Originally posted on 9 April 2012
Source: Zero Perfect Guide, page 146-151

Fatal Frame: Interview

The Developers

Keisuke Kikuchi

As a person central to the "Deception" series, he has managed things like programming all by himself. He has superb riposte with Mr. Shibata.

Makoto Shibata

Planner for each successive game in the "Deception" series. "With this work, I wanted to create a game that would be traumatic," he said with a smile.

Jin Hasegawa
In charge of CG

Was in charge of designing the characters, such as Miku and Mafuyu. "Ganguro Miku", which can be seen during a second playthrough, was Mr. Hasegawa's idea.

Tsuyoshi Iuchi
In charge of battle scenes

In charge of the battle scenes with ghosts. He thought about the ghosts' movements using his own body, and it seems as though because of this, watching him from nearby it looked as though he was dancing.

And Thus, "Zero" Was Born

Special interview with the developers
An interview with the staff who developed "Zero" has materialised. Why was "Zero" originally born? And why were ghosts chosen as the subject? An interview was conducted about incidents during development and the like. It is packed with very interesting stories.

"Ghosts are the scariest thing"

--As would be expected of something made by the creators of "Deception"N1, it was really scary. First of all, please explain the origin of the "Zero" title.

Kikuchi: In this Japanese horror the enemies are ghosts, so I thought about using something connected to that, and since things that are cannot possibly exist are represented as a symbol with "0" (zero), from which we got ? (zero) for the title.

--So it's partway between "ghost" and "0"?
(Note: 霊 (ghost) and 零 (zero) can both be read "rei". 零 is also read "zero", referring to the number.)

Kikuchi: That's a good retort, but that was something I thought of later on (laughs).

--Why are the enemies ghosts?

Shibata: Because we were doing a horror game, when we were thinking about what was scary we thought that ghosts were the scariest thing, so we used ghosts. There are games in which monsters appear, but there were no games with ghosts as enemies, so we worked with that to make it quite distinguishing, and it was interested that they could appear wherever whenever, so we chose them.

Kikuchi: The stages flowed like this: First of all, we considered creating something unbelievably scary set in Japan. Once, in the past, Mr. Shibata made a proposal for and asked how we would feel about making a Deception game set in a Japanese house, so we did lots of investigation and data collection with regards to them, and there were an extraordinary number of places - such as behind screens, in the attic, under overhanging edges, etc. - where something could be lurking in the darkness. At that time, though, there were lots of things we had to take into consideration, such as abilities of the hardware, and couldn't do it. So we used a Japanese house. Next, we were thinking about what kind of enemies we wanted, and Shibata thought ghosts were the scariest thing.

--It's set in the 1980s. Why choose such a delicate time period?

Shibata: At first, it was set in the current time. While that was fine too, of course, mobile phones weren't really around back then - that was all (laughs).
Kikuchi: It was to create a sense of isolation by not having any contact with the outside world.

--Rituals are the game's main theme - is that the kind of thing you like?

Shibata: They are indeed (laughs). I hadn't particularly collecting data on rituals, but I had some manga about that kind of thing. One of the ones I had was Daijirou Morohoshi's "Youkai Hunter" (Monster Hunter), the "Visitor of Darkness" chapterN2, and the situation is quite similar [to this game's]. Though it doesn't feature a frightening ritual or anything like that, it has spiritual beliefsN3 about crossing over to the spirit world, which have been beliefs in Japan since ancient times, and the protagonist makes contact with that and heads to the world beyond... It's a view of the world in which, long ago, festivals and other things were used to seal that away.

--So you used that as a basis, then fleshed it out with an original story?

Kikuchi: First of all, we settled on that kind of pace. Then, we wanted to pack in all of the scary stuff that should happen at a Japanese manorN4. But the whole thing got too big, so when it came to picking what to keep and what to ditch we had to do some pretty serious coordination.

Shibata: Well, Daijirou Morohoshi later realised that it was similar and we'd used him for reference. At first, of course, since ghosts are dead people we thought of the enemies being scary by having them die in the way you'd least want to dieN5. We kept thinking about what would be the absolute worst way, going, "Maybe like this...?" (Laughs)

--The "Biohazard" (Resident Evil) games are of the same lineage - were you aware of this?

Kikuchi: Those games are of a high standard, so naturally I know of them. But since Biohazard and Zero are aimed in such different direction I think of them as totally separate.

Note 1: A trap simulator released by Tecmo, which fuses fear with human drama. It's a game in which the player must stop invaders of the castle using traps.
Note 2: "Youkai Hunter" features heresiologist Reijirou Hieda, who encounters various strange things as the story progresses. "Visitor of Darkness" is one of its chapters about the "other world".
Note 3: Beliefs in which people believe in the existence of a world other than that of humans, as well as ghosts and the like. In Japan, too, anyone may believe in things such as hell and Takamagahara (heaven).
Note 4: There are 44 types of paranormal phenomena that occur within Himuro Mansion. Among those, being attacked by a crow at the shrine path is excellent. But are crows really paranormal phenomena?
Note 5: Perhaps having both arms and legs bound with ropes and then being torn apart is the most horrible way to die. No ritual like this actually exists - it is entirely Mr. Shibata's original work.

"Originally, we thought about using a sacred arrow to defeat them"

--The use of the camera as a weapon is really unique.

Shibata: Since the enemies are ghosts, at first we planned it so that light and a sacred Hamaya arrow would be used to defeat them. From the start, "horror games" have had it so that when an enemy gets close you've got to run away, and though you want to see the scary things if you do look the game makes it disadvantageous so you don't see... We thought about a system to overcome that kind of dilemma, and considered using a style where you can't defeat the ghosts without getting them right in the centre of the camera.

Kikuchi: We thought that the combination of having to wait until the very last second and being put in scary situations was best carried off using a camera.

--What difficulties did you face in making a camera the weapon?

Hasegawa: We went through many stages of experiments to give off the feeling of having sealed it away when releasing the shutter even when not causing any damage. We also experimented with many different versions of viewpoint for the viewfinder, but the world view now is a little strange, and since you get the feeling of peering through the viewfinder I think it's complete.

--Was the objective to have the game system utilise an old camera?

Shibata: I had that camera in my head from the start, in terms of design. I pictured a girl with a camera in an old mansion. We had decided that the protagonist would be a girl, and from a distance the camera looked like a handbag. Then we thought, "Could she manage to carry a huge camera aroundN6?" and that's how we decided to use that design.

Kikuchi: The design motif was based on a German military camera.

Shibata: Though it wasn't Japanese-style at all, it forcibly became Japanese... (laughs).

Kikuchi: Of course with old cameras, the quality of the photo depended on the skill of the photographer, right? Whether the hints were blurry and out of focus, or the exposures were skillful and turned out well. Going on that analogue feel, and wanting to give significance to the photographer, we put all our effort into that kind of design and system.

Shibata: We weren't quite sure how to make people understand that by taking a photo you're sucking in their soul, and trying to think of how to represent it was a real struggle.

Kikuchi: We redid the battle system itself many times, but I think the many restrictions were quite troubling for the planners. Iuchi was in charge of combat, so if he has any objections against me in this area... (laughs)

Iuchi: We certainly did change it over and over, but eventually made it into the most coordinated and complete form. Steadily taking photos, defeating enemies as the number of shots piles up, then when you're used to it letting them get a bit closer before you shoot. We gradually added situational elements.

--At first if you used too much film you'd be in real trouble (laughs).

Kikuchi: Actually watching people play the demo version from behind in the shop, it felt that way. We thought that by giving people a little more film they would by chance end up taking a good photo, and then want to try to take better pictures. It also allows you to play the game in various different ways.

--How did you decide on the ghosts' movements?

"I wanted to give each ghost their own personality, so people would remember them"

Iuchi: Often in games like this one, the monsters that appear in them either don't have any will and the major premise is that they're just bodies wandering around, or they're keen and incredibly strong creatures moving around like bodies. But in "Zero", they've lost their human forms. Basically, for human ghosts, I couldn't bring them to life without first thinking about how they died, and what they were thinking at the moment of death. I thought about what the ghosts would want now, and what they would to to appeal for help, their voice, and kept all this in mind while going for their movements. For some reason or other, I could imagine in my head how each one had diedN7. With monsters, you can't do this... After that, because it's boring when the ghosts are all just the same, I added some variation in movement, making them vanish and dive underground. I didn't really use anything as a reference. In Japanese films, ghosts often appear as part of a horror, but just because something is scary in itself that doesn't give them a reason to attack. I can't really remember using anything for reference.

Note 6: The Camera Obscura used by Miku appears to be able to fold up. When she is walking around on the screen, perhaps she is holding it under her arm?
Note 7: The hidden ghosts "Truth Seeker" and "Bound Man" were actually modelled on Mr. Shibata and Mr. Kikuchi. When you look at both ghosts' profiles, you will see that they both secretly had feelings for Kirie.
Note 8: "Broken Neck" is a ghost encountered in the Cherry Atrium during Night 2. Though she is a strong ghost with special attacks, after listening to this story your fear may change into attachment or affection.
Note 9: This is the scene in question, in which the Himuro Family Master goes mad. The moment when he cuts off the priest's head can be described in one word as "amazing". He would actually also cut off the head and cackle.

-- ...Imagining the manner of their deaths in your head?

Iuchi: Honestly, no one at all said, "Wow, that's scary!" - they said surprising things like, "Huh?", but as it were I thought it would be okay if people even just thought it was interesting or weird, so I wanted to try to get a grasp on each of the ghosts' individual personalities. If I could get them all to leave an impression, like, "This one is awful" or "This one was this kind of guy". For example, like the way "Broken NeckN8" died by breaking her neck when she falls from above is kind of similar to a UFO Catcher (laughs). During development I called that the "catcher attack" (all laugh). Well, while putting in my own personal play I tried not to make the fear too one dimensional or have them use a single pattern.

--Were there difficulties with balancing the ghosts' movements with the difficulty level?

Iuchi: We'd settled on an order in which the ghosts appeared, so based on that we varied and changed some things. For example, making sudden movements faster. There'd been no reason to worry so much about balancing at the start; it was just tossed in there, and I prepared myself for it, thinking, "Well, guess we've gotta do it in order."

--I got the impression that a lot of time had been spent closely refining the ghosts' personalities.

Iuchi: They're humans, so you can't change their colours or anything like that. There's nothing like them.

--Did you have nightmares or anything like that during development?

Iuchi: Well, I didn't, but... since I was the one doing something like a strange dance around people during development... (all laugh)

--The Himuro Family Master's scene was quite amazing.N9

Kikuchi: That was also considerably cut. To begin with it was much more grotesque... (laughs)

Kikuchi: For some reason, the especially brutal scenes tended to be the ones we often put lots of effort into. But then we'd go, "Ah, but we can't keep it like this" (laughs). We made cuts here and there, put more emphasis on certain angles, etc. This was all we were doing at the end.

--It's like self-censoring a movie (laughs). But it would've been interesting if they'd been put in.

Kikuchi: Yeah. Maybe we could sell them (laughs). Maybe we could put them in a Director's Cut-type version, and make it so that you have to take a secret route to get them (laughs).

"Human voices are really the scariest"

--Even as part of quite a scary production the effects of the sounds are quite creepy - were there any troubles with them?

Kikuchi: We were always concentrating quite hard on the sounds. This is a horror game, so of course it's important that the visuals are scary, but sounds are conveyed directly to the brain. Especially when you're using headphonesN10, even if you hide your eyes when you get scared you can't cover up your ears, can you? Because of that, sounds allow you to get a better grip on the atmosphere, and the timing of sounds that stir up a realistic feeling, Shibata gave really specific details about.

--Were there any sound effects you used as reference?

Shibata: Not really. Basically, there are lots of sound effects on foreign CDs, and not many are Japanese-style. Because of that we created them by combining them with foreign sound effects.

--Even in areas not directly related to the game there are things like banging noises, which are quite scary.

Hasegawa: Right. Just by walking around and not really doing anything at all can inadvertently create a spooky atmosphere. Things like a tree just falling, just by hearing some kind of sound the fear hits maximum... Maybe more than trying not to overproduce it, we wanted people to enjoy common fear. We thought about that in combination with the graphics.

--Sounds without a real meaning and things without a particular influence but seem to have some kind of meaning make it quite scary.

Kikuchi: Right. Those kinds of things were put in relatively close to the end to give the mansion a bit more of a sense of being, and to make things seem alive. Small details like something falling, or a strange noise, were inserted all ovr the place.

--Did you actually enjoy working on such a scary game?

Kikuchi: There were times when I input my ideas in quite high spirits, but Shibata cut them or told me to rethink them.

"Japanese ghosts are often quite beautiful"

--In my opinion, I feel like horror and eroticism are often elements that overlap - were the staff conscious of this while they were making the game?

Hasegawa: The first time I heard that the protagonist was a woman, I kind of felt that to some extent. When we were deciding on what age she would be, and what kind of personality she would have... Well, there's no reason to disclose too much, but saying that there's no reason to keep it so firmly guarded, either. There was close attention paid to what was left out and was was put in - it's a delicate design.

--The game's jacket has quite deep significance.N11

Kikuchi: Hmm, I guess so, but we didn't think too deeply about that. Unusual elements like fear and eroticism are quite different from the ordinary. I'm not sure how to put it... it's different from "insanity"... but seems as though the vector seemingly goes in the same direction. The "poison" humans have by nature, and the "instinctual" parts aren't extraordinary, so I think perhaps they aren't unrelated.

--Japanese horror tending to have the mood of "family" and "blood ties" seems like an unconscious reminder of Seishi Yokomizo.

p>Shibata: Of course lots of Japanese ghosts are female, many of which I would say would be categorised as being quite beautiful. Their spookiness isn't grotesque, but there's an aesthetic feeling put in there, which you won't get in other games, and I think that's interesting. I don't know if it shows in the game, but for their image we kept in mind the aesthetic elements.

--On one BBS there are lots of posts, and Miku is really popular.

Shibata: Why could that be? (laughs)

Kikuchi: We hadn't planned to sell the character that much, but I'm really grateful for that.

Hasegawa: When I read it, I thought it was influenced by things Mr. Shibata was aiming for.

Shibata: Even in Japanese films, there are lots of female protagonists.

Kikuchi: Basically, since the enemies are ghosts a woman would have a stronger sixth sense than a burly man. Furthermore, in youth that sense is even stronger, so we went that way.

--The concept images for the protagonist, etc. are done in a style reminiscent of 60s/70s era horror and manga.

Hasegawa: I wasn't particularly aware of that. It isn't prominent in the game. I started off with [the image] feeling closer to a real photographN12, so I didn't really see the need to question the design. But I thought that perhaps, if it was too realistic and photo-like, that the character would lose their personality.

--Her costume can be changed - was it you, Mr. Shibata, who came up with the ganguro idea?

Shibata: The ganguroN13 thing was Hasegawa's idea (laughs).

Kikuchi: Though at first I didn't think we should put it in. When I saw it, I thought "this is it!" laughs).

"We wanted it to be a 'traumatic' game"

--Finally, one by one, please give your messages to the players.

Iuchi: Personally, I think that the atmosphere and the finer details of the ghosts' movements, and the balance of the entire game, feels to have been packed in really well. Combined with tactics you use against the ghosts, I hope people enjoy it.

Hasegawa: I hope people explore the mansion from top to bottom. Even when you only want to taste fear, look around lots of different places. You never know where something's going to appear. Then, when you get used to them, you should take time to carefully check out the ghosts (laughs). Take time to see how their death is represented, and look at the various facial expressions stemming from their character. Look at them closely through the viewfinder so you can get a taste of all of this.

Shibata: The only thing I can think of for the time being is that I wanted it to be a traumatic game (laughs). Those who will play it, and those who play it now, I hope you enjoy it so much it finds a place in a corner of your heart.

Kikuchi: Is it alright to say you want it to be traumatic? (Laughs)

Shibata: No, I want it to be a game that leaves a kind of intense impression. Like the way I'd go "that game's scary", even though I only did it a little when I was young (laughs).

Kikuchi: It was made so that there really are loads of different ways to play it, so I hope people try out lots of play styles for themselves.

Kikuchi: Kikuchi: We really did make it so that there are lots of different ways to play it, so I hope people try out various play methods for themselves.

--Thank you for today.

Note 10: "Zero" ustilises a "pseudo-surround system", which allows players wearing headphones to notice the appearance of a ghost not only by the filament, but also by sound.
Note 11: This is the "deeply significant" jacket art. Miku, who of course has ropes wrapped around her wrists and is stretched out on the ground in a reddish room, has some kind of erotic scent about her. This also appears to have been one of Mr. Shibata's concepts...
Note 12: A rough conceptual image of Miku sketched by Mr. Hasegawa. The impression it gives is just the same as the in-game graphics. It's simple, but has some kind of nostalgic atmosphere about it.
Note 13: Other than ganguro, Miku has two other costumes. The version with heavy make-up was suggested by Mr. Shibata, and the one in which she wears leather gloves was proposed by Mr. Kikuchi.