Interviewer: Rolling Uchizawa
Interview date: 28 June 2000, at Spike
Uchizawa: I would like to make this interview not only about the game, but also something from which both your personalities can be read. First of all, would you both tell me what "scariness" and "fear" are to you, and what you think about this emotion?
Haraki: Right. Hmm...
Uchizawa: Don't think too hard about it. What are scary things to you, then, Mr. Haraki?
Haraki: I'm not good with ghost-related things. Before, when I was living by myself, I used to get sleep paralysis often. It doesn't happen now, though. But back then it happened tens of times, and honestly I was ending up with sleep paralysis once a week. I can't stand things like ghosts that send chills through you from the bottom of your soul. I actually don't find splatter that scary, though. It's the things that you can't perceive with your eyes that are scary. They're things you struggle to identify by yourself. People often initially identify things visually, don't they?
Uchizawa: Right. Things that show up visually are the richest source of information. What about you, Ms. Takami?
Takami: I'm the same way with splatters - I can't help but take them as a work of entertainment, so they don't scare me. On the other hand, I find realistic things rooted in daily life much scarier, like for example being home alone and the TV turning on by itself, the lights going off, or feeling like something's tapping you on the shoulder.
Uchizawa: I see. Everyday things. Then would the two of you say that it's realistic and psychological things that are scarier than unrealistic situations such as the fear that comes from being attacked by zombies?
Haraki: Yes, that's right.
Uchizawa: Then you probably don't watch things like splatter movies often, do you?
Takami: No, I do, but I end up focusing on things like how well-made it is, or how great the blood looks when it comes out. I don't really view them from a horror perspective.
Haraki: I don't watch them when I want to be scared. I end up paying attention to the depictions and production.
Uchizawa: I see. Personally, I think that a lot of popular horror games right now are splatter-style games. On the other hand, I wonder if the reason why you didn't take it in the same direction as Twilight Syndrome, with its physical expression of fear with blood and reality-divorced grotesqueness, was because you had an interest in a different sort of fear and thought that it would be scary.
Haraki: Yes. That's true.
Takami: That, and it's also of course a sequel to Twilight Syndrome, which is a ghost game with no defeating of enemies and where ghosts appear due to some sort of emotion, both of which were symbols of the previous games' systems and staging, so we wanted to write this game's story based on that as well.
Uchizawa: What do you both think about the existence of ghosts?
Haraki: Well, I guess they exist. I wouldn't know at all, though, since outside of sleep paralysis I've never felt any sort of ghostly presence. But sometimes during the night, when I'm staying late at the office, I do occasionally get a strange feeling like something's there. Generally, then, I guess they exist, whether you'd call them ghosts or souls.
Uchizawa: Vaguely speaking?
Haraki: Yes. Like, I gueeeess they exist (laughs).
Uchizawa: You mean you suppose there might actually be ghosts due to the experiences you've had with sleep paralysis and the intuitive information that something might be there?
Haraki: Hmm. When I go to visit a grave I just kind of get this sort of feeling that I guess something might be there?
Uchizawa: Like a sort of shiver?
Haraki: Yeah (laughs).
Uchizawa: That's interesting.
Haraki: It's also kind of sad to think that when a living thing dies, there really is nothing left behind.
Uchizawa; You mean that maybe something immaterial like a soul still remains?
Haraki: Right. I think so.
Haraki: What do you think about the existence of ghosts, Ms. Takami?
Takami: I'm not sure about ghosts, but I do think that maybe something similarly spirit-like does exist somewhere, although frankly speaking I'd die of shock if one of them took form and appeared to me (laughs). I'd just like to believe that they don't exist in any visible form.
Uchizawa: Even though you deny their appearance as something visual that can be seen, you think they might exist in an immaterial form?
Takami: I hope so. I do wonder whether my late grandpa and others are still around even now. I just don't want them to show up in a way that I can see (laughs).
Uchizawa: Are there other things you find scary? They don't need to be material. It can even be something psychological. Like being afraid of someone getting mad at you.
Haraki: Something scary... How about Takami? (laughs)
Haraki: He gets mad and says, "Hey, hurry up and do your work." I'm kidding, though (laughs). Hmm, yeah. I'm not sure if you'd call them scary things, but there are things I don't like.
Uchizawa: What things are they?
Haraki: I hate caterpillars. When I was young, there happened to be a caterpillar walking around in the back garden of the house that popped out in front of my eyes suddenly, and ever since then I've hated seeing them.
Uchizawa: What if a hundred caterpillars came raining down on your head?
Haraki: Oh. God. I'd cry. I'd get down on my knees and apologise (laughs).
Uchizawa: What is it about caterpillars that you don't like?
Haraki: Well, I guess... the way they move, the colour of them, things like that. I just can't stand them.
Uchizawa: What about earthworms? Do they bother you?
Haraki: Oh, I'm totally fine with earthworms and things like that. I used to handle worms as bait like it was nothing when I would go fishing.
Uchizawa: Are you okay with arthropods? Like centipedes?
Haraki: Those are fine.
Uchizawa: Would you be really scared if a caterpillar went near you?
Haraki: Hmm, I'd probably flip out.
Uchizawa: What do you find scary, then, Ms. Takami?
Takami: I don't mind insects, but what springs to mind instantly when I think about scary things is when I was driving and got on the Shuto Expressway.
Uchizawa: The Shuto Expressway?
Takami: Right. When I'm driving and get on the Shuto Expressway I hate it. I lose the ability to drive. I have to stop at a hard shoulder and have my friend in the passenger seat take over. I can't get along with waves of such speed as that.
Uchizawa: Are you okay with downtown roads?
Takami: Yes. I'm totally fine with those, and I can cope with other expressways, but the Shuto one scares me.
Uchizawa: We've heard about the things you both find scary. Are you afraid of eventually crashing and having an accident on the Shuto Expressway?
Takam: I think it's to do with getting lost and not being able to find my way back.
Uchizawa: Getting lost and not being able to find your way back... I see, I see. It's the fear of that.
Haraki: There's one more thing I find scary, too. I'm afraid of roller coasters. The feeling that you're going to fall off scares me.
Uchizawa: I see; Shuto Expressway and roller coasters. Does the fear of roller coasters come from the idea that the safety belt might come undone and throw you to your death?
Haraki: Yeah. I don't like to think about it.
Uchizawa: And with Shuto Expressway, it's that you might go off somewhere and vanish.
Takami: It might be anxiety more than fear.
Uchizawa: Ah, anxiety.
Takami: I think, what do I do, what do I do?
Uchizawa: Anxiety leads to fear, after all.
Takami: Yes, I suppose it might.
Uchizawa: If you probe into the emotion of fear, I think it goes in a negative direction, like yourself dying or vanishing. I suppose fear is tied to the image of death. Having played this Twilight Syndrome game, I found the depiction of a psychological fear within daily life to be relatively well done. Hearing you talk, I felt like your thinking as creators shows itself well within. I'd like to ask about what kinds of depictions you used to reflect that sort of fear within the game. For example, was it in the sound, the graphics, the text, or the composition?
Takami: I think the part of the story I can say that makes it different from other horrors is that you don't have someone attacking you, like there are no zombies jumping out of graves to make you scream, but there has to be something - I guess you would say feelings or attachments dwelling within something material - and if you do something to destroy it, that person's emotions, their ghost will appear, I think. I think that sort of staging and composition is the most symbolic part of it.
Haraki: In zombie movies you have zombies hopping out of totally unrelated graves and attacking people, right? It's not like that, but rather something like a person's feelings there.
Takami: That's right.
Uchizawa: How about in terms of the game system?
Haraki: Honestly, in terms of those sorts of expressions of fear, a lot of it is left to the scenario... The main goal on the programming side was to make it easy to play. It's a game, so having it be difficult to play would just end up being stressful.
Uchizawa: In what sorts of ways do you mean?
Haraki: It's something pretty vague, but we make it pretty gentlely guiding you onwards and onwards. With the series so far, if you get stuck in a mystery even just once it's like okay, it's over, and that means you have to go back through what you've already done all over again. If you end up repeating this over and over and seeing the same scenes again and again like this, it feels like you sort of lose that chilling feeling you got at the start. We tried to make it in a way that wouldn't stress out the player, doing things like creating shortcuts so you can start part-way through, or trying our best to make it clear where you need to go by displaying it on the map.
Uchizawa: This game takes place in a shut-off space (town). Why did you choose to do this?
Takami: I've never done kokkuri-san myself. There wouldn't be a sense of danger if you did it in a wide open space, but if you did it in a place where there were some sort of human emotions there, you feel like you might end up summoning some sort of spirit who moves the 10 yen coin. We thought that if we didn't have it in an isolated sort of space, we wouldn't really be able to bring out those human emotions.
Uchizawa: I see. The fear of a closed-off space... Is that why places like a school and a hospital appear?
Takami: That's right. It feels like there'd be a sense of values there that I guess other people wouldn't get. If it's isolated, then someone else coming in can't really understand. With a school, there are times when someone joins from a different school and struggles to understand certain things about the new one, right?
Uchizawa: Have you actually had an experience like that yourself?
Takami: I joined a private school when I started middle school, which was an "escalator school" going right from elementary to university. Of course, the people who came up from the elementary school already had their groups, so on the day of the entrance ceremony I really struggled to get in. They already had their own unique atmosphere.
Uchizawa: Do the two of you think of schools as having a scary image?
Takami: I wouldn't want to go inside a school at night. All of the lights go out after school, and at that point not only the campus but also the sports ground gets scary.
Uchizawa: Because it's dark? Would you not mind if it was bright?
Takami: I guess because it's dark, and someone just showing up from somewhere is scary.
Uchizawa: There's this fear of being attacked by something inside a dark, isolated space.
Takami: The silence, too. During the daytime you hear everyone talking, things like that, but there's none of it.
Uchizawa: The disparity between day and night.
Haraki: During the day it's really noisy, and then during the night you could hear a pin drop - it really doesn't feel like there are any humans around. Sometimes I'd stay late at school and think alright, time to go home, and even after leaving the classroom I wouldn't see anyone at all.
Uchizawa: You do a ritual on the roof of a school in the first chapter of the game, don't you? That's set at a school in the middle of the night, too. Did you put a lot of effort into things like the composition of the map for the school?
Takami: It's mostly a complete reproduction of the school I went to (laughs). It's just been changed a little bit here and there so no one would say it's the exact same thing. Someone who knows it would probably recognise it. If we had hallways and classrooms indoors it wouldn't be that remarkable or interesting, so we used the unique construction of my school where there are balconies outside and you go into the classrooms using those, so the hallways are outside.
Uchizawa: Right, it does sound like a bit of a strange school. The exits and entrances are usually inside, after all.
Haraki: It is a bit unrealistic, but it's actually realistic. It doesn't seem like something that'd be real, but it is.
Uchizawa: Are you interested in spirit photography?
Haraki: I remember it being a thing when I was in elementary school, but... I can't remember whether it was when I was in my first couple of years or not, but it was weirdly popular at my school, and someone would bring in a sort of collection of spirit photos. We'd all gape at them, and if someone carelessly touched the ghost part of the photo they'd be like, "You touched it! Don't come near me! Engacho!" (laughs).
Uchizawa: Ahahaha... What about you, Ms. Takami?
Takami: There are often things like spirit photo specials on TV during the summer, and I just leave them on and cover my eyes with my hands, peeking through the gaps. Even if someone tells me that there's a person's face on a grave, I'll tell myself excuses like that's just the pattern on it. I can't stand spirit photos where you can clearly see ghosts in the shape of people. It makes me wish that spirit photos and things like that just didn't exist. I want to say that it's just a coincidence (laughs).
Uchizawa: Have you ever seen a ghost?
Haraki: No, I haven't.
Takami: I've never seen a ghost either, but I can tell the location of a grave right away. A while ago I was driving my car up a hill, but I didn't want to keep going. Not around that corner. I said to my friend, "I really don't want to," and started crying, like, "There's a grave up there, I don't want to go." My friend said there was nothing there, but there actually turned out to be a grave at the top of that hill.
Uchizawa: Women have strong susceptibility, don't they? The way their brains are made is different from men's, too. I think women are better at expressing psychological and emotional things, and that men, on the other hand, are better with the logical bits...
Haraki: So far it's always been men in charge of the scenario for the series. This time, it's a woman. I think it's given us a game that's from a slightly different perspective.
Uchizawa: Were you the main writer for the scenario on this game, Ms. Takami?
Takami: That's right. A woman also wrote several scenarios.
Uchizawa: Regardless of whether or not you were conscious of it, do you think that these feminine emotions, or feelings and sensations that couldn't have come from a man, are reflected within the game?
Takami: The part of my emotions that I put into the scenario was what's more important, your friends or your lover? For example, they often do surveys on the TV, and when they ask high school girls, "Who's the most important person to you?" they choose their friends as number one. The order goes friends, parents, lover, and I think I'd choose my friends as the most important, too. I understand that your lover is important, as well, but it's something totally different, not something where you choose one or the other. One of the scenarios in the game is about that sort of situation.
Uchizawa: I noticed that the bookcase near the entrance to Spike's offices was full of horror books.
Haraki: Right. Those are things we've bought and collected to use as reference material.
Takami: I hated scary things, so I hadn't seen or read any horrors, and I thought I'd better read them all. I wanted to know what kinds of things were around these days.
Uchizawa: Were there any trends you spotted amongst them?
Takami: Yeah. The books talked about a lot of subjects, but I got the feeling that there had been an increase in things to do with mobile phones. I considered putting something about mobile phones into the game, too, but I thought it might be too much to have two stories about phones, so I didn't write about them this time. I really wanted to put in that sense of urgency as the balance on the payphone card counts down.
Uchizawa: Did you choose the payphone over the mobile phone because the image of scariness you got from the payphone was stronger?
Takami: You do get an uncomfortable, insular feeling when you're inside a phone booth.
Haraki: Phone boxes are scary, aren't they? Just sitting there in the middle of the darkness of night with their lights on. Sometimes you can't even tell whether or not someone's inside, right?
Uchizawa: I see. When you divide up the methods of expressing scariness, not just within games, there's such a huge number of methods, whether that's graphics, slight pauses, sound... Did you carefully choose how to use those sorts of things for the game?
Haraki: Yes. We were quite absorbed with the graphics this time around. Most of the depictions are made using polygons, so we were able to use free camerawork to create new types of staging. That was absolutely huge. We also had the art director come up with an image colour for each scenario at their own request. One will be blue, one red, one purple, and each is made overall to fit that image colour.
Uchizawa: Did you choose the image colours based on how they fit with the story?
Takami: I gave the story I'd written to the art director, which they then read and chose image colours based on what came to mind. By the way, Chapter 1 is red, and the introduction is blue.
Haraki: I think it's a sort of staging that hasn't really been done in games before now, giving each scenario an image colour...
Uchizawa: Why did you decide to use a completely new cast of characters?
Haraki: If we used the same characters as we had in past games, parts of it would end up being influenced heavily by that no matter what. The characters would all have their complete personalities already, too.
Uchizawa: Was part of it due to the fact that you'd have trouble empathising if you hadn't played the previous games?
Haraki: Yes, that's right. We thought it would be better for us to make something completely different instead.
Uchizawa: Did you write the lines for the characters who appear in the game as well, Ms. Takami?
Takami: Yes. I'm a woman, so it's easy for me to write lines for other women, but I struggled with writing the men's lines. I wasn't sure how they would talk in certain situations. I didn't want everything to end up sounding explanatory, so I wanted it to sound like normal conversation, and also focused on the tempo, making sure to leave spaces even during dialogue.
Uchizawa: Were there any models the characters were based on?
Takami: Yuri Ando, for example, is based on Ranran Suzuki. When she was finished, though, she did seem to have gone in a slightly different direction (laughs). I basically asked from all of the characters to be done in the style of a certain celebrity, but I guess the finished articles ended up a bit different. Masa Ando is Megumi [Rio] Matsumoto. Aya Amino is Maki Miyamae, who used to be part of an idol group called CoCo.
Uchizawa: What about Atsushi Kamiya, then?
Takami: That was Masaharu Fukuyama, purely because I like him (laughs).
Uchizawa: Ahahaha. I see, now that you mention it, he looks just like him.
Takami: He's supposed to seem kind of cool most of the time, but also kind. But Masaharu Fukuyama was impossible due to the age difference, so I asked them to just make him look like a high-schooler (laughs). Everyone tells me that he ended up looking like a good-for-nothing guy, though.
Uchizawa: Ahaha. The cast is dominated by women, isn't it?
Haraki: Yes. It does feel that way.
Uchizawa: As a man, Mr. Haraki, did you feel that feminine air from the game when you played it?
Haraki: I think there was something sacred about it for a man, like, ah, this is what it's like when girls talk amongst themselves (laughs). Watching the scenes where the female characters converse with each other, it's sort of like the mysteries of a decade ago finally make sense (laughs). That sort of thing isn't really territory that men can set foot in.
Uchizawa: Maybe having the scenario produced by women makes it a game that female players can sympathise with, in a way.
Haraki: A large portion of the people who purchased the previous games were housewives, if you saw the questionnaire postcards. We had ordinary people test this game, and a lot of the women's reactions were, "Ah, this is what it feels like!"
Uchizawa: Do you think this game will be quite popular with women, too?
Haraki: We spent quite a lot of time thinking about things like the outfits, too. Whether we should go with loose socks, things like that.
Takami: Like, will this trend last?
Haraki: When we were designing the characters, the variety shows on TV were saying that navy knee socks were going to be the next big thing. Developing a game takes a long time, so you have to anticipate what's going to take off. If you miss the mark, people will call it old-fashioned.
Uchizawa: Speaking of women reminds me that there's a "LADY" logo on all of the home appliances that appear within the game. What is that from?
Haraki: Good job noticing.
Takami: I didn't think anyone would notice, but the game's project name was "LADY".
Uchizawa: Is that because it was spearheaded by women?
Takami: When we were about to start work on the game, it just so happened that the two of us were women. Since that was a rarity, we ended up going with "LADY". We ended up with lots of men somewhere along the way, but it would've been pretty difficult to change it, so we stuck with "LADY".
Haraki: I was the first male member of staff to join "LADY". At first, people said to me, "You're joining their team? There's only women on it, and there'll only be more of them in the future." So I said, "Then I'll gladly join," (laughs). Once I joined, we somehow ended up with loads of men coming in. It didn't match the project name at all anymore.
Uchizawa: Were there any scary experiences you had during development?
Haraki: Yes. Quite a lot of people injured themselves. A member of staff got into an accident while riding their scooter. I asked what happened, but they couldn't remember. They hadn't been drinking or anything, but as they'd been driving like normal their memory had gone, and when they came to they were inside an ambulance. Their clavicle was broken. Everyone wondered if it was a curse from the game.
Uchizawa: Did you undergo a purification or anything like that?
Takami: I did, but my PC crashed so often that I wondered whether it'd really had any effect. Thinking about it now, I don't think it did (laughs).
Haraki: When I went to boot up my PC, the hard disk burned and the machine was burned black. The insides were completely unusable, so I had to hurry out and buy a new one. That sort of thing would never normally happen. It was actually scorched. No matter who I asked, they said, "That's amazing, I've never heard of that happening before." It was really dangerous. It came at a time when development was really starting to get going. I had made a back-up, but if I hadn't, we might still be working on it now...
Uchizawa: Finally, then, please give some sort of comment or advice for the people who are playing the game.
Takami: What I realised when we had ordinary people playtest the game was that they were all quite rebellious with their choices sometimes. You can't progress to the next scenario without getting the good ending. There are hints within the conversations. You should pay attention to their advice.
Uchizawa: So don't be too cynical.
Takami: Yes. That's the best thing to do until you beat it. If you want to see a bunch of different things, I think it would also be fun to go against the flow, though.
Uchizawa: What about you, Mr. Haraki?
Haraki: Hmm. Well, if you try playing it and don't feel stressed out, that means that all of the things I've thought of worked out, so if you play it and feel no stress at all, I hope you remember, "Ah, that's what he meant."
Uchizawa: Alright. Well, go ahead and enjoy getting spooked, everyone!