Originally posted on 5 December 2014
Source: Complete Guide, page 163-166

Fatal Frame V: Interview with the Creators

We spoke with six of Nuregarasu no Miko's creators about events during development and their thoughts towards Zero. How did the potential of the two new additions change Zero?

A new Zero, capitalising upon the merits of the Wii U

―This is the fourth project to be jointly developed by Koei Tecmo Games and Nintendo. Please tell us about the events that led up to its development.

Kikuchi: A big part of it was new hardware, in the form of the Wii U, coming out. Just like when I saw the Wii when we were making Tsukihami no Kamen and I thought, "Well this is a console where we can have intuitive controls," when I saw the Wii U gamepad I felt as though it could be used as the Camera Obscura. I thought that if we used it in a game, it would allow us to create a scary experience full of realism. I wanted to realise the catchphrase, "delivering horror to your living room," and started discussing it.

Ohtani: We all began thinking from the fundamental point of whether we should really continue on with a "Japanese style" as the theme, and all kinds of ideas were presented, but we all arrived at the mutual consensus that what we should aim for with Zero was the absolute scariest game.

Izuno: The first thing I thought was that, instead of trying to get the game out to a broader, more general range of customer, we should make current fans of the series and people who like horror think, "This game is really scary!"

―So you narrowed it down to being aimed at enthusiasts.

Izuno: The Wii U is Nintendo's HD console, and I thought it would have to be the hardcore fans who would be the first to leap on board with such high-spec hardware, so we did narrow down the target.

Osawa: The so-called early adopters (people who are sensitive to the trends and are assertive at taking on board and purchasing new products), yes. I thought that the horror genre would be a good fit for the customers' image of the hardware, and appeal to them in various ways.

―Who made the initial approach: Koei Tecmo Games or Nintendo?

Kikuchi: Just like with Shinku no Chou, I was the one who made the proposal. It's sort of like, if it's something that seems like we can commercialise, then we'll begin planning from there and discuss it as it takes form.

Izuno: The way I produce games focuses on getting the merits out of the hardware, but the Wii U's gamepad really is a perfect fit for Zero's Camera Obscura, so I definitely wanted us to make it.

―Were there any things about the new Wii U console that you found troublesome, or contrarily found good?

Kikuchi: It was really hard to utilise the hardware's special traits and actually make it look like you're really taking photos with a camera, so every day was repetitive trial and error. However, with regards to the Wii U itself, its architecture is different to that of the Wii, but I felt like it was a simple and fascinating console to develop for.

―How about the fact that it's an HD console?

Kikuchi: Since the hardware's power of expression has increased, we had to pay quite some attention to how things look. Particularly how the water is shown, or the sexiness of a woman when her clothes get wet - everything was made with the utmost attention to even the finer details. If it's too clear, though, the scariness is lessened. Shibata and I met with everyone at Nintendo over and over again face to face to discuss things like the brightness and darkness that would give us a good balance between fear and realism, and did lots of fine-tuning.

Izuno: I really strongly felt that we couldn't simply use smoke and mirrors.

Osawa: The clarity of the image is not inextricably linked to the scariness. If you just outright show something, you take away the margin for imagination. Because of that, we had to carefully make scary things.

Shibata: Another thing we really struggled with was whether we should go on as we have so far, with Zero-ish anime-style, cartoonish looks, or make it realistic-looking. Eventually - as you can see by looking at the game - we kept the established balance, with detailed visuals. I thought it would be of more value not to change the game's taste.

Osawa: The theme for this game is "water", so we paid particular attention to how things change when they become wet, and went after it thoroughly. Like Mr. Kikuchi said before, that was the women's wet clothing and the water's surface. It's quite technical to make these things using CG, but the staff had a shared mentality that Zero would be the optimum title with which to challenge such a difficult issue.

―Speaking of the staff, Mr. Ohtani and Mr. Sakamoto were added for this game - did anything change with their addition?

Osawa: The sexiness and brutality, I guess (laughs).

All: (laugh)

Kikuchi: We got ideas for sexy elements from Mr. Sakamoto, and Mr. Ohtani proposed a lot of scary things. Highlighting feminine charm acts as a counter and makes the scariness stand out better. I also thought that it might show a new kind of charm to people who have played the rest of the series, so happily accepted the proposal.

Osawa: Izuno and I have something called the "Nintendo Horror Club", often going and seeing horror films together, and Ohtani is a member as well.

Ohtani: Yeah. I've had interest in Zero for a while now, so asked to join in as part of the Horror Club and was allowed.

Izuno: His preferences seem to lean towards splatter or violent horror, though.

Osawa; That's why he's "head of brutality" (laughs).

Izuno: Sakamoto was an advisor to draw out the characters' charms, and was also in charge of the technical side of things.

Sakamoto: The Zero series' games are also attractive because of the beauty and sexiness of their female characters, so I gave opinions on what's my specialist field.

Ohtani: Mainly "head of sexy" (laughs).

Osawa: Not a role you see often at Nintendo (laughs).

Izuno: I also wanted to put in an objective viewpoint that we hadn't had in Zero so far, so those two were added, and in the end I think the team became quite interesting.

Efforts to show visuals with an analogue feeling

―In contrast to the cleanness of the HD quality, I also saw many videos with blurry analogue quality; did you make them this way on purpose?

Shibata: We were quite conscious of it, yes. Opinion was divided at first, and some people said we should have rich videos with realism to them, but we used ones for movies of the past and Mitori scenes so in the end it has an even stronger analogue feel than ever before.

―What kind of solutions did you come up with to strengthen that analogue feeling?

Shibata: We created the base movies normally, but recorded them playing on a monitor using a digital camera, and performed dubbing at 3x mode using a VHS tape we bought at a 100 yen shop. Then we re-digitized it.

Kikuchi: We pulled the dubbed film out of the video tape and crumpled it up, then smoothed it back out and played it - all kinds of things.

Ohtani: Isn't it really, really important how you do it? You only get one shot at it.

Shibata: We tested it out one time, and once we had a feel for what worked we did it all in one recording.

Sakamoto: It's interesting that you didn't create an analogue feeling using digital methods, but actually created them in an analogue way.

Shibata: There's an item called the Spirit Stone Radio in Akai Chou, and to give that an analogue sense as well we made an actual crystal radio, sending the voices as radio waves that were picked up by the radio, and used that.

Osawa: You even made the crystal radio!?

Shibata: Yeah. We tuned the radio to the voice, and recorded from beside it (laughs).

―It takes a surprising number of methods and ideas to create just a sense of analogue-ness, doesn't it?

Seeking a scarier "Zero"

Izuno: I was the one who proposed Mitori videos as a new element to show scariness. When I was thinking about what would be the scariest thing to put into a Zero aiming to be the scariest in the series, I arrived at the conclusion that nothing could be scarier than the scene of someone dying. Moments of death that make you instinctively want to avert your eyes, something you don't want to see but end up looking at. Zero deals with the ghosts of people after they die, so I wondered what had happened to those ghosts in their dying moments. I wanted to show those in videos.

Shibata: We've been talking about wanting to have a game themed around a famous suicide spot since the start, and the talk of showing their moment of death settled it. You did say you wanted to play around with that more, though, didn't you?

Izuno: Things like the player themselves intervening in their dying moments, and perhaps saving them (laughs). There were honestly lots of other things I wanted to try, but we couldn't do them.

Osawa: The idea was to rescue people who had died in horrible ways from their situations and help them to be at peace.

Shibata: I did think, though, that situations shouldn't often be resolved in horror. If the situation gradually improves, you'll end up feeling like there are more and more safe areas. I think that taking things in a bad direction is more horror-like, so the idea was dropped.

Osawa: However, the keyword of "rescue" itself remained afterwards, and the role of searching for people who had gone missing was given to the protagonist.

Izuno: From the start, we had the general idea set up that we were going to use paranormal spots and spiriting aways as themes. There are all kinds of paranormal spots - like mountains, tunnels and lakes - aren't there? We thought of a system where each time you would go to a place like this, rescue someone and bring them back.

Osawa: Everyone is interested in paranormal locations, but doesn't want to actually go to one. That's a motif in this game, so I think it'll be interesting if you imagine which place you're supposed to be in as you play.

Ideas about the surveillance cameras

―The surveillance cameras were an interesting idea.

Shibata: That was an element that underwent quite a lot of reduction before it arrived at its current form. If we did too much of it it would become annoying.

Osawa: For a while, we tried to make a game that used only CCTV cameras. You would spend the whole time keeping watch, and when a ghost appeared you would go, "There!" and take a photo.

Izuno: We also had the idea of a game where you could look at other CCTV cameras and think, "This place is bad, so I should run over here."

―Were you aiming for a standalone game mode like Shinku no Chou's Haunted House Mode?

Kikuchi: No; it was supposed to come in the middle of the story, but still feel like a game, I suppose.

Shibata: There was a time, before the project began, when I was thinking of having a network mode.

Osawa: Maybe you might make one in the near future?

Shibata: It would be something like, if you go yourself you don't notice, but someone else can see it on the surveillance camera, and see where it is. I wonder if maybe it would be possible to make a game like that requiring cooperation.

Ohtani: In that case, I'd like to be able to play as a ghost and scare people.

Sakamoto: I'm the kind of person who wants to peek at hidden things, so I'd be on the surveillance team. You know, like watching someone be attacked by ghosts.

Izuno: What, you wouldn't help them!?

All: (laughs)

Osawa: Sakamoto's love is warped like that.

The "wetness" system, taking hints from DoA

―Could you please tell us about how you arrived at the "wetness" keyword?

Osawa: I think I was the one who suggested it... There's a system in Dead or Alive 5 where the characters sweat, but I wondered if there wasn't also a way to use it to express the scariness of water in a horror game.

Sakamoto: I liked Dead or Alive 5, and since it was also a game by Koe Tecmo Games I really wanted to use it to highlight the sexy elements. I had only thought of it as a kind of visual thing, but we thought we had to tie it to gameplay in the Nintendo way.

Shibata: We did quite a lot of talking about how to tie it into gameplay and make it interesting. All we really had at first, though, was simply getting wet, or making it much easier to encounter ghosts. I thought maybe we could do a bit more with it.

Osawa: I really thought we had to think about how to directly tie what happens when you get wet into the gameplay.

Shibata: At first, I'd thought so far as getting wet being the end - something like, you couldn't get in the water, and being wet meant death. So I hadn't thought of what would happen after you get wet.

Osawa: Yomi Nure is the remnant of that. You get all blackened and wet, and there's nothing good about it. We made it into a really brutal attack.

Shibata: But you did say you wanted it to have gameplay-related merits too, didn't you?

Osawa: Don't you think it would only be stressful if it was all bad things? If for example you have something like a drop in defence but an increase in attack power, or lots of enemies appear but you earn lots of points - I wanted a sort of balance like that. Then, when I was talking to you about giving it some kind of merits if it just involved normally getting wet, the staff around us agreed and got excited, and it was pretty much decided then and there.

Shibata: Come to think of it, we also had the idea of not drinking Sacred Water, but pour it onto yourself.

Osawa: We did. Something like, when you used Sacred Water you'd get the option whether to "pour" or "drink" it (laughs).

Deciding the backgrounds for the protagonists

―Three protagonists appear in this game; were their individualities decided from quite early on?

Shibata: We did switch things around a few times. The pre-development stage lasted for quite a long time.

Osawa: Yuuri was the only one who was designed quite quickly.

Kikuchi: In the initial stages, we had already decided to put in one male character. Then we also decided upon having Yuuri as a main character, and struggled with whether to make the last one Ayane or Miku Hinasaki. Even though we ended up putting both in.

Shibata: At first, the third one was Miku. But her story had already ended in a previous game, so...

Kikuchi: When I was first handed the data, the name read "Miu Hinasaki", so I thought, "What, did you typo the name of the heroine we've had since game 1 for 13 years now?" But when I took a closer look it had "Miku Hinasaki's daughter" written there, and when I asked, "Who's the father!?" I was told, "That's a secret." (laughs)

Shibata: A male character was put in because at first I wanted someone to film movies. Someone to look at the mountain from a different perspective. I was thinking that cameraman have a masculine image to them, when Osawa made the proposal, "I want them to have a relationship like Detective Akechi and Kobayashi."

Osawa: This game is about searching for people, and I thought, well, that's what detectives do, isn't it; how about Kogoro Akechi and Kobayashi? We thought over it a bit from there, and started talking about a character who, unlike Kobayashi, isn't a young boy.

Sakamoto: When we didn't know whether Rui was male or female, I said that both could work...

Izuno: What are you talking about? (laughs)

Osawa: When Sakamoto said that, I thought it was a good idea and got on board. It's quite cute to have someone putting on airs of the opposite sex, don't you think? It's quite nice for them as a person to try their hardest to suppress their own sexuality, under some kind of restraint, and quite patiently putting up with it (laughs).

Shibata: We haven't spoken anywhere yet about whether Rui is male or female.

Osawa: Back when the teaser video came out, there was quite a lot of talk amongst the fans about it. I'm perfectly happy with all of the fans making their own interpretations.

―Please tell us how Ayane was selected to be a collaboration character.

Izuno: I saw a picture of Ayane being used in Sakamoto's proposal, wanted to have her in Zero, and went to speak to Koei Tecmo Games about it.

Ohtani: It started with us thinking that maybe utilising a popular character from one of Koei Tecmo Games' titles might broaden the fanbase.

Osawa: Ayane is, even in Dead or Alive, a quite dark and shadowy character, so I did think she would fit Zero's worldview. There were other candidates, but I was sort of too indifferent to them...

Sakamoto: When Dead or Alive 5 came around, Ayane's model was updated, and I felt something really charming from it. I initially thought it would be nice to just use that model as-is as part of a collaboration with Zero.

Osawa: But in the end we made a new one from scratch.

The characters' costumes

―About the characters' costumes - there seem to be some people who say that no one would wear those outfits to a horror spot.

Kikuchi: You could say that about the whole series.

Osawa: You climb a mountain in this game, so we made her shoes into sort of hiking boots.

Shibata: Mr. Ohtani did say with regards to the outfit, "Why not a skirt?" She climbs a mountain, though, and she has her personal background, so Yuuri ended up in hotpants.

Ohtani: It was settled by having a skirt as a bonus costume.

Osawa: She is wearing a top that has a similar fluttery feel to it in terms of design as a skirt. You do see the hotpants, though. Perhaps it still makes you happy to catch a glimpse of them? (laughs)

Sakamoto: Her hotpants are black and you can't tell their shape at all, so I put forward some opinions about putting light on certain lines to be suggestive.

Osawa: Look at all this care and attention (laughs).

Kikuchi: We retroactively designed the outfits in the game to make them look pretty when they get wet and cling to the body.

Osawa: When they're dry they flutter, and when they're wet they cling.

Shibata: When I think of it now, Yuuri's bikini was at first really hard to obtain, but Mr. Sakamoto said, "We should make this unlock sooner," so we changed the unlock conditions.

Sakamoto: If it takes too long, or you make the unlock conditions too hard, only the really hardcore fans will get to see it, right? I was hoping that the topic of the bikini would start heating up about a week after release.

Shibata: Even if it actually started about three days afterwards (laughs).

Sakamoto: It was so quick (laughs). Miu's gravure bikini is a bit more difficult, but you would know that there was another one, so we upped the unlock difficulty here.

Osawa: One day, Sakamoto insisted, "We've got to change the difficulty!" The other staff agreed, so Izuno asked Ohtani and myself, "Can we change it?" and I thought, well, why not?

Shibata: Osawa specifically phoned me, so I thought we had no choice but to change it (laughs).

Kikuchi: It was around the time at the end of development when we should really stop making changes, so I felt like, "You want to change it now!? Are there other, more important things?" And it ended up being a case of, "No, it is important." (laughs)

Osawa: I was told that it was really important in the sense of creating a buzz around the game, so I agreed.

Shibata: We put a hidden goth loli costume in each game, so I wanted to put something into this one as well and was talking about it with the designer, and we ended up talking about how, since the theme was water, it should be a bikini, and after doing some discussing we ended up with the current design.

About the future of the Zero series

―Finally, if you could please each give a comment on the future of the Zero series.

Izuno: I've done some exploring to see if there's any other fun things we can use the gamepad for besides a camera, but couldn't incorporate it into this game, so I'd like to try out those things next time.

Ohtani: I have ideas about trying to change Zero. I'd like to have a think about what kind of a Zero we could make that would be played worldwide.

Sakamoto: I think there are lots of people who aren't so great with horror games and maintain a respectful distance, so I hoped that the emphasis on the sexiness in this game will have acted as a gateway that makes people think, "This is scary, but I want to give it a go." I hope to make another chance for people to find it fun to play if we make a sequel.

Osawa: Out of the things Mr. Shibata and I spoke about in the initial planning stages about what to do next, there are two things we didn't use in this game. If we do another, I'd like to make use of those unused things somehow. It would be quite different to the current Zero, though.

Shibata: This game began by destroying Zero, and was made with the hope that different customers to usual would be brought in, but I think upon reflection that maybe the crucial scariness of the ghosts was a bit lacking. I'd like one more time to use a system where you're scared but can avoid it to rework Japanese horror.

Kikuchi: We made the first Zero game in 2001, and the year after next it will welcome in its 15th anniversary. It's something that could be called Shibata and my life work, but with some new impetus... be it the appearance of a new console, or some kind of anniversary, with some kind of timing like that I hope we can start planning. We're starting to exhaust the ideas that have already been used as far as horror games go, so I'd like to keep stocking up on ideas to create a new fear.

―I've started getting excited for the next Zero game! Thank you all for your time today.

Koei Tecmo Games
Software division, Ichigaya dev team 2 head
Keisuke Kikuchi
Koei Tecmo Games
Software division, Ichigaya dev team 2
Makoto Shibata
Planning & development, software creation group 3
Toshiharu Izuno
Planning & development, software creation group 1
Tohru Osawa
Planning & development, software creation group 3
Akira Ohtani
Planning & development, software creation group 1
Yuki Sakamoto
Producer of all Zero games, including this one, and father of the series. He was in charge of overall concept management and product management on the game. Director of the entire Zero series, who has created it with Mr. Kikuchi. He was in charge of general creation, including system, story and characters. Has participated in development of the Zero series since Tsukihami no Kamen. Worked on the game's overall concept. Horror is one of his hobbies, and he seeks a fusion between substantial fear and fun. Joined the Zero series with Mr. Izuno for Tsukihami no Kamen. Has worked on many hits at Nintendo. Cooperated with Mr. Shibata on the game's story and ideas for world settings. Joined development on the Zero series with this game. Possesses dep knowledge of splatter and violent horror, and gave ideas about the game's scariness from a new perspective. Joined the Zero series on this game along with Mr. Ohtani. Both he and others recognise his skill at drawing out the charms of female characters. Brings a new value to Zero.