Originally posted on 22 October 2011
Last edited on 14 January 2016
Source: Official site 1, Official site 2

Fatal Frame: Why Zero Was Born

Reprint of the article featured in the 21/12 issue of Weekly The PlayStation 2, SoftBank Publishing

Fear is one of the emotions that everyone has

―The first thing I would like to ask is why you decided to make a game themed around fear that features ghosts.

Kikuchi: I think that fear is an emotion that everybody shares. I thought that this might allow more people to enjoy it, and so chose the theme of "fear". In the past I worked on the Deception series, whose selling point was its dark atmosphere and new game system, but for the time being we had done all we could with that series, so next I wanted to try pushing the theme of fear further, and that's how it began.

―And why did you choose to give it a Japanese taste?

Kikuchi: I think that Japaneseness has a kind of everyday quality to it - what I mean by this is that Japanese players will probably come into contact more with Japanese-style things. Crazy - that is to say abnormal - things happen in the game, and I think that combining that with normality gives the game presence and creates empathy, so we went with Japanese.

Shibata: Japanese houses have things like the shadows of sliding doors, under the floor, attics and the like that have this darkness that seems like something is lurking inside it, right? We made it in a Japanese style because I wanted to show that darkness.

―So you wanted to incorporate the spaces that are unique to Japanese culture. Come to think of it, the details of the prologue have changed quite significantly from what they were immediately following the introductory article.

Kikuchi: They changed, yes.

―In what way?

Kikuchi: We wanted the introductory tutorial and the reason why the protagonist enters the manner to be a bit clearer. Not to mention that the situation of starting inside a car and entering a western-style building would collide with "another game" in terms of image...

The effects on ghosts I saw as a child were dull (laughs)

Shibata: We worked quite hard on the ghosts. The ghosts I saw as a child had fairly dull, muted effects.

―Just having seen a ghost is amazing enough, but you even saw the effects? (laughs)

Kikuchi: When I asked how we were going to represent the ghosts, Shibata gave the mysterious comment of, "We'll create the ones I saw in my dream."

Hasegawa: So, based off of Mr. Shibata's words, we added more staff who specialisd in effects and worked in earnest.

―In order to create the ideal ghost.

Shibata: But the ghosts I see in my dreams are being upgraded. At first we had the upper hand, but the ghosts I've seen lately have had amazing effects that make me think, "Uh oh, we might lose to this!" (laughs).

Hasegawa: That takes layer upon layer of effects, which also makes processing unusually slow.

Kikuchi: This ended up being cut, of course.

―That's quite a fixation on the ghosts. TV shows and movies that deal with the theme of ghosts often perform purifications. Did you do anything like this?

Kikuchi: I wanted to, but Shibata asked not to, saying it wouldn't be scary if we did, so we're using the fact that we've not had a purification as a selling point (laughs).

Shibata: Not that it will sell anything (laughs).

Kikuchi: Yeah, it won't, but that's the path we chose. There are actually people on the team who believe in curses, so they worked with charms hanging around their necks.

Shibata: I said, "We don't need to do a purification. If we did it wouldn't be scary," but I did put up a talisman at least. For some reason, though, it would always come off when I sat down...

―So no one was actually cursed or anything? Like, for example, coming down with a high fever?

Shibata: I don't think a high fever would be caused by a curse (laughs). But I did hear from one person that they had been hit on the head in the middle of the night, had their hair pulled, stuff like that.

Kikuchi: Well, with trivial things like that - with the state of mind everyone was working in, some of it was kind of questionable.

Shibata: Things like finding lots of female hair lying around in my room, despite there not being a female presence.

Kikuchi: That's different, though, isn't it? Though that's suspicious for different reasons... (all burst out laughing)

―Were there any books or films you used as reference?

Kikuchi: We did a lot of research. We of course watched everything from Japanese-style horror movies to major things and old horror movies that would be called the standard. We wanted to use a film-like framework and film-like depictions to draw out fear, so we also referenced old war films.

You have to stay close up until the last second, withstanding the fear and then defeating it

―The camera is a key item. Did you plan to use it as a weapon all along? Were there any other weapons?

Shibata: We initially discussed not being able to defeat [enemies] and having to stun them with your torch, and we also had a lot of other ideas about how to defeat them such as putting up talismans or using a hamaya, but, based on the concept "Staying up close until the last second, withstanding the fear and then defeating it - that's what has been missing from horror so far" we decided that the camera was a fitting weapon. There are lots of legends about spirit photography and having your soul sucked out if you're right in the middle, so this idea of there being something ghostly about it was another big factor. It was also congruent with the idea that if we were going to make something new, it had to use a concept that no one had ever seen before.

―Did you also want the camera to be customisable from the beginning?

Kikuchi: We didn't have the element of the main character growing, so we gave the battle feedback to the camera.

I think we managed to represent the comfort of surpassing fear

―I felt like there were parts of the effects during events where you focused quite hard on the scariness, too.

Kikuchi: A lot of that has to do with Shibata's senses. He's quite prone to running wild, though, so I had to calm him down a lot as well.

Shibata: As you can see on the website, it's based on my own scary experiences. Things I saw in dreams, too.

Kikuchi: For example, in the beginning Shibata couldn't convey the kind of movements the ghosts should be doing, and ended up doing motion capture (laughs). Of course, that wouldn't have been good, so we had it done by a specialist. Shibata has really carefully supervised every little part of this game.

Shibata: We worked hard on things like the sound, using quasi surround sound so that you can feel the direction and location from which the sound is coming, so I hope people play it in a dark room using headphones.

―Then finally, would you please give us a message to the players in the lead-up to its release?

Hasegawa: What we really worked hard on in terms of visuals was the fear of using your torch to illuminate the darkness as you investigate. I think that we mnaged to cleanly show the balance of light and shadow whilst compromising with the ghosts, so please take a look.

Shibata: It's a bit weird, but the game does "comfortable darkness" well. We've incorporated a lot of elements, so I think you'll be able to play it for a long time. Just please keep it with you forever.


Shibata: It might sound kind of strange, but I'm talking about the comfort of actual ghost spots - not things like haunted houses at theme parks. For some reason, I feel comfortable in those places.

Hasegawa: That's really weird.

Shibata: I guess you could say that they're calming - in any case, we managed to capture the unique atmosphere of places like ghost spots quite well. I think we managed to put in that feeling like when you stay there too long it suddenly starts to feel comfortable, as if you're going to be dragged into the other side.

Kikuchi: We made it so that it would be perfectly enjoyable both as a horror game and as an action game, so please look for each of the ways to enjoy it.

―Thank you for your time.