As has been reported by several other sites over the course of the last few hours, Fatal Frame 5: Maiden of Black Water has been confirmed as an eShop exclusive in North America. The title will release on October 22nd for a price of $49.99, with a portion of the game available to download for free before purchase as part of the “free-to-start” initiative that Nintendo started earlier this year with 3DS eShop release Stretchmo. Europe gets the game (as well as an exclusive Limited Edition release) on October 30th.
This is the first mainline Fatal Frame game to release in North America in over a decade; the previous title in the Fatal Frame series, Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, never saw a release outside of Japan – and the Wii remakes of the second game only saw a western release in PAL regions in 2012. Since the Wii was region-locked just as the Wii U is now, the only way for North American fans to play the Wii entries in the series would’ve been to modify their consoles to play import discs. North America did see the spin-off title Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir for the 3DS, though it ended up being both a critical and a commercial failure and the release was censored in all western regions.
I find it worrying that it seems to have become a trend that NoE will give some games physical releases or Limited Editions while NoA won’t; granted, the situation is better for North American fans now than back in the Wii days – but having a digital only release is still less than ideal. I also wonder just how much overlap there might be from people that will only buy physical copies of games and the Fatal Frame fanbase – it could have a negative impact on sales in the long-run. Hopefully, at the very least, digital only might alleviate the concerns over censorship as the series has been historically censored in the west.