarily swap between Ruka and Choshiro. That said, Choshiro is almost directly linked to Ruka’s story. After all, he was sent to the island by her mother to find her.

Choshiro also saved the 5 girls originally, after they had been kidnapped from the hospital. It was believed they were the necessary organs for a ritual, known as the Rogetsu Kagura. The ceremony was based on a much older ritual known as the Rite of Descent. However, after the Day of Tranquility, the rite became taboo.

That didn’t stop people from continuing to try though. Rogetsu Isle is plagued by a mysterious disease, known as Moonlight Syndrome. There are four stages: budding, breaking, resonance, and finally, blossoming. The Kagura ritual was performed in an almost final attempt to cure the disease. Doctors in the hospital had been searching for a cure, experimenting, trying to find anything to fix things.

Unfortunately, the chosen Vessel was almost too receptive to the ritual and reached the ultimate stage of Blossoming. This Blossoming brought on all the deaths and is what brings us back to Ruka and her story.

The Masks

Ruka, in my opinion, also has the most interesting story out of all the survivors. While the other two were in the hospital for treatment, Ruka’s ties run far deeper. For spoiler reasons, I won’t go into detail on that point. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is her story, and it is a dark, beautiful one.

The actual Mask itself is incredible. While being a real, physical thing, the story behind it creates an insanely symbolic entity. It is more than just a wooden, carved mask. It holds an almost infinite amount of significance, tying back into families, the Rogetsu Kagura, Rite of Descent, and Day of Tranquility. The meaning isn’t totally clear from the beginning, but the further into the story you get, the more you’ll learn and understand.

That said, the Mask of the Lunar Eclipse isn’t the only mask featured in the game. There are masks everywhere in the game, on the walls, and in shrines, all beautifully designed. Each Organ also had its own specific mask, designed to represent its purpose.

The true beauty of the masks, designs and even the story itself all come to a head with the arrival of the eclipse. I wish I could go into more detail, but I truly don’t want to spoil this game for anyone. We’re only a couple of months into the year, and I think I may have already found my game of the year.

Project Zero Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a beautiful game, with expertly crafted horror and a dark atmosphere sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. After this, I would genuinely love to see remasters of the original trilogy too. I fell head over heels for this series, and Mask of the Lunar Eclipse does not disappoint. It’s going to be very hard to top this game.

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