Fatal Frame II – Keisuke Kikuchi Scares Us Again

August 21, 2003

Some people like their horror sprinkled with zombies, while others like their horrific video game experiences taken with more abstract monstrosities. Still others prefer a much more subtle, more sinister, more frightening experience. That is where Tecmo’s critically acclaimed Fatal Frame excelled. Recently we had a chance to speak with Tecmo’s Keisuke Kikuchi about that game’s upcoming sequel, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.

Snackbar Games: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us regarding Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Before we begin, can you let us know what your role is with this project?

Keisuke Kikuchi: My name is Keisuke Kikuchi and I’m the producer of both Fatal Frame and Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. My responsibility is to set the game direction and lead the team.

SBG: Thus far you all have been pretty tight lipped on the story behind this game, which is understandable. However, are you now in a position to talk a bit about this game, and where you intend to take gamers with this sequel?

KK: Fatal Frame II is a story of twin sisters who found their way into a village that suddenly disappeared during a festival. The twins will face many deadly terrors.

Will Mio protect his sister Mayu and escape from the village? Here is the prologue so that you can understand the storyline:

Mio and Mayu have come to visit a place where they spent a few summers during their childhood. It is a secret play area nestled in a small canyon that looks like a charming little garden. The secret spot has not changed at all. This small mountain area will go under water after the summer when a nearby dam is filled.

While passing the time away, Mio remembers the incident where her sister Mayu was injured…They were briskly coming down a mountain trail after staying there too late into the evening. Mayu was calling Mio while breathing heavily. “If you don’t hurry, I’ll have to leave you here!”, said Mio. Mio would turn to see Mayu time to time as if she was making fun of her sister. Suddenly, there was a short scream and the sound of something sliding down. “Sis, are you okay?”, she uttered as she approached the small embankment next to the trail. Her heart began to beat louder and faster as Mio looked down the embankment. Her big eyes began filling with tears.

While contemplating on this memory, Mio has lost track of Mayu who is nowhere to be found. She looks for Mayu frantically and finally sees her chasing after a glowing crimson butterfly. It’s leading Mayu deeper into the woods.

Mio chases after Mayu. As they travel deeper into the woods, Mio catches up and begins to notice a woman in a kimono slowly overlapping the rear view of Mayu. In a hallucination-like state, Mio reaches over and touches Mayu’s shoulder when, instantly, images shoot through her brain:

An image of a girl who hung herself next to a deep hole, twin sisters holding hands and looking her way, a woman laughing uncontrollably in a sea of dead bodies… finally, her own hands grabbing Mayu’s neck…

Mio abruptly takes her hands off of Mayu’s neck, immediately finding herself standing alone on a mountain trail covered in fog. A sad singing voice is carried by the wind. Rows of lights are visible from between the trees. Is there a solemn event going on? Mio is drawn to the gathering and begins to walk towards it. As Mio passes through the trees and into this open area that appeared to have many people, she only sees Mayu standing alone surrounded by butterflies.

“Sis?….” Mayu slowly turns around to Mio’s voice. All the crimson butterflies fly away.

“The lost village…. that disappeared from the map…”

SBG: Fatal Frame stood out as a unique, and arguably much more effective spin on the established survival horror genre. Was it a conscious decision to make the first game stand out from the competition, and was there an effort to make this upcoming sequel even more differentiated from other games in this genre?

KK: We didn’t intentionally try to differentiate our game from others in the genre, because this game’s concept and style were already unique. Fatal Frame strived to be the scariest game out there, and with that as the foundation, every stage, background, character, combat system, screen effect, and sound was developed. In other words, at the time the game concept was decided, most of the strategy was already in place. The remaining effort was spent on polishing and fine-tuning our method of expression. I believe that the superficial attempt to pro-actively differentiate a game from others is the cause of producing many bad games.

Also, while DreamWorks is in the process of making a movie based on Fatal Frame, I wanted to make sure that the movie and this game were different. This game heavily relies on story development and I was always clear about one thing — that what I’m working on is not a movie. “Interactivity” that is unique to a game is what makes it interesting and adds value. I view DreamWorks’ take on the movie to be my good rival.

SBG: Fatal Frame II seems to paint a picture of symmetry using such images as the two girls and butterfly wings. How does this sort of imagery play into the game?

KK: As a focal point into what causes fear, we used A