Fatal Frame Producer Keisuke Kikuchi and Director Makoto Shibata Join Us To Talk About Remastering Terror, The Series’ Legacy, And Their Own Encounters With The Supernatural
With the upcoming release of Koei Tecmo’s remaster of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water just around the corner, we at Hey Poor Player were given the opportunity to chat with series creators Keisuke Kikuchi and Makoto Shibata about bringing the previously Wii U-exclusive survival horror title to current consoles. Our conversation covered a number of topics, from the team’s experience porting the game to the current crop of consoles to learning about series director Mokoto Shibata’s own encounters with the supernatural from which he draws his inspiration.
You can find our full interview below:
HeyPoorPlayer: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, Kikuchi-san. Can you start by telling our readers, who may have missed out on the original release, a bit about the game’s story?
Kikuchi: The setting is Mt. Hikami, a mountain feared to be a place of death. The mountain was once worshipped as a sacred place, and a peculiar set of beliefs were passed down in this area. The water from this mountain was worshipped like a god, and one teaching was based on the belief of rebirth: “people are born from water and return to it.”
As a result, many people who welcome death came here, and met their end after interacting with the water from the mountain. They believed this was the proper way to end one’s life. As a result, many peculiar rituals and customs still remain. It’s reported that many tragic and bizarre occurrences have taken place here.
The protagonists will have to search many different places in order to find people that were enchanted by Mt. Hikami and have since gone missing.
HPP: Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water was originally developed with the Wii U’s Gamepad in mind. Did this present any difficulties when bringing the remake to new platforms?
Kikuchi: The original version also had controls that utilized the controller’s buttons, so we have utilized that for each different platform for this remaster. For example, you can change the way the camera is tilted by using the L and R buttons on the Switch version. We have also implemented a feature which allows the player to use the Switch as the Camera Obscura when it is in handheld mode. I hope with all of these control schemes, players can battle with ghosts to their heart’s content. Platforms that have controllers with gyro features can tilt the Camera Obscura with their controller.
HPP: The Fatal Frame series will celebrate its 20th anniversary in December. Needless to say, that’s quite the occasion! Apart from the Camera Obscura, what do you think it is that sets Fatal Frame apart from other long-running survival horror franchises such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil?
Kikuchi: Fatal Frame’s main characteristic is that it mixes three main aspects: Japanese culture, Ghosts, and Cameras.
We especially put in a lot of effort during the development process to ensure we captured the aspect of Japanese horror characterized by the fear of something being there, but you can’t directly interact with it, which plays on your imagination.
The battle system also requires you to face the horrifying things you encounter in the game and come as close to them as possible, which is both terrifying and exhilarating.
HPP: The Fatal Frame stories are known for playing off of Japanese myths and folklore. Can you tell us how any of these elements have been incorporated into Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water?
Shibata: During the development process, we incorporated a number of Japan’s famous haunted locations as well as the fear that encompasses those areas into this game. For most of us, visiting one of these locations is incredibly rare. For that reason I felt like there was a lot of value in allowing players to have these experiences through this game. I also incorporated my experiences from a time I went to one of these locations in the past.
In order to collect all of these frightening experiences into one game, we created a fictional mountain and religion to include in the story. While it is a work of fiction, I think we came up with a religion that could realistically exist as one of Japan’s indigenous belief systems.
HPP: What do you feel is the most crucial ingredient for crafting a good horror game?
Shibata: I believe the theme of fear is the most important ingredient. Even within the horror game genre, there are many different types of fear, so it’s vital to choose which you want to be the central theme for your title. In a single game there are many ways to have fun, such as reading the text, fighting enemies or collecting items. By choosing a theme and the location you want to take the player, you can guide all of the elements in the direction you have in mind.
HPP: The Fatal Frame series has introduced us to many terrifying spirits over the past two decades. Can you tell us where the team draws their inspiration from when it comes to creating these unsettling apparitions?
Shibata: When creating each title, we start by settling on the theme, and then we come up with ghosts that are in line with it or that can embody the theme itself. The order we went in was: coming up with the religion and rituals, the people that formulated the rituals, and the people who are sacrificed in these rituals and the ghosts that will appear in the game.
In addition, I go over the ghosts I have seen in real life and add the ones that fit in with the theme of the game.
HPP: Did bringing Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water to the new generation of consoles allow the team at Koei Tecmo Games to achieve anything that would have otherwise been impossible on the Wii U?
Kikuchi: As this is a remaster, we have worked hard to recreate all of the best aspects of the original title.
HPP: With the series’ 20th anniversary just a few months away, it feels like the perfect occasion to resurrect the original PS2 trilogy for a new generation of players. Is there any chance we could see these fan-favorite games receive an HD remaster in the not-too-distant future?
Kikuchi: We actually developed this title as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Fatal Frame series, so we don’t have any plans to remaster any other titles. However, we have received an even greater response than we expected, so I will definitely take this into consideration in the future.
HPP: The remaster of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water adds a handful of new costumes to the game. Can you tell us a bit more about them and which one you happen to like the most?
Kikuchi: We came up with costumes that would bring out the uniqueness of each character. For example, we came up with cute gothic costumes for Yuri and Miu in black and white respectively that have traditional Japanese patterns included in them. Ren also has a costume that is related to one of the rituals in the story, specifically a groom’s outfit. My personal favorite is the Triathlon suit for Yuri, as it’s what she wears when she goes cycling, which is one of her hobbies. I think the very conspicuous bright red color of her costume will look good against the dark tone of Mt. Hikami.
HPP: Two decades of terror is certainly an achievement. Where would you like to see the Fatal Frame series go from here?
Kikuchi: We always prepare a new type of fear for each entry in the Fatal Frame series. Each of the previous titles presented a different type of fear that was not beholden to the time period they were released in. I would like to continue to present different types of fear that fans will enjoy, regardless of the form it may take.
Supernatural shutterbugs hoping to capture a fresh dose of fear won’t have to wait long. Fatal Frame: The Maiden of Black Water launches on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on October 28.
Are you looking forward to facing your fears later this month? Sound off in the comments and let us know.