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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

[Interview] ‘Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water’ Producer Keisuke Kikuchi Discusses Returning to the Series and its Unique Brand of Horror

We’re creeping towards the release of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water on modern consoles, having previously only been available on the now-defunct Wii U seven years ago. It remains the last game in one of horror gaming’s most famous franchises, but with the resurgence of horror games and a wider audience able to experience the game, there’s a glimmer of hope for the series’ future once more. The game’s producer Keisuke Kikuchi was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions on Maiden of Black Water’s second chance, and on the appeal of Fatal Frame‘s unique brand of horror.


Bloody Disgusting: Horror gaming has undergone a bit of a rebirth in the seven years since Maiden of Black Water came out, did you feel this was the ideal time to bring the game back to a wider audience?

Keisuke Kikuchi: I think there are periods where horror becomes more popular, and lately it seems like that is the case once again. However, I feel there are very few horror titles like the FATAL FRAME series that features Japanese horror that have a very gradual sense of encroaching fear. As this year is the 20th anniversary of the FATAL FRAME series, I want to give series fans and horror aficionados something from our team during this important point in the series’ history.

BD: A lot of games have been influenced by Fatal Frame’s approach to horror over the years, which dilutes its impact somewhat. Was it hard to innovate whilst trying to stick to the traditional scares fans loved?

KK: For us, as we make new entries in the series we are not trying to keep escalating the shocking aspects of the horror elements. For every title, we decide on the concept first and then focus on bringing horror contents to players that revolve around that concept. For example, in the first title, the main concepts are “condensing the Japanese sense of fear” and “fear that defies your imagination,” for the second title it was “horror from legends,” and for the third title it was “going between reality and dreams, and mechanisms in reality that causes fear to spread.” In this entry in the series, our main theme is “experiencing fear through a location that condenses Japan’s “haunted places.” We have made it so that you can experience different kinds of fear through each title. As each entry in the series has a different approach to fear, each player will have their own favorite title or their own opinion on which is the most frightening.

BD: What do you think Fatal Frame can offer modern audiences that other prominent horror game series lack?

KK: The main feature would have to be the Camera Obscura. I feel that in other horror films and games, when something frightening is seen, the protagonist has to run away, or they have to defeat them from afar in order to protect themselves. In this game, I think it’s entertaining for the player to have to view frightening things through the camera and attempt to have the ghosts come as close to them as possible as they are faced with the scary dilemma of needing to take pictures of them.

The hardest thing that comes up when designing a horror game is determining how the player will fight the enemies. This is most likely a point that all horror game designers put a lot of effort into. Potentially the most frightening game design would be that you die if you are found by the enemy. However, that can make the horror elements in the game feel very oppressive. If one play-through is very short, as can be the case in indie titles or free games, this would be sufficient as a basis for the game, but this is not suitable for a game with a larger story. You can say that if you change the point of view, it is good to have death be something that is meaningful to the game itself or the story. There is value in taking this direction into consideration, but it doesn’t produce a conclusion. 

What I have been thinking lately is that the player is looking for a game that focuses its design around and balances the elements of the game on being “frightening, but the player can still barely survive and proceed.” The fear you experience in a horror game and the freedom you afford the player with along with the exhilarating aspects of the action do not easily coexist with one another. I feel like the FATAL FRAME series maintains this balance well.

BD: In turn, if you were to make a new Fatal Frame game, is there anything from modern horror games you’d be interested in incorporating into them?

KK: Not in particular. We decide on a new type of fear to utilize as the concept for each title, and we design the game so that it can bring this to the player in the best way possible. If needed, we incorporate contemporary aspects of horror as well. The FATAL FRAME series is set in a world without mobile phones, and we focus on gothic horror for the atmosphere in each title. I think the classic approach to horror games is to create a world in which the emphasis is placed on the player themselves being able to really see, hear and feel the world the game is set in. In the present day, smartphones and social media are essential parts of life now. While this is completely opposite to the theme of gothic horror, if you carefully incorporate these elements, I think a brand new type of horror would emerge.

BD: Maiden of Black Water, as with previous entries, features fictional tales and folklore, but are clearly grounded in reality to some degree. What real Japanese folklore served as inspiration for Maiden of Black Water?

KK: In Maiden of Black Water we made a game out of the “haunted locations” we have in Japan, utilizing this as the main motif, and as the story itself is original, we didn’t have any specific influencers from urban legends. Nevertheless, the series director, Mr. Shibata writes all of the scenarios, and he has perused countless folklore and urban legends. As a result, there would be influences from these topics in the game from his imagination, as well as his own personal experiences with ghosts, which make their way into the original stories he creates.

BD: The original version utilized the Wii U gamepad screen as the Camera Obscura itself, making it a distinct gameplay change from previous entries. How have you tried to replicate this now that’s not an option? Are you employing any other console features?

KK: By utilizing the handheld mode on the Switch version, you can play the game by using the Switch as the Camera Obscura. The gyro functionality in Switch and PS4 controllers are also supported, so you can feel like you are really holding a camera and taking pictures while you tilt it.”

BD: If Maiden of Black Water is well received, it has been mentioned that we may see new Fatal Frame titles, but is there a possibility for older entries to get a re-release?

KK: While I know everyone is looking forward to that, at this point we don’t have any plans. However, if this title is widely well-received, and if we have the opportunity, I think there are several things we could do for the series.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water will release on PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC on October 28.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/video-games/3684503/interview-fatal-frame-maiden-black-water-producer-keisuke-kikuchi-discusses-returning-series-unique-brand-horror/

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