Welcome to the haunted house... Yours.
The San Remo Hotel in San Francisco is rumored to be haunted, which is why Nintendo decided it would be a great venue to hold a preview event for Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. They say that visitors who stay in room 42 feel nausea, unease, chills, and just a general sense of creepiness. They also say it’s because room 42 once housed a lonely man who shot himself out of despair and hasn’t left.
Then there’s the story of the little girl who can be seen wandering the halls on the upper floor—right outside room 42 as well, in fact. It’s not every day that you find a room haunted by not one, but two ghosts. Sometimes guests say they see her silhouette in the distance, some see her ghostly visage fleeting outside, some report a ball bouncing in the hallway with no owner, and some hear a faint knocking on their doors in the middle of the night.
I know all these tidbits because Nintendo saw fit to bring in a team of paranormal specialists from the San Francisco Ghost Society (yes, that’s actually a thing), a team complete with the token ghost-hunting middle-aged woman and leading man of somewhat generous proportions. Add to that an entry room that I’m positive was pumped full of excess oxygen (or hell, maybe some other kind of gas) in order to make guests feel light-headed and off-balance, and the tone was certainly set for a horror game.
In fact, this presentation, including all of the men and women they hired to dress up as ghouls/monsters/what-have-you and pop out around all of the hotel’s dark corners, served almost to overshadow the game itself—and the fact that I’ve now spent four paragraphs without touching on the game at all is an ample indicator of that.
So without further ado, Spirit Camera is creepy, weird, unique, and (to the best of my knowledge) the first true, full-fledged game to utilize the AR technology of the Nintendo 3DS. Put in the shoes of a young man who has received a mysterious book known as the Diary of Faces on his doorstep, you’re drawn into a haunted house full of victims of the “woman in black” and vengeful ghosts who can only be defeated with the Camera Obscura. If that last bit sounds familiar to you, yes, this game does technically take place in the Fatal Frame universe, but has no other references to speak of beyond the camera itself.
Some of your time is spent walking quite linearly through the house, but most of it will be spent right here in the real world utilizing the 3DS’s camera and AR technology. With the help of a friendly spirit named Maya, you have to fight off the ghosts that emerge from the Diary right in the middle of your own home. A special booklet that is meant to be the Diary of Faces comes packed with the game, and you have to use the camera to focus on specific pages to trigger the various AR events that keep you progressing.
This leads to an element of mild puzzle-solving. Some pages need to be looked at from certain angles that you’ll need to figure out and others will trigger mini-games. In general, most pages will lead to a ghost attack. Combat against the marauding ghosts is simple—spin around to find the ghost in your sights and you’ll charge power up as long as you have it centered in the middle of the camera. You can hit L or R to take a photo which will damage the ghost in proportion to the power you’ve built up, but wait too long and the ghost will strike you instead.
So get ready for a spooky odyssey through a real, full-length AR 3DS game, the first of its kind. You can take the plunge on April 13 if you dare, just try to avoid having your eyes and mouth sewn shut by the woman in black. Oh, did I forget to mention that’s what she does to her victims? Yeah, watch out for that.