Let’s talk about a series that doesn’t get talked about enough. Its absence from modern gaming may have played a factor in this, but it could possibly mean it just needs a Smash Bros. or Fortnite collab to jumpstart it. Regardless, Koei Tecmo doesn’t seem to need a collab and decided to remaster a game that not a lot of people played when it was exclusive to the Wii U, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water.
Now that it’s on modern consoles, we had the chance to talk with producer Keisuke Kikuchi and series director Makoto Shibata about the game’s development and future.
Azario Lopez: As the original Fatal Frame producer, did you ever imagine the series had legs to still be talked about amongst gaming circles 20 years later?
KK: I did not anticipate this at all. Story wise, the FATAL FRAME series was meant to end after the first installment.
AL: Since Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water was built around the Wii U hardware, did you encounter any challenges bringing it to other consoles? Do you still feel like it provides a similar experience to the original?
KK: I made sure to focus on ensuring we could present both the game you see on the TV screen and the Wii U GamePad on one screen, as well as ensuring the titles would work with each platform.
While the story and battles are the same as in the Wii U version, the experience you get from that version can only be had on that console. I would also like players to try out using their Switch in handheld mode as you can use your system to control the Camera Obscura in the game.
AL: Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is based on various Japanese ghost stories. Was this difficult to translate this lore to western players and provide a similar experience?
KK: The concepts of holding something very dear to your heart and the sadness experienced from losing something are two feelings that I think are universal. We created a horrifying story that would resonate deeply with players, without focusing on whether it was for a Japanese or global audience.
AL: Was there a reason you chose this specific entry in the series over other entries? Would you consider a remaster of the original trilogy?
KK: We specifically chose this title to celebrate the FATAL FRAME series’ 20th anniversary and bring something special to our fans, due to Maiden of Black Water having a level of quality that comes through even by today’s standards.
We don’t have any plans currently to remaster any other titles.
AL: With Koei Tecmo returning to older IPs, do you think the Deception series has a chance to reemerge in modern gaming?
KK: Personally, the Deception series is very near and dear to me, so I would definitely like to create a new title if the opportunity arises. I am preparing a number of really interesting traps now. However, we do not have any plans to develop a new entry at the moment.
AL: Looking back at the evolution of the horror genre, do you feel like there are still ways to scare players through the mechanics of Fatal Frame? What core aspects of the series would you think would resonate with modern gamers if a new entry were ever to be developed?
KK: The FATAL FRAME series presents a different concept of fear for each different entry, so if we were to develop a new game, I would want to research a new concept of fear and present that to the world.
AL: While playing, is there something that scares you?
KK: While I am aware of the main story and the horror elements, some of the staff add in things to scare players in each of the maps, so when I check the game without knowing about them sometimes I get really surprised. One time I was checking the game late at night and I fell out of my chair after seeing one of the things they hid in the game.
AL: Working on different series such as Atelier and Fatal Frame, how do you switch into different mindsets to focus on a particular genre? Are these just different sides of your personality that we are seeing?
KK: I am better able to look at the game objectively if I am relatively more removed from it. Even if you have the producer title, the kind of work you take part in changes depending on the game. For the FATAL FRAME series, my role is to constantly be frightened by what the director, Mr. Shibata, comes up with, along with arranging the overall structure of the game.
AL: Are there any memories that stand out to you from working on the Wii U version of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water? Perhaps surrounding its development, a hurdle that the team overcame, or just an anecdote from working on the project?
Makoto Shibata: For the Wii U version, you could use the controller’s screen and the TV screen, so I had to really think about how to utilize both of these in a horror game. The conclusion I came to was that the TV would be the real world and the controller would be the world you see through the Camera Obscura. This would allow the player to experience haunted locations for themselves. By pointing the camera at the world in the TV, ghosts appear in the picture, and the noises the ghosts make in the TV world can be heard through the controller, as if they were slowly coming toward you.
AL: Is there anything you’d like to say to fans waiting to play Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water on modern consoles?
KK: Maiden of Black water is a title we released 7 years ago, but it has horrifying and fun elements that have not aged at all. The development team and I are looking forward to seeing all of the scary pictures everyone takes with the new photo mode, and we hope you share them amongst yourselves too.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water will launch on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC on October 28, 2021.
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