Fear fac­tor


TWhat’s be­hind the flesh-creep­ing re­vival of Ja­panese hor­ror games?

he black in­can­ta­tion to spawn hor­ror games has ev­i­dently been re­cited once again, with a horde of genre en­tries sham­bling onto store­fronts in re­cent months. Alien: Iso­la­tion and Out­last have ex­plored new av­enues in the west re­cently, but the genre’s defin­ing masters hail from Ja­pan, and de­vel­op­ers in the re­gion are just as alive to the trend.

“Ja­panese hor­ror games, like Ja­panese hor­ror films, are not usu­ally sim­ply about splat­ter and gore,” says Keisuke Kikuchi, pro­ducer of Zero: Nure­garasu No Miko ( Fa­tal Frame: Or­a­cle Of The Sod­den Raven), made by Koei Tecmo and re­leased in Ja­pan on Wii U in Septem­ber. “They place great im­por­tance on the hu­man re­la­tion­ships in the back­ground of the story, and also on the set­ting, such as the fa­mil­iar in­te­rior of a typ­i­cal Ja­panese home, where you might ex­pect some­thing to come out of the dark­ness. They evoke fear not just through things that are scary but also through things that are beau­ti­ful.”

Fa­tal Frame is built around the Cam­era Ob­scura, al­low­ing the player to ex­or­cise spir­its with a well-framed snap – a me­chanic in­tended to in­crease im­mer­sion, and with it the num­ber of goose bumps. It’s height­ened here by us­ing a GamePad to cap­ture the spec­tres, but the game also plays on the Ja­panese as­so­ci­a­tion of wa­ter with the Other Side, mak­ing the player character stronger but also much more vul­ner­a­ble when wet.

“We’ve tried to use wa­ter in this way be­fore, but the im­proved hard­ware and HD graph­ics on Wii U al­low us to ex­press it in a much scarier way,” says Kikuchi. “When the player an­tic­i­pates there may be some­thing lurk­ing in the wa­ter, it height­ens the feel­ing of anx­i­ety.”

PT, mean­while, has been out for months, but Hideo Ko­jima’s first stab at sur­vival hor­ror was a teaser for his forth­com­ing re­boot of Kon­ami’s Silent Hill, and has much to say about the se­ries’ new di­rec­tion. The teaser places heavy em­pha­sis on build­ing at­mos­phere, with weapons – and in­deed di­rect me­chan­ics of almost any kind – re­placed by a creep­ing sense of dread that is ramped up by ex­pert use of dis­jointed mu­sic and haunt­ing sound ef­fects. Even the way the game was mar­keted, with no in­for­ma­tion re­leased other than the ti­tle, was an at­tempt by Ko­jima to in­stil in the player a sus­pi­cion of the un­known. “Nowa­days, when peo­ple don’t know some­thing, they Google it,” he said in a re­cent in­ter­view with The Ja­pan Times. “We live in an age of in­for­ma­tion. When that sud­denly dis­ap­pears, that’s the scari­est thing.” Just as Ko­jima is work­ing on Silent Hills with movie di­rec­tor Guillermo Del Toro, whose CV in­cludes The Devil’s Back­bone and Pan’s Labyrinth, Clock Tower cre­ator Hi­fumi Kouno and his team at Nude Maker have teamed up with Ju-on di­rec­tor Takashi Shimizu on the re­cently an­nounced Project Scis­sors. Their col­lab­o­ra­tion is a point-and-click sur­vival hor­ror game whose ti­tle in­vokes the mur­der weapon bran­dished by the psy­cho killers in the Clock Tower se­ries.

“[Shimizu] has pro­vided us with in­valu­able in­sight as a film di­rec­tor while we cre­ate graphic as­sets for the game,” Kouno tells us. “He will con­tinue to help

“Ja­panese games evoke fear not just through things that are scary but also through things that are beau­ti­ful”

Di­rec­tor Takashi Shimizu (top) has teamed up with Nude Maker CEO Hi­fumi Kouno to make Project Scis­sors

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